Running Coach

For a couple of months now I’ve thought about hiring a running coach.  What if I spent the summer working with someone who would create an individualized plan for me so I could train harder and get faster and stronger ? What if a running coach could get this aging old body to a marathon PR this fall without injury? Wouldn’t that be amazing?

And wouldn’t that be an incredible luxury? And where would I find the time for this? I can’t even make it to my running club’s track workouts. Pipe dream, baby.

I’m also not sure how to find a running coach who would be a good fit for me. Who could work around my schedule and who really gets me and who would help me train hard but not get hurt. Someone who would take me seriously.

Today I went for my first trail run in many months. Last summer when I was training hard for the Lehigh Via Marathon, I didn’t go out on the trail too much toward the end, in case of spraining an ankle. And then I didn’t run all fall, anywhere at all, and the winter was shall we say “intense” and I was training for Boston and didn’t even want to attempt the four-foot-deep post-holed frozen snowpack in the woods. And then I’ve been recovering from Boston or had other weekend stuff. But today I finally got to get back out there with my trail running people.

It was fantastic. It’s so beautiful in the woods. Wild violets grow so tall there, and the strawberries at the edge of the meadow were blooming. The woodpeckers were very loud, and chickadees had a nice call and response going.

And the people. I’ve run with some of them before, but not much, and I really didn’t know them. It doesn’t matter on the trail. My trail group is one big friendly helpful family of trail-running goodness. At one point I found myself running behind a guy I think I’ve run with once or twice before but whom I don’t know it all. I was following him up one of the rocky hills and finally decided to say what I needed to say.

“Excuse me,” I said. “I feel weird saying this, but you have really nice foot placement.”

Foot placement matters on the trail, especially if it’s the sort of rocky, rooty singletrack we were on. You have your head down for your own footing and can’t help but watch the footing of the person directly ahead of you. And some people, honestly, I just can’t watch without wincing. Their feet flop. Their ankles roll clumsily with every step. They stub on roots. They stumble. Their feet are all over the place.

This guy? Like a dancer, every footfall so deliberately and securely placed. Such a joy to see. That is such a trailgeek thing to say, but trust me. Nice foot placement is really lovely to watch.

Well. It turns out he’s a running coach, and we talked about my form, and some things I want to fix, like the way I do a serpentine twist with my upper body. It shows up in every race photo of me, and it’s getting worse with every race. He said my legs and feet position look good, but I pointed out that my upper body is a wreck, running-wise. I’m pretty sure it’s just downright inefficient at this point.

We talked about how engaging my core might help keep my upper body from twisting all over the place, and he suggested a basic abs exercise. We talked about what he does, how he does it, where, and how much it costs. He’s not going to make me an Olympian, but he could help me fix a few things about my form that might ultimately help prevent injury, which in my book is a winning situation. He’s a Pose coach, which is like Chi running but by a different name.

I have to decide if it’s the right move for me or if I should just not bother, but the bottom line is, if you see nice foot placement, say something.

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