One of my goals for the year was to volunteer my time and give back to the running and triathlon community, so I started volunteer mentoring with our local Fleet Feet store at the end of January for the winter half marathon program.
Full disclosure here, I’ve always been a little skeptical of these training program. Not that they don’t do a great job getting people ready for a race or helping them run faster. I participated in the “six weeks to speed” group back in 2010 and began running sub-30 5ks as a result. What I’ve been skeptical about is why people keep coming back. There are so many training plans for all distance races available online and many of the participants are not training for their first race of the particular distance. I’ve always been of the mindset that once you’ve trained for one, you’ve trained for them all and I just didn’t understand why people would keep coming back, again and again and again. Well, let me just say right now, I’m not skeptical anymore.
I was assigned to lead group 3b which was expected to finish the half in 2:05-2:10. Considering that my half marathon PR was a 2:08, I was a little nervous to lead this group. It was a smaller group, usually only 4-6 of us running together, including me. And after the first few practices, we really started to gel and find a great group pace.
This turned out to be one of my favorite things about mentoring, having this great group of people to run with who were all around the same pace and willing to stick together and chat about whatever would make the miles pass more quickly.
Our practices were on Tuesday nights after work at 6pm; these were typically mid-distance race pace, or tempo runs, sometimes speed work. And on Saturday mornings at 7am, for our longer, slower runs. We worked our way up to running anywhere from about 6-9 miles on Tuesdays and 10-13 on Saturdays, not counting any other runs or workouts we had planned for ourselves. Basically it was great training and a great kick in the rear for me!
Yet, no matter how much I dreaded a practice, or didn’t feel up to the task before a run, I never had a bad run with my crew (I hope they feel the same way). I really think we all did a great job of supporting each other throughout each run.
And that was my other favorite part about this training, not just the support within our little group but between all groups. There were groups ranging anywhere from sub-1:40 half marathoners up to 2:30-plus, but out on every run when the groups would pass there were shouts of encouragement – “Lookin’ great!” “Keep it up!” “You’ve got this!” These practices reminded me of one of the things I love most about triathlon – the encouragement between athletes during the race. It’s not something you see too often in a running-only event and it was so refreshing to see it here!
I totally understand why people would keep coming back again and again for training. For less that what it might cost to get a personalized training plan from a personal trainer (which you would likely complete alone), you can meet new people, develop a great support group, and receive great training, coaching, and advice. Over time, you might find that you get faster and can move up a group or two, but it is still worth coming back to understand what training should be like at your new pace.
Thank you to my great group of 3b runners and the coaches at Fleet Feet for welcoming me in as a mentor, chasing away my skepticism, and allowing me to run with you all. It is a privilege that we get to run and that we get to run together.
I’m sad to say that this program has come to a close with many of us racing in the Raleigh Rock ‘n’ Roll half marathon this weekend. Some are still looking ahead to races in the weekends ahead. Congrats and good luck everyone!
I’m now involved with mentoring the tri programs, but will certainly be back on the running side for the fall half marathon, if not sooner! If any of my 3b-ers are reading this, give me a shout anytime you want to go for a run or even just a cup of coffee… y’all are awesome!