Gentle Words of Encouragement 18 Hours Before a Race:

For the vast majority of you that don’t know and for the very small sliver of you who remotely care, I’ve been coaching a couple of people for the past several months. What makes me qualified to tell anyone how to prepare for a race? I’d like to think that my centuries of running and the truly impressive array of mistakes I’ve made along the way might count for something. Perhaps my above-average racing skills and my garage shelf full of gaudy race trinkets? My shameful 26.2 sticker and Boston jacket? Maybe my secret attraction to stopwatches and the repressed desire to bellow, “PICK IT UP!” at least once a week?

Maybe. But I will admit to feeling just a tad sheepish over the idea that anyone would want me to coach them. It’s very similar to how I felt when I was teaching writing. Once, a student who typically waltzed in stoned to every class asked, “What makes you qualified to decide if my writing is good or not? Someone other than you might think it’s really good.”

In some ways, this was a really good question. In other ways, it was idiotic since this was a student who once tossed a wad of paper on my desk with a series of crossed-out words and profanities on it as an example of “descriptive writing.” (Actually, just now, I’m thinking that was pretty descriptive.) Still, I struggled a lot with the whole subjectiveness of writing. Maybe I didn’t know what was good. What if there were literary geniuses in my class disguised as morons? I’d lay awake at night stressing over the fact that I never really got or enjoyed anything by Virginia Woolf. Maybe I wasn’t qualified to teach writing.

Eventually, I decided I was better off just writing rather than trying to teach it. If I was astoundingly average or smirkably horrid, at least I wouldn’t pass that on to young, impressionable, and stoned minds. I would no longer have to stamp a grade on creative efforts. Vast relief.

Still, you know, there is always that ongoing desire to share knowledge and experience. Possibly this is vaguely tinged with the desire to feel superior and boss people around, but mostly it’s just gratifying to help anyone who’s as enthused about something as you are. (I should note that English 101 and Expository Writing classes were not necessarily jam-packed with literary enthusiasts.)

And while I still feel a touch sheepish about coaching, at least racing is not subjective. Thoughts on training may be an utter minefield of wildly divergent hoo-hah, but the exam is the race and the grade is the clock. I attempt to design training based on past grades and hope that everyone feels pretty confident that if the work is done, the grade will always get better. This is not necessarily true with writing. One can work one’s stupid brain to a nub and still crank out the most astounding mountain of drivel. It’s entirely possible to get worse the harder one works. Encouraging!

Anyway, speaking of drivel, let’s move on.

Tomorrow is not a goal race for either runner I’m bossing around, but I’m feeling PRs anyway. One of the runners had an astounding 5K PR after I’d only been working with her for 5 days. I’d like to give myself complete credit for that one. Ten weeks later, that bitch had better have a major 10k PR or ELSE.  No pressure.

Seriously though, good luck to Amy and Cheryl. You guys rock. Plus, you work exceptionally hard, race well, and hardly ever ask me annoying questions or show up at races stoned. Kick ass tomorrow. But most importantly, of course, make me look good, dammit.

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3 thoughts on “Gentle Words of Encouragement 18 Hours Before a Race:

  1. Everyone knows that pot smoking and annoying questions come during taper week!

    And.. you should probably start thinking about being less of an awesome coach because I might just have some more future goals in mind…

  2. Lucky for those you’re coaching. Mistakes are a great teaching resource (Now that I think about it, thanks for the reminder); not easy to acknowledge and share them with people who look to you as wise.

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