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Marathon Coaching vs Marathon Training


There can’t be THAT big of difference between Marathon Coaching and Marathon Training, right? I mean, running is running, so as long as you are getting your miles in….? You might be surprised. Find out how coaching and training stack up in this week’s Running Coaches Corner!

Ironically, two years ago today was my last marathon!

Differences between Being a Marathon Coach and Marathon Training

When I was hired to be a coach for Chicago Endurance Sports‘ summer marathon season, I had already signed up for the Chicago Marathon, I had already run my goal marathon (at Phoenix), and I was coming out of an injury (my stress reaction).

These preconditions gave me some trepidation: what if I got reinjured? Would I be running with them each time? What if my body didn’t respond well to the new schedule? How would I train according to “my” schedule?

But the preconditions also gave me some piece of mind: I would have a great group of people to run with each week, I could run at paces slower than I would if I were with my usual ladies, and (particularly at the beginning of the program), I could work with the run-walkers as I eased back in. 

How does being a marathon coach differ from training for the race yourself? Can you do both simultaneously? Find out today on Running Coaches Corner @suzlyfe

Now that I am over halfway through the marathon training program (and 2 months out from Chicago!), I wanted to round up with some observations as to the differences between being a marathon coach and training for a marathon myself. 

  • First and foremost, this training is not about you. That doesn’t mean that you don’t prioritize your training, but it means that you don’t prioritize major goals that you had going into it. 
Found me some runners!

Found me some runners!

  • In fact, you have to take even better care of yourself! Compression socks at weddings, people. You are going to be running a variety of mileages, a variety of paces, and in a variety of conditions. And, guess what? If you don’t “feel” like running and it’s a running day, you will be running. It also means that you have to be very real with yourself–do you not feel like running, or should you actually not run? If you are having an issue, you can’t be a hero–if you get really hurt, you aren’t just out of a marathon, but you are letting the rest of the group down! So listening to your body is imperative. 
  • Good shoes are a must. So is rotating them to keep both them and your legs fresh.

Strategy for Rotating Running Shoes during Marathon Training

  • Now, more than ever, you will understand the transformative powers of running and friends. I’ve had a few practices that I, in all honestly, did not want to go to. But I showed up, and by the end of the practice, I felt like a new person through the power of the run and being surrounded by genuinely amazing people. Who happen to think that you are a rockstar, lol. 

Chicago Endurance Sports Marathon Training Coaches South Loop

  • You are not going to be running your optimal paces or miles for just about any workout. I’ve had a run were I was pacing the 9:00 runners, I’ve paced the 10:30s. I’ve planned to be running a certain number of miles for that workout and had to sub in (like this past weekend) and end up running fewer miles. I haven’t really had too many times when I’ve ended up running that many more miles than projected. Then again, new mommy Sarah ran about 34 miles at the Chicago Marathon last year as head coach of MDAcoincidentally the first time I met Tina!
  • And you will learn more than ever that running slow is MUCH harder than you thought. I often find myself starting off too quickly and having to really pull back (part of the reason that my natural pace has decreased of late). But I’ve also been honest and, once or twice, said that I just didn’t think that I could run at that particular pace. You will finish the workout feeling like you could run forever and ever after, but then, later on, you will realize just how tired you are. Why are you so tired? Because you are spending a great deal more time on your feet and moving. And, as Jason Karp reminded so many of us at his clinic at blogfest: you body doesn’t know how many miles you have run. It only knows intensity/output and time of output. 

This Caterpillar Speedwork Drill will help you increase your running efficiency while having having fun with friends! Great for marathon training or general fitness! @Suzlyfe

  • You have to be a good sport and do the workouts that are scheduled. Don’t want to do ladders? Or want to do a caterpillar with them but not at their speed? Too bad! Don’t like running on Tuesday nights? Get over it! Again, this isn’t about you.

View from Museum Campus, Chicago during CES Marathon Coaching

  • In fact, sometimes, you won’t run at all! You might just stand there with a stopwatch. Flexibility is key.

coach sara and susie ces marathon training

  • This will be unlike any other training cycle that you have done before. And in some of the best ways possible. You won’t care that you are running at paces that are a minute or so behind what you typically do. You won’t care if you end up running or not on days that you thought you would be. You won’t care that you have to be up at 4:30 on Saturday mornings and out the door at 5:10 armed with a banana holster. 
Banana Holster in a Flip Belt Runner

My Flipbelt Banana Holster

  • In so many ways, you are learning how to parent. Remember how I wrote that post about how leading a life of fitness and being a runner is going to make me a better parent? So will being a marathon coach. Because every time you show up, you will find yourself in front of people who need you to show up. They need you to be a little pushy sometimes, or back off at others. Who need you to be funny, serious, self-deprecating, and confident. Who want you to be unstoppable but also human. Who are going to have a million questions to ask but need you to pull it out of them because they don’t know that they have a question until you give them the right prompt. They are going to be overconfident, scared, too smart for the own good, not smart enough, adhere too much to the training program, or basically do whatever they want. Some just need to learn the hard way. And, yes, you will have some that you adore and others you want to strangle 😀
Early morning scenery on the way to coach.

Early morning scenery on the way to coach.

But you’ll love them anyway. Because they are yours. 

What it is like to simultaneously coach and train for a #marathon #runchat #runchi @suzlyfe Click To Tweet

In conclusion, if you are looking to set your PR while also coaching, I wouldn’t rule it out. With the right clients, sure, you could do it! (Also, it depends on your PR). But I have given myself over to this process in an entirely different way. I still get my own marathon training in (hello, tempos), but I’m a bit more lax about other things (need to do more of my comprehensive strength training). Respect the process, give yourself over to it, and you will find that you learn even more! 

Have you ever simultaneously coached and trained for an event? What did you learn and how did it change your perspective?

Join the link up and Running Coaches Corner for more great running advice and content!

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I am linking up with myself, RachelLora, and Debbie for Running Coaches CornerPattyErika, and Marcia for Tuesdays on the Run, NicoleAnnmarieMichelle, and Jen for Wild Workout Wednesday.


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