The Coaching Conundrum


I recently got a question from a reader as to whether or not I was still working with the coach that I worked with for over three years. The short answer is, no. The long answer is going to turn into an overly wordy post that is likely not necessary, but for the sake of transparency, I want to share …

Let’s start of by talking about coaching in general. Having a coach is wonderful and it can be a very rewarding relationship to have. However, I don’t think that everyone *needs* a coach. If you are just starting out and you have a goal that is primarily to “complete” a certain event, chances are that you can find a plethora of training plans online that will likely do the trick. If you aren’t entirely sure what you want to do, but want to focus on general fitness and perhaps you just need some guidance as far as what paces to train at, then there are also lots of resources online (including the VDOT calculator) that can help you.

Running friends can also be a wonderful resource. Talk about your training plan with your running partners (as if you really talk about anything else anyway :)) and bounce ideas off of each other. You might be surprised at how much you can learn from the seasoned veterans in your group!

All that being said, I think that if you have a specific goal in mind for your current training cycle or you have specific long-term goals (i.e., each training cycle builds on the previous one and you are, for the most part, constantly training), you can afford a coach and you find a coach who works well with your needs, then having a coach is definitely the way to go! I much prefer working with a coach than coaching myself, even though I feel like I likely have the knowledge to coach myself. I mean, I technically have a coaching certification myself (but really, who doesn’t ;)). It’s really nice to have someone else that is invested in your training who can look at your workouts objectively and encourage and believe in you when you may not even really believe in yourself.

Prior to working with Coach Hadley, I worked briefly with another coach that just wasn’t a good fit for me. His methods worked well and I ran some of my best times (at that time). However, I didn’t feel like I got enough attention (I realize how diva-ish that sounds) and he also didn’t offer the type of encouragement that I needed (also likely diva-ish). For example, there was this one HUGE workout leading up to my goal marathon. It was the workout of all workouts, the make or break workout of the training cycle and (not to brag, but) I crushed it. I ran my heart out and really put a lot into that workout and the feedback I got was something along the lines of “that’s what I expected you to do.” Alrighty then … I’m going to need a little bit more head pats validation than that.

After that, I worked with Coach Hadley for over three years. He is a fantastic coach and I learned so much from working with him. His knowledge of the sport is incredible and he was very encouraging and very easy to talk to and work with. After my marathon in January, I decided to take a break from coaching. At the time, I wasn’t planning to focus on marathons anymore and I honestly wasn’t even sure what direction I wanted to go with my training at all. It just seemed like a good opportunity for a break.

Here’s the part of the story that has nothing at all to do with running, but will help to explain some of my indecision and lack of direction in general. You see, Daniel and I have been talking about starting a family. That’s right … you read it here first. We have been married for almost 8 years now (CRAZY) and having a kid (my preference) or two (Daniel’s preference) is something that, for the first time ever, is actually on our radar. I honestly wasn’t sure that it would ever be even on our radar, so this is kind of a big deal.

What I have come to learn over the last few months is that just because it is on our radar, it doesn’t actually mean that it is something we are ready to fully commit to at this exact moment. I could likely write an entire post about the decision (or lack thereof) to start a family and all of the pressure, etc. that comes with it. As an only child, I think that pressure is amplified by about one thousand percent. My parents (for the most part) haven’t put any pressure on me, but at the same time, there is no way to escape from the reality of the situation. I am the only person in the world that can give them a grandchild and none of us are getting any younger.

If we were to find out today that we are having a baby (this post is NOT a pregnancy announcement), would we be excited? Absolutely! Would we be scared out of our minds? Absolutely! People like to tell you that “you’ll never truly be ready,” but I like to think that a time will come when I might be a little bit more ready than I am at this exact moment. Having a child is one of the few things in life that can’t be undone. I’m not saying that I would want to “undo” it or would regret it in any way, but I do think the fact that I am keenly aware of this fact means that maybe, just maybe, I’m not quite as ready as I thought I was at one point.

I have realized over the last year or so that I actually do have some maternal instincts, which is quite a relief. I thought maybe those were missing entirely, but I think that they were just suppressed for the first 30+ years of my life (which is definitely not a bad thing (ha)). Funny story: Last fall, a client brought me some eggs from her chickens and I was almost in tears in my office thinking about how those eggs could’ve been little baby chicks running around my office. Side note: I do realize that those eggs actually couldn’t have hatched into baby chicks, but the point is, I couldn’t get the idea of baby chicks out of my mind.

I became a vegetarian shortly after this. The thought of eating animals is terrible to me and I don’t know how I did it for so long. You know … just another random side note that has absolutely nothing to do with running. I haven’t eaten meat in almost 6 months now! I haven’t mentioned it yet on the blog (at least I don’t think I have), so now seems like as good a time as any to share. I could likely also write an entire post about the decision to become vegetarian and how to navigate that as an endurance athlete who has a tendency to struggle with eating issues. It gets tricky.

So where does that leave us exactly? Well, to summarize, I am a confused thirty-two year old vegetarian who might want to become a mother at some point in her life and, in the meantime, will likely stick to running marathons. I kind of aimlessly trained for shorter distance races this Spring and I ran several races, while simultaneously surviving both tax season and my first semester of teaching as an adjunct professor at a local university. Again, not to brag, but I’m proud of myself for surviving all of these things!

Let’s bring this back to coaching, shall we? Over the spring, a local coach wrote my plans for me. This was great for what I needed at the time. I likely could’ve done this myself, but honestly, having someone else think for me and tell me what to do was very nice at the time. Overall, it just really wasn’t a great fit for what I am looking for and have come to expect from my coaches. I worked with him for three months and have since decided to move on to a different coaching group. I can’t stress enough how important it is to find a coach that works well with your needs! If you are paying for a coach, you should be happy with the relationship.

After some thought and some research (thanks to a fellow Salty Running cohort for sharing her thorough coaching research with me), I have decided to work with Sarah Bishop (of McKirdy Trained). I am going to be focusing on some short stuff this summer (one mile to 5K) and then I plan to do another marathon in the late fall (likely early December) and also plan to do Boston in 2019! Woo to the hoo for long-term goals and clarity!

You might wonder why I didn’t go back to Coach Hadley. I definitely thought about it! He isn’t coaching full-time anymore (unless something has changed) and I am really just excited about the idea of something new and different. I could basically predict the workouts that I would be doing from training cycle to training cycle and that just isn’t much fun. If it is working, then fun isn’t really necessary, but at the same time, I do think that we should be able to improve and still enjoy the process. It was also difficult not to look back and compare my previous times for the same workout one or two years ago since I had done the exact same workouts several times over the years.

After talking with Sarah the first time, I was more excited about my training and running than I had been in years! Years! She is an amazing runner herself (she WON the Marine Corps Marathon in 2017 and qualified for the 2020 Olympic Marathon Trials) and she has complete confidence in me and my abilities, which basically blew me away. I’ve only done a few workouts with her at this point, but so far, it’s been great! She has given me specific advice on how to pace my workouts and has already adjusted a workout that I was super intimidated by to make it more doable (while still getting the same benefits).

As predicted, that got a little lengthy. I have a tendency to do that sometimes, but it’s really been a while so you were likely overdue for some rambling. Let me know if you have any thoughts or questions! I’m always happy to hear from you guys!

7 thoughts on “The Coaching Conundrum”

  1. Awwwww! From a mother runner who recently had a new baby..:balancing life with an infant is tough! I’ll admit I’ve been selfish and having my new baby has reminded me that life is not about me. So in a way she’s growing me up all over again! I got used to my easy 13 year old lol it’s the most challenging thing in the world!!! Oh. But worth it. If you can handle marathons you can handle motherhood. Truth. Anyway. I liked my coach last year! I do wish he had been more personal (diva here too. It’s cool. No Judgement.) but I think that’s a guy thing maybe.?? I don’t know of any local female coaches around my area. But I guess I could look online??


    1. You are a great example of how it is possible to do both! Little Ruby is so precious and your son seems to be so grown up! There are some wonderful coaches that you could work with online if you wanted to! I’ve also been meaning to ask you … are you still thinking about Rocket City? It’s on my list of potential fall marathons!


  2. Lots of information here. Sarah Bishop lives super close to me and I have seen her at a few races. I knew that McKirdy was her coach, but I didn’t realize that she, herself, was a coach. That’s amazing! She’s really strong and is somehow able to balance running with being a parents and having a full time job. I think a lot of local runners really look up to her. It’s awesome that she has you so excited about training. Can’t wait to see what you do!


  3. Sam! I gave up meat a year ago for health and ethical reasons. I haven’t looked back yet with any regrets. I love that there are so many plant based successful athletes out there to model my fueling habits after. Maybe we can exchange thoughts on all of this when I come “home” next month. 🙂 I can’t even comment about the baby thing. Whoa! (lololololol…)


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