Why do I coach?

This article was originally posted by Ryan at the original HillRunner.com Blogs.


Coach Conway: a big part of the reason I’m coaching now

A few people have asked me recently why I got into coaching and, specifically, why I got into coaching adult runners. I think that’s a very fair question so I’d like to share the story. This will also offer some background in my running.

In 1990, I got talked into going out for track by two friends. I didn’t really want to be there so I signed up for the sprints. I figured, in the sprints, at least it would be over quickly.

Fortunately, Coach Conway was the head coach of the middle school track team. He quickly realized that I didn’t have what it takes to be a sprinter but I might be a decent distance runner. Somehow, he convinced me to give distance running a shot and, as bad as I was at first, I stuck to it.

In high school, I still had Coach Conway guiding my running through my cross country seasons but, during my track seasons, I had Coach Knickerbocker. Both were incredible influences on my life, inside and outside of running.

I went on to college and had the opportunity to run under Coach Hall (now at the University of Chicago) who, like Coaches Conway and Knickerbocker, passed on an incredible amount of knowledge about running.

Along the way, I wanted more than anything to pay back all that my outstanding coaches gave me. However, all three were "pay it forward" kind of people. So I looked for ways to pass along the knowledge. That’s where HillRunner.com originally came from. In the spring of 1999, I decided it was time to establish a website where I could both learn from others and share what I had learned along the way.

As time went on, through HillRunner.com and other online sources, I saw a large segment of the running population that needed some guidance from experience. Many of us are runners who came up through the high school and maybe even college system. We learned things from our coaches that we simply take for granted. From generally what a year’s worth of training should look like to simple day to day things like how to avoid blisters and what to do if you get one or what to do if you twist your ankle.

However, many of us are also what I call "adult onset" runners. These runners didn’t start running until they were on their own. They didn’t have the benefit of having a high school coach to tell them all of these things. I tried sharing all the tips I could when I was asked or saw concerns raised but there was still something these people were missing. Through no fault of their own, they didn’t understand how to structure a training plan and how to adjust it as their training went on. They simply never had the guidance to learn such a thing.

In addition, I found that some runners who were coached at the beginning of their running lives either didn’t have the luxury of the outstanding coaching I was so fortunate to have or were typical high school kids and didn’t learn the lessons that were being taught. Or they simply wanted an outside perspective and guidance in their training, which can be a very large benefit for even the most knowledgeable, experienced runner.

In the interest if paying it forward, I wanted to serve these runners. I started working informally with runners in a limited capacity as early as 2001 or 2002. This worked well but my impact was limited. I could share some knowledge but I couldn’t really get in deep.

In 2010, I dove into the deep end. Not because I thought I’d get rich (I charge a lot more now than I did then but, if you shop around, I think you’ll still find I charge below market rates for someone with my experience). Because I was still looking to pay it forward. This blog itself is evidence that I want to continue to reach as many people as possible in a broad way. However, the coaching is a way to reach a relatively small segment of people in a very deep way through that close interaction that comes with a coach/athlete relationship. This year, of course, I also added a middle layer for people who want a deeper dive than the blogs offer but who feel they don’t need or can’t afford the full coaching option.

So that’s the story. For me, it’s all about giving back to the running community by "paying it forward" to thank the wonderful running community for all I was given by my coaches.

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