I may have mentioned that I lead/coach half marathon clinics out of the local Running room. The big race in Vancouver each year is the BMO Vancouver International Half marathon, which is run in May and this particular clinic tends to be the largest. Currently there is 106 registered and counting.
Special K is helping me lead the clinic because of the size of it. I am also at the same time wrapping up the Fort Langly Historic Half clinic - their race is in February so there is some juggling for the next few weeks.
One of the first things I tell people is to focus on themselves and to not worry about what the person beside, in front or behind them is doing. I tell them this is their journey not the person beside them, it does not matter if they are faster or slower what matters is what they do. That the only person that will hold them back is themselves.
I have a young lady in the Fort Langley clinic who is the classic person that is worried about what everyone else is doing and how her performance compares. She is a strong athlete and very competitive - she is always worried where she is in the group and how fast/slow she is.
She actually mentioned to me that she has NEVER actually raced, she does the clinics but does not race because she does not want to be last. I was amazed and shocked. I asked how many clinics she had done and she said she had been doing them for 4 years! My next feelings were intense sadness for her. Sadness? Yep Sadness - she had never got to experience the triumf of crossing the finish line, the feeling of having someone put a medal around your neck and say congratulations. She has never felt that pride we all have when we put on our race shirt and walk down the street knowing people are looking at us and thinking wow that person ran a half marathon - how amazing, cool or yes crazy.
I told her that it would be virtually impossible for her to be last - she is a strong runner. And so what if she was? She was like you don't understand - you have never been last. I started to laugh and told her she did not know anything about me - she should not assume such things. She was like you are the coach, look at all the races you have done. I told her I am human and everone has bad days. I then told her that yes I had been last, a few times and while I prefered not to be last I was proud that I had not quit, that I had crossed the finish line and I used each of those experiences to learn things and prepare myself for the next race so it would not happen again. Well we continued to chat for the rest of the run and others in the pace group shared their race experiences with her and told her to go for it. I am happy to report that she ran up to me at the next clinic run and said I did it - I registered. I am very excited for her - what a wonderful opportunity for her.
With the BMO Clinic there are a lot of new eager runners who are attempting their first Half marathon. One of my clinic leaders after the first night run sent me a note. They were concerned about a few folks in the group. There were some people that seemed to have a hard time with the run and they felt that these folks might not be able to complete the 7km on Sunday or if they did it might take them a really long time and how long was acceptable before we stopped them and maybe suggested that they consider not doing the run. I knew that this was coming from a place of concern and love and not criticism.
I knew that I had to finally come clean about my first 1/2 marathon clinic experience so that they would undertand why my response was what it was. My response was we will not tell anyone that they cannot or may not be able to do a half marathon. That it does not matter how long it takes them I will support them and not to worry I have someone who has agreed to stay with the last person - an accomplished runner and marathoner.
I then preceded to tell them about my first half marathon clinic. The first Sunday run I was unable to complete it. I missed the next one and then I was always at the back of the group - very far back, always the very last one back often eveyone had gone home already. There was even one Sunday when another person in the clinic came up to me and gently suggested that maybe I was in over my head and shoudl consider dropping out and joining a 10km clinic. She obviously did not know me. I thanked her for her concern and left that morning, on the drive home I cried and then I got mad. I decided by the time I got home to heck with her and the rest of them that I would show them!
I was still always last but I finished the clinic and I did the race. 9 years later I am still running and loving every minute of it - imagine if I had listened to that well-meaning person? So now everone knows why I will not tell someone they can't do it because you and I do not know why someone has decided to do the clinic only they do. They will make the decision whether they want to go forward or not and they will find a way - our job is to support them the best way we can.
My goal is to support all of my clinic members in their journey to the start line in whatever manner they need me to.
Enjoy the journey