What makes a running journey successful
As a running coach, my athletes have achieved quests to qualify for the Boston Marathon, run their first full marathon and various other challenges. I cannot be more pleased when they accomplish their running goals.
But what happens when athletes come up short of their goal?
One of my athletes, a college friend named John Chillingworth, has been working with me throughout 2019 on a moonshot goal. He wanted to break 20 minutes in the 5K before his 51st birthday.
At the time we started talking about this, Chillingworth’s PR in the 5K was 22:54.
Trimming nearly three minutes off an already fast PR time for a masters athlete was a tall order. Nonetheless we got to work.
I created a customized training plan, based on Chillingworth’s goal, experience, age and more. I introduced core work and yoga, while also incorporating speed work. After all, we needed to increase his 5K times and faster leg turnover would be one of the keys.
Living in the northeastern United States, he faced some challenges throughout the winter. But nailed his training runs throughout the ice, snow and cold. It was inspiring to see his Facebook posts most mornings, with the signoff “Stay Frosty.”
Later, he told me, my coaching served as motivation on those cold mornings. “Having Henry as my coach added a layer of additional accountability. When I didn't want to push it during speed work or considered pulling up in a race, I knew that I'd have to report back and rather than give a lesser amount, that often provided the motivation to push through.”
In the spring, Chillingworth signed up for a 5K each month, sometimes adding another race for fun. We examined ones that would be targets for the 19:XX goal, and the training plan was set to peak for those races.
Along the way, my athlete battled injuries, as well as work and life stress. He is a single father of two teen-aged girls and just celebrated his first wedding anniversary with his wife, Lynn, who lives five hours away. To say his daily calendar is packed full is an understatement.
He never used his non-running commitments as an excuse, however. He worked hard. He nailed the workouts. He gained speed and confidence.
Chillingworth set several PRs, lowering his 5K time to 20:58 — two minutes faster than when we started.
'One race does not make or define us'
In early August, Chillingworth toed the line for his final attempt at his goal before his birthday. Unfortunately, he did not have a good race that day.
But, as I told him in a text that morning, “One race does not make or define us. I’m proud of how far you have come in a year. Enjoy your well-deserved break, get some rest and let your body tell you when it’s ready to go again.”
I am proud of the work that my friend and client put in. While we didn’t meet our goal, it’s about the journey. And Chillingworth is on a very successful running journey. He’s gained confidence, speed and knowledge along the way. Perhaps the numbers didn’t line up how we wanted, but that does not diminish the success that Chillingworth enjoyed these past eight months.
For me, it’s been an honor to be along for the ride, and I look forward to working with him again. Since this is about him, I’ll let Chillingworth have the last word.
“This improvement would not have been possible without the help of several people. Henry Howard has been my coach and he did an incredible job of preparing me, in all ways, to do my best. He tailored workouts and modified plans on the fly to meet my specific needs. He is always in my corner, available and responsive. He helped to bring out my best through whatever means were needed at the time. He is helpful, insightful, understanding and encouraging. If you’re thinking about getting a running coach, Henry deserves serious consideration – he’s a true professional and a good man to boot!”