Saturday, November 2, 2013

O Brother, Tough Art Thou

In spring of this year, my brother-in-law Ian surprised and delighted me with the news that he wanted to train for his first marathon, the Dick's Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon, next May. (I was super excited about this, and wrote all about it here.) Flash forward six months, and I am bursting at the seams with pride at all that he has already accomplished -- and the marathon is still six months away! My own running and training has been slow and frustrating of late, and his success and enthusiasm has been just the shot in the arm that I've needed to stay upbeat.

Turns out, I've really enjoyed being a coach. Of course, this is coaching in its most limited sense - from a distance, and with only one athlete. But given the demands of work, my own marathon training, and all of the miscellaneous challenges of everyday life, it’s just the right speed. I love being accessible and available to answer questions, celebrate successes, or even just provide a little cheerleading on a tough day.

We started with a slow and steady build-up of mileage, which frustrated him at first. When he was ready, I added in some speed work, hill repeats, and tempo runs in preparation for his first 10k (in September), and the complaints that I was going too easy on him disappeared. Ian not only completed that 10k – he killed it, finishing at an average pace that was nearly 30-seconds per mile faster than I’d predicted. And my favorite part: he enjoyed it! This was his first race ever, and he kept a great pace, felt strong, and recovered well. So, after a week of rest and easy running, we charged ahead with training for his first half-marathon.

Look at this awesome form, finishing today's half-marathon!
THAT IS A RUNNER IF I EVER SAW ONE.
And today I’m happy to report: Ian is officially a half-marathoner! He finished this morning in an amazing 2:11:40, rocking a huge negative split, with every mile getting faster throughout the race. He’s filled with well-deserved pride at the accomplishment and (I think) feeling confident and physically ready to tackle the full 26.2. But for now: we celebrate. Right now I’m withholding the next phase of the training schedule – my only requirement is that he rest and revel in his accomplishment for a couple of days. After about two weeks of easy running, we’ll start slowly increasing his mileage again, and then once the holidays are over: it’s on, brother.

This has been such an exciting process to watch, and I find that it’s nearly as exciting to be a part of someone else’s athletic triumphs as it is to experience them yourself. I could get into this. Ian is getting faster and stronger, staying healthy and injury-free, and learning about all kinds of fun stuff along the way: running nutrition and hydration (what is Gü?), compression socks (free hospital-grade compression socks work, too!), how race packet pick-ups work, and the thrill of race day (read: port-a-johns). And most important of all: he’s learning how to balance the requirements of training with the joys of being an engaged and involved father of a very active young son. Every day, I am impressed, inspired, and excited to see what’s next. Thanks, Ian, and cheers!

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Do you have any advice for Ian as he prepares to train for his first marathon? Please feel free to share!

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