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7 Reasons Every Runner Should Coach A Newbie

Editor Nicki Miller ran her new-runner bud to her first 15K finish!

When my neighbor Stacy Mahoney and I first talked about going for a run, she was quick to warn how slow she’d be. I’ve never been much of speedy runner myself, and I was feeling a little burned out after a lot of racing in 2014, so I welcomed a different focus: helping Stacy become a runner. During our journey, I discovered several great reasons to turn a bud into a running one—and why every runner should put on their coaching hat at least once in her life:

1. You’ve Got a Friend. I told Stacy we’d go at her pace, running and walking to a nearby park and back home. Since she hadn’t run much before, I simply wanted her to want to run again, so we went at a conversational pace (we know each other a lot better now!), and I don’t think it felt particularly hard to either of us. That first outing ended with us thanking each other, and she said we should do it again. Yay!

2. New Patterns, Fresh Legs. Since Stacy is a nurse who works 12-hour shifts and tends to have a few days off at a time, we started doing this regular loop together on days she wasn’t working. The camaraderie made for happy, low-key mileage for me, and sooner than I’d expected, Stacy’s competitive side started tagging along.

RELATED: NYC Running Mama: Welcome The New Runners

3. Her Progress=Your Achievement. She wanted me to start wearing my GPS watch to see how far we were going, and when she discovered our route was a little shy of 3 miles, she liked the idea of going a little farther to reach that round number. Next thing I knew, she was talking about doing a race. The Hot Chocolate run—a tasty, nationwide race series—was coming to San Diego (where we live), so I suggested that. With the option of 5K or 15K, we could consider both and choose one—or so I thought. Not Stacy! She’d done a 5K before, so she was all in. We signed up for the 15K.

4. No More Stale Training Plans. We looked at the calendar and decided to do one long run each week; we’d add a mile to that long run every week to build up to the 9.3 miles we’d be running on race day. Stacy always arrived ready to run whatever distance was required. What’s more—her walk breaks started to get shorter, and her speed increased.

RELATED: #NMrunsBOS: 6 Weeks Of Marathon Training

5. Revel in Her Accomplishments. The day came for our long 7-mile run. We always start with about a half-mile loop in our neighborhood that has a fair bit of uphill. I’d noticed that Stacy would keep running a little farther before taking a quick walk break. She usually didn’t get particularly out of breath, but this day was different—she looked and sounded like she was struggling. I explained that off days happen and are a normal part of training (better in training than on race day!) I tried to make light of it and hoped she’d settle into a groove. We kept going, and soon she sounded and looked perfectly fine. We pounded out the full 7 miles and checked GPS—this was our fastest run to date! Stacy was shocked. I don’t think new runners always realize that running longer can get easier once you fall into a groove.

6. Enjoy Nervous-Free Races. Our 7-mile run gave Stacy a new level of confidence I could see on our subsequent training runs. When race day came on Mar. 22, she was nervous about how she’d do. I told her to trust her awesome training—and have fun! I’m happy to report our speed was about the same as that 7-miler (when you subtract a bathroom break!).

RELATED: 4 Strategies For Dealing with Race-Day Nerves

7. Tips From a Newbie. What amazes me about Stacy’s running style is despite still taking regular walk breaks, she maintains a good speed when she’s running. My own style is more of the slowing-down-as-I-go variety, so it’s been a great lesson in consistency for me. Different runners can teach us new lessons, no matter their running background. It’s been fun for me to focus on her running instead of my own, and as Stacy has become more motivated, my own enthusiasm for running has returned. We planned a run a few days after the Hot Chocolate 15K, and when I texted her about how far she wanted to go, her response pleasantly surprised me: probably not more than 9 miles. What?! Now that’s a runner!

Nicki Miller

Nicki Miller

Nicki Miller is the managing editor for Women's Running and spearheads our nutrition coverage. She’s an avid runner but also loves cycling (both on and off-road), yoga and all kinds of crazy videos to do at home. Formerly the editor of Martha’s Vineyard Magazine, Nicki started her journalism career at The Washington Post. Her first races were duathlons (run, bike, run) in her twenties with her husband, and then triathlons, completing the White Lake Half Ironman in North Carolina. Since joining Women’s Running in 2013, she’s been more focused on half marathons and trail running. Some of her proudest moments have been running the Boston Marathon (first 26.2), and becoming an RRCA certified running coach and helping others take up the sport.