Sunday, May 31, 2015

How it Began - Twin Cities Coaching

In 2010 I paced my first half marathon, the Minneapolis Half Marathon. I'd been working for the Minnesota Reading Corps--my first "real job" out of college. My $1100 monthly stipend came to about $9.16 per hour. I was making less per hour than I'd earned working at a group home, but I was excited to be putting my teaching degree to work.

During my breaks, I was checking Runner's World Message Boards, mostly lurking, reading about training plans, philosophies, and runners' experiences.

Believe it or not, at times I can be a little bit shy. I finally got brave enough to ask a question in the Hudson Forum, a discussion post about Brad Hudson's training plans as recorded in "Run Faster from the 5k to the Half Marathon."

On the main forum page was forum called, "Minnesota Running Wild." I didn't know what it was all about, but after reading through it, I found a group of runners who met around the Twin Cities, and even had some racing singlets and tech shirts.

Awesome. I worked up the nerve to go on a group run on the Luce Line Trail in Hopkins, Minnesota. Following the run, I met with Don, the pace team coordinator for the Minneapolis Marathon and Half Marathon. I told Don I'd qualified for Boston and was now looking to help some other runners meet their goals. He asked me to pace the 1:45 half marathon group. The pacing gig included a meeting with a free drink and a pair of Mizuno running shoes.

The perks were great, but I was still nervous about pacing. I practiced that 8:01 pace for several runs, including a practice half marathon the weekend before the race. It was hot, but I finished the course along River Road in Minneapolis at almost exactly 1:45.

At the time, 1:45 was the time needed to get into the "A" corral at the Twin Cities Marathon. In the 2009 Twin Cities Marathon, I'd weaved my way in and out of the crowd for the first seven miles, so I knew how important it could be to get into the first corral.

At the expo I watched experienced pacers answer questions, and by the end of the day I had a powder blue Minneapolis Marathon hat and a Mizuno Team Ortho Pacer singlet.

The morning of the race, I chatted with a group of a little over a dozen runners. Some were running their first half marathon, and about six were aiming for that sub-1:45 time--either for a personal best time or a ticket to the first corral of the Twin Cities Marathon.

During the race I learned how exciting it can be to watch a runner sprint past me to the finish. To have a runner come up to me after the race to thank me. To watch a runner stay just ahead of the pace group, surging to the finish in a new best time.

After the race, a short-statured pacer, Junal, and another casual running acquaintance, Steve, walked with me back toward the runners. We cheered under a bridge as the last of the half marathoners ran down a hill about a quarter of a mile from the finish.

"Turn on those wheels!" was my new favorite cheer. As the half marathoners were finishing, the first of the marathoners were now coming down the hill. I'm still amazed at the dedication, guts, and speed of those sub-three hour marathoners as they finish at a pace faster than seven minutes a mile--almost as impressive as those runners out in the sun, heat, or rain--running four hours or more with nothing to prove except their own dedication and hard work.

After the race, Don bought another runner and me a beer. We talked running, pacing, and life. I was hooked.

I've now paced over twenty half marathons in the past five years, and it's been an amazing ride. Since then, I've led and been a guest speaker for Running Room clinics. I've written training plans for runners, including:
  • Brittany: Who was about to qualify for Boston before becoming pregnant with twins
  • Autumn: Who training for and ran her first 7k on a cold and icy March day in Minneapolis
  • Lois: My mother, who last year won her age group at the Laugh-and-a-half 5k
  • Paul: My father, who ran his first 5k in over ten years at the age of 61
  • Jon: Who ran a personal best of almost 12 minutes at the Lake Wobegon Trail Marathon at 3:05, then came back with a 3:03 six weeks later at Grandma's marathon to qualify for the Boston Marathon

Thanks to all the athletes that have inspired me thus far. Read about their stories here:

Testimonials

Run well,

Nate

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