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The things you learn from your coaches

Do you know how to tie your shoes?

I thought I did…

When I found out I didn’t, it turned my world upside down.

I started working with a running coach in Sept 2020. I’ve run on and off (but mostly off) since 2006 when I did my first half marathon. Like many people, when I crossed the line I stopped. I stopped being a runner. I was a: ‘I want to run a half-marathon one-day’ runner and when that was ticked that was it.

Over the years unless I was teeing up an event (a triathlon, a half-ironman) or improving cardio for Rock Climbing or trying to boost my daily energy… I didn’t run. Yet in my mind, I savoured the handful of times I experienced the sheer elation of ‘runners high’. The utter joy of descending a mountain trail in the warmth of Mallorca or being scratched by the yellow-flowered coconut-scented gorse along a coast-top path in the misty highlands of Scotland. Just being somewhere especially beautiful. Both outside and in…

I’d had a taste of what running could be. I had a sense that running could be more than a mode of transport for ticking other things…

A chap I follow on Instagram called Tony Riddle is an inspiring, connected and wise guy! He ran the length of the UK. Lands End to John O’Groats (874 miles!). He did it in 30 days. So, basically, an ultra-marathon every day. About 30miles every day for 30 days.

(And when he injured himself a few days before the end he had to miss a day to recover. This meant he had to run 60miles on the last day.)AND if that wasn’t enough… He did the whole thing barefoot!!

I don’t mean in Vivobarefoot shoes.

He didn’t use any shoes… So, needless to say I’ve been inspired by Tony Riddle for a while. He’s pretty much the only reason I go into Instagram.With all of this influence over me… when Coach Tony speaks, I listen. (FYI he helps people re-wild their running and their life, his Insta is here and his website is here. Definitely check him out).

A man in a bath reading a book called 'born to run'

One day this photo came up after he’d done another epic feat of adventure. He raved about the book so I bought it.

 

OMG Born to Run is an amazing book! Just check out the number and average score of the reviews…

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It’s a wonderful book. It’s like 100 stories within one big adventure with lots of fascinating info about running technique, style, injury prevention and how running helped humans to jump to the top of the food chain (not because we could out-sprint a Gazell, we can’t, but we can outrun it. We can keep going and going in a way that an animal with fur and no sweat glands can’t. Eventually the meat keels over. We got the protein!)

I then read a few other Ultra-running books and decided I wanted to be a runner. I wanted to stop becoming. This was a big shift for me. A move away from an end goal to a process goal. I wanted to enjoy running! And, I wanted to enjoy it in every single moment I was doing it. I had to disrupt and unlearn the ‘run to achieve’ approach I’d cultivated and nurtured.

Coach Tony inspired me. Coach Tony taught me to look again at running! Coach Tony taught me not to look past ‘the hard work’ of the run itself and just visualise the finish line. Coach Tony taught me that every step is like the finish line. Or can be. Every step is why you do it.

My goal became: Find a way to love running, in every season, in every moment. And, do it injury-free. Forever.

I wanted company for this journey and help too so when I reached out to Théa my running coach I send this email:

 

Hello Théa

I’ve been thinking of getting a running coach and found you via MoveGB. I don’t have a ‘goal’ per se and I don’t consider myself a runner. I guess my goal would be more of a process goal in that I’d love to enjoy more running in my life, I’d love to find a way to reap the benefits and boost energy from a daily or 3-time a week blast of nature, cardio and just being present.

I am exploring ideas and assessing my commitment so thought I’d reach out to see how we get on and if/how you could help.

Let me know if you’re keen…

I look forward to hearing from you, have a good one.

James

 

She was up for it!

 

We’ve met every fortnight since and I am now a runner. Or becoming a runner. A perpetual journey I hope.

I follow the joy and I continually practise tuning in to my body and what it needs and not my ambitious mind; not the thought that says ‘if you run hard now one day you could achieve this’. Those thoughts have their place but I don’t want running to default to another form of consumption. Consumption of my body. I don’t want to be a graveyard of injuries. 

Ironically I am just recovering from an injury… I didn’t tune in to my body’s pleas to ‘stop’, ‘go easy’. So with a renewed determination to be present for every step or stride I am relishing the freshness of every jog. The ‘effortless effort’ as my meditation teacher says. I savour -but I don’t cling on- to the sights, the sounds and the feel of running. The sensations of the living earth beneath my (as thin as possible) shoes. And, in the future, I may be(come) an ultra runner or one of the loons that you see running barefoot.

A man running through the city streets topless

But for now, my ambition is ‘constrained’ to the joy and sensation of running whenever I feel like it.

To get back to the point and the title of this Blog…

The thing I learnt most recently from my running coach [Théa Payne. Website here. Highly recommended!] is how to tie my shoes. My toenails were hurting running downhill which I happened to mention in passing so Coach Théa helped me understand that a.) my shoes were a size too small (they were right a year ago but your feet get bigger when you switch to barefoot shoes). And b.) when I got the bigger shoes which felt like boats Coach Théa showed me how to cinch them up in a way that stops my feet from sliding forward.

This lesson had a profound impact on me! I started to think about all the things (big and small) we learn from our coaches. I thought I’d learnt to tie my shoes at age 4. Then I thought I’d mastered it by age 14 yet here I am at 41 receiving an off the cuff lesson on how to tie my shoes. Something I thought I knew.

It got me thinking… What other things do I think I know that a coach could help me learn, leverage, re-learn or perhaps unlearn…?

Inviting someone in to help can feel daunting but you never know what it might reveal. It turns out that there are many unknowns in the things we are sure we know.

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