Chicago marathon

Coach or no coach?

I decided I would train for my first marathon by following a plan I found online. It had me running five days a week at varying distances. I followed the plan and I was ready, or at least I thought I was.

I showed up on Jan. 29, 2017 to the Miami Marathon. I ran it in 5:30.

But I felt terrible afterwards. I ended up tearing a tendon in my foot that resulted in it taking more than a year for me to get back to running regularly.

In 2018, I had the pleasure of getting accepted into the Chicago Marathon and felt I had to take my training a little more seriously. I got a runner’s manual from Runners World and read it cover to cover trying to understand how I need to attack this training cycle. I did it, it hurt, there were awful days and some decent days.

About a month and a half before Chicago, I was on Instagram scrolling through some of the amazing runners I follow.  I started using Instagram to get inspired and see what other (much better) runners were doing in their training.

I saw some of my favourite runners from around the globe, but one post in particular that caught my eye.  One of the women I follow from California, Alys DiMercurio (insta:@run_rinse_repeat), had mentioned something about one of her running clients. I didn’t know she coached, I didn’t think people did that part time. I had been following her journey for more than year, loving her running story and understanding who she was as a person and what running meant to her.

I realized I needed help to get myself to the finish line in Chicago, so I reached out to Alys about her coaching services. I had looked into having a running coach before, but I didn’t connect with them or they made me feel like I couldn’t get to where I wanted to be as a runner.

After connecting with Alys, I decided to take the plunge and hire her to coach me for four months.

I had a month until Chicago when I started my “real” training plan. I had been having nagging pains and was just nervous for what was to come. She calmed me down, helped me understand that I needed to just give it all I had no matter if I was hitting my time or not.

I got a 21-minute personal best in Chicago!

I came back to Toronto and ran three more races that October. I got a huge PB in Toronto, at the Scotiabank half marathon (this was a massive win for me).

I had been feeling stale for so long, never feeling like I could get past my current times. Only recently have I felt I could improve my times and also get the support I needed to run and enjoy those distances I am aiming for.

I am very independent and don’t usually take help from others, but for me to conquer what I want to do in my running life (and personal life), I feel I made the right decision to team up with a wonderful coach.

Lessons I have learned from having a coach:

  • Believe in myself (still working on that!);
  • Love each stride/hill/race;
  • It’s all in the progress, not instant (very important and something I had a hard time understanding for YEARS!).

Running to me was always a solo sport, I could put on my headphones and go. I now understand that sometimes you need to ask for help and set up an army behind you to support you on the good days, the bad days, and of course, the really terrible days.


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