From coach to runner

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This is a blog post by our Running Coach Anne Jennings who is currently training for the Connemara 39.3 mile Ultramarathon where she talks of her training and being on the other side of the fence as the ‘runner’ rather than the ‘coach’.

The running steps to Connemara

December 2014 and the FTG coaches get together for an end of year catch up. Full of nice food and a wee bit of mulled wine we enjoyed chats and reminiscing over the year gone by. We also spoke about the year to come and our own personal goals: mine was to sign up to the Connemara Ultra Marathon in April 2015. With the gentle persuasion of my fellow coaches I registered that night. I was on my way. Followed by a restful Christmas and the focus of a training plan carefully put together January 19th would see me start out on my journey.

Roll on my training – so with any training we all start off full of enthusiasm belief and energy. I had set myself 3 days a week and as I got into it I found it manageable and also each session was challenging – I didn’t expect anything else. That was idea of training pushing yourself out of your comfort zone.

A taste of our own medicine

As with each of our students,  and the motivation we strive to give to them,  I was now in the situation where I needed to do the same. I needed to find the motivation – what was going to motivate me apart from my strong streak of ‘T&S’ (thick and stubbornness)?

That much needed motivation came from my fellow instructors. As FTG coaches we are often asked about our job, Job? What job? We often forget that what we do is a job, as we feel so passionate about it. The pride we have in each of our students watching them grow and reach their goals and helping and encouraging them on their way is not just a job it is array of different emotions and a huge sense of achievement and belief in what we do.

Before or after each session one or all of my fellow coaches would be in contact to see how each training went with words of encouragement – having no idea how that kept me going during each hill, interval and mile in every weather condition. They even joined me individually on occasion to share intervals or even a wave along the road or a coffee afterwards – just the simple things. What does this do for ones soul? – more than one can imagine.

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The Long Miles

As the weeks went on, the sessions got more challenging and the mileage longer. I knew for my longest runs it was going to be tough setting out for hours at a time but I tried to focus on one run at a time as there is only one way to eat an elephant.

I knew in particular I had two long training runs, one which I would do as the Tralee marathon for a few reasons

  1. The Company
  2. If you are going to run over 26 miles you may as well get the glory and the medal of a marathon – as its a very strange and slightly deflating feeling as like the week before getting into your car after running 24 miles and driving home, 2.2 miles short of a marathon.
  3. New Scenery & places to see.

Tralee was a great experience a tough course but also a great comfortable run taking 18 mins off my PB and feeling relaxed finishing it – yes the training was paying off but great and all as that was the next long run was going to be the harder challenge – 30 solo miles in the Phoenix park.

How does one get through that? One doesn’t have to look far as her fellow coaches have already marked it in their diaries – the morning of the 6 nations finale is marked out as ‘Annes 30th get together’.

The 30 mile Relay

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6 x 5 mile loops is the challenge and would start at 7am each loop accounted for. What a stunning morning it is. The sun is rising and I don’t feel nervous about the task ahead – yes I had it in my head that I had ran Tralee 6 days beforehand and had questioned the legs would they be tired? They certainly might be but I felt calm, ready & supported.

I pulled up in the park to be met by fellow coach Aoife her hubby John and beautiful baby Eleanor all ready to share the first set of miles with me. Aoife who had a C section 6 months earlier was getting back into exercise and running and for her was going to be her longest run post baby. We set off running buggy and all and Aoife keeping tabs on our pace to make sure I was sticking to my to plan one less thing for me to have to concentrate on. We had great chats and before we knew it we have completed a loop – bang ! one was done. At this stage Aoife went with the buggy for another couple of miles by herself and John joined me for the 2nd loop. The park was stunning, sun up, clear skies and once again we chatted about this and that, mainly predictions on the rugby (one of my favourite things) which again made another loop pass by effortlessly – as we finished coach Lorraine was waiting to join me for the next loop.

How did I feel at this stage? Focused. Lorraine was warmed up ready to go and as I fueled & hydrated myself we said our goodbyes to Aoife, John and beautiful baby Eleanor and headed off. I think I smiled most of the first couple of miles – why? I was so happy for Aoife she had been nervous about not been able to support me in the miles and in all that had completed 12km in total – how brilliant. Onward we continued and again caught up on our week and news etc. nodding at fellow runners as we passed them by. Before we knew it another loop was done – we again stopped to fuel & hydrate and headed off for loop 4. I kept thinking I feel ok, I have passed the half way mark. Lorraine was running at my pace, which for her was faster than her normal training pace, which for anyone is a challenge no matter what the pace was. Again we chatted our way through I could feel myself getting slightly tired at this stage but still felt strong and with encouragement from Lorraine we were on the home straight. As my car came more into focus so did the sight of a balloon hanging on my wing mirror with a big 30 on it and beside it a wonderful welcoming smile of fellow coach Mary. ‘We couldn’t let this occasion pass without marking it’ she said. She was ready for the off. Lorraine was feeling good and decided she would join us for loop 5 – excellent more girlie chats. Off we went – Mary had her watch all set up for my pace – it would beep if we were going too fast so it kept us in line.

I was still in the world of loop 5 and I feel ok – I in my head was nearly at the end. We chatted again about bits and pieces, had some giggles – focused on form and technique and made our way through the miles and as we came closer to the balloon still hanging on the car I knew this is it – the final loop. Lorraine finished up and would wait for us to finish – she had done amazing and again I was so happy that she also has achieved something great from helping me, good strong miles at a new training pace – excellent.

Right this as it – last loop – I knew it was possible I had all the support I needed I just needed the body to know the same. Fueled up for the final time Mary and I headed off. Well paced we were straight back in to chats and whatever distracted us from the miles. It was a surreal feeling watching my watch come up to 42 km and be running around the park as Mary said we were winning this marathon!

A Marathon Pitstop

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My watch hit 42.2km and Mary stopped us for a photo. She wasn’t letting me not have my training marathon celebration and out popped a prize badge, which she attached to my running top – how thoughtful of her as always.

Photos were taken, hugs were shared and off we set again – what a buzz that was , it was going to get me through the last 4 miles – as we heading up the hills the thirst got to me and before I could think any more about it the benefits of mobiles took over Lorraine was on the other side of the phone and was on her way with H2O. It was well needed. Mary took an extra bottle for me and carried it as we ran those final few miles. How was I feeling? Yes my body was tired but I felt good, surprisingly good – the support of the girls was super it had kept my mind distracted, positive and removed the normal thoughts we all fight with when we run solo.

Mary been Mary kept me focused on my running form, encouraging me all the way and as she does so effortlessly made it very enjoyable – did I actually write that? Coming up to 30 miles and enjoyable? Yes that’s how I felt I nearly didn’t want it to end.

Post Run Treats

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The icing on the cake was seeing Rachel a FTG student and friend who had come along with Finn her beautiful newborn to cheer me on at the finish, all I could do was smile. I had done it – WE had done it. Complete with balloons and badges Mary insisted on photos and a video to remember the day. She herself had done one of these runs once and had wished she had written it down or had photos for years to come – she wanted these memories for me to have. I knew now we all had these memories to share.

The sun was shining Rachel had baked a cake what else was there to do but to stroll to the visitors centre ( after a good stretch) grab a coffee and sit in the sun and share some yummy treats ( with also a sneak peak at the latest score from the Welsh / Italian game).

What was hours of running didn’t feel like hours and as we all headed homewards to settle into the rugby I felt on top of the world. Yes I was stiff and tired but had completed 30 miles. Now I really knew what our so-called ‘job’ is – I was at the receiving end of things… and it felt great.

Was this the support and good spirit our students feel with our encouragement? I was overwhelmed – that is what singles out the magic of FTG, we all rally around for each other – I couldn’t have done it without the girls and the great thing is each one of us got something positive out of it.

What a super day, roll on the next when one of us needs the others –where do we get our motivation? Answer -Each other. Oh the simple things in life… Next step Connemara. Thank you girls x

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