And I am now a Road Runners Club of America Certified Coach!
The RRCA coaching certification course is a very intense two day class that is held around the country throughout the year. I’d been wanting to attend a class for a long time, but they never seemed to be anywhere near my neck of the woods. So I was thrilled a couple months ago when I got an email from the RRCA announcing not one, but two classes in Southern California, one in Santa Monica, the other in San Diego. I chose San Diego for coaching school for obvious reasons.
The class is usually held on a weekend, but because of the America’s Finest City Half Marathon on Sunday, with its finish line just around the corner from our classroom in Balboa Park, our class was on Friday and Saturday. I drove in from La Quinta early on Friday morning and arrived shortly before our 8:00 start.
There were about 35 students in the class, with a variety of backgrounds, from the mother of 12 who hopes to someday qualify for the Olympic trials in the marathon, to Jim, who I already knew as a coach and shoe guy, through his connection to my favorite Encinitas running store, to me, a trainer, already coaching for years, but wanting to add to my knowledge base and my credentials. We all had one thing in common, though. We all love running. And we all love talking about running. And learning about running. So spending two days doing all that, even if it meant sitting for about 18 hours, was a little slice of heaven.
We were all kept in line by our instructor Randy Accetta, who is in charge of the coaching education program for RRCA. From the very beginning, when he, um, encouraged the latecomers to sing, through the end of the class, Randy was a bundle of humor and energy. As I mentioned, he moved like he’d been to a Bo Eason seminar, telling his story, continually in motion, always holding our attention.
Randy has quite impressive credentials in running and coaching (and teaching too). He is a former 2:19 marathoner who competed in the 1996 Olympic Trials and has a long history of coaching runners. He was chosen as the Director of Coaching Education for RRCA in 2011 and has been updating and expanding the program since that time. He is from Tuscon, Arizona, where he teaches Entrepreneurship for the University of Arizona.
Before I go any farther describing the class, I need to take a moment to appreciate Christine Bowen of Running USA. She was our hostess for the weekend, having made the arrangements for the class, which was held at the San Diego Hall of Champions in Balboa Park (which was very cool and could be a whole post in itself). Christine went above and beyond the call of duty, feeding us a continental breakfast of fruit, yogurt, and bagels both mornings. Lunch was sandwiches one day, pizza the next, and she served cookies both days. And coffee! Lots of coffee. Thanks Christine!
The goal of the RRCA Coaching Certification program is to provide trained individuals to work as coaching professionals for the sport of distance running at all levels, from beginner to advanced runners. For a very intense two days, our curriculum included learning about coaching history, types of runners and their training needs, physiology (not my strong point, but fortunately not Randy’s either, so I made it through), periodization, coaching running form, and nutrition. And that was just day one! On day two we discussed the business of coaching, sports psychology, injuries, managing workouts, and building programs.
At one point we did a case study and broke into small groups to create a running program. My group met outside because it was a gorgeous day in San Diego and it felt great to get out of our classroom. We didn’t have much time, but we did get the outlines of a marathon plan for the particular runner. When we returned to class, we reviewed everyone’s plans, discussed what was right and what was wrong about the plan we had created. I learned that I was a little too conservative (I bet you never thought you’d hear me say that!) in my planning, as Randy explained why a larger, quicker jump in long run mileage would be appropriate for our runner.
Overall, I found that I knew most of the material, but it is always good to reinforce your knowledge and be open to learn more. As a longtime runner, trainer, and coach, who is also certified by USA Track & Field, I felt pretty confident going in, but I did learn some things about creating plans, coaching running form, and sports psychology that I know will be helpful in my future coaching programs.
So, where do I go from here? Well, if you haven’t done so before, perhaps you’d like to check out my Coaching page, already updated with my bright shiny new RRCA certification badge. Some of the benefits of having a coach is that they will create a training plan just for you, with your goals, history, schedule, and experience taken into account. They will also help keep you accountable, make adjustments in your plan if necessary, and give you honest advise regarding racing, goals, and injuries.
Have you ever worked with a coach?