My First Coach

The coaches (who are volunteers) for Team in Training perform quite a feat each season: taking a team of just a few to over 50, with different backgrounds and capabilities, and prepare them to participate in and complete an endurance event: a marathon,  half- marathon, triathlon, century, or hike. They prepare schedules and watch over participants as they navigate the waters of training for an endurance event. They are cheerleaders, motivators, shoulders to cry on, and always ready for a big, sweaty hug as their team comes in from a run. And, again, they are volunteers.

My first marathon was with Team in Training. My first coach was Barb Stinson. Barb was actually my TNT coach for my first two marathons: Chicago and Marine Corps (2008 and 2009). Both teams were fantastic – each in their own way. And Barb managed the separate personalities of each team with ease and panache.

When I was injured when training for my first marathon she didn’t let me hide or go away. Rather, she kept me in touch with the team and with them…making me a part of a fantastic group. She did recommend that I go home to “the mother ship” for awhile, and so I spent a week with my mom. My mom and I still love to refer to her as the mothership, and Barb was right. 

It was a tight knit team, and we went though a lot. After the Chicago marathon I came in and hugged my teammates Avi and Amy before my husband! What can I say? With the second marathon she made a team of people who barely knew each other a tightly knit team. We waited for the last person to come in from training runs, and we did the same on event day.

And I remember sitting at a restaurant after a group run. We were chatting and she talked about a group of girls she was working with and how to communicate emotions and she told me exactly what she was telling the girls “When you….I feel…would you please?”. How did she know that was what I needed to hear and learn? She just did.

I went to run the Kiawah half marathon after the Marine Corps Marathon and Barb was there. That morning she asked if I had a plan/goal time. No. Immediately she took my hand and led me over to Kimberly (to be one of two terrific TNT coaches for my next TNT event) and said something akin to “Run with Kimberly – you are her pace.” Special note here: Kimberly has Boston Qualified several times. When I learned this my mouth almost dropped. But, I stayed with Kimberly (really – I didn’t have enough time to think or do anything else) until about mile 8 or 9 and learned a lot. I came in at a PR (sub 2 hours) and even sprinted the end in. I felt on top of the world. I learned a lesson: I can. And after the half I got to spend time with her and Holly. We gathered food and went to their room and had a regular picnic. I listened to their stories and advice and felt honored to be there. And I finished the day with several new friends.

While on the San Diego/Seattle team (Where Kimberly and Lisa were coaches) we were at track practice one evening. Barb was there as she is the coach at the school’s track. We were running intervals. Barb asked me what interval pace I was running. I had no idea. She said “I think I can run a X:XX pace. Stay with me”. I never thought of running that pace but…we did it! I felt fantastic and alive! Again, another lesson. Given in a way that I never felt threatened or set up to fail, and given no time to think so I went along.

Barb’s methods may not work with everyone, but they certainly worked with me. She suggested things in a way that I never thought to think anything else (didn’t have time sometimes!), and went along with amazing results. It was the beginning of learning to explore. It was one of the first times I actively heard and understood someone saying to me, “You can do more. Here’s some help. Now, go for it” and it clicked. I owe Barb a lot. She set me up with a solid base and a love for running. She ignited my curiosity and taste for more.

Thank you, Barb. You have made my life a lot more fun, and a lot more exciting.

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