Former 2:24 marathoner, now in my late 40s and hoping to maximally flatten the curve of my slide into senescence and mediocrity • Magazine writer, book editor and author, and commentator on the sport of distance running since 1999 • Adviser and confidant of other perambulators • Paradoxical hater of exercise fanatics • Chihuahua whisperer Sentence-fragment impresario

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Runners are "needy," "addicted," and "fussy," and online coaching is a "hustle"...according to a self-described online running coach

Today, one of my friends found this interesting article from August 2012. It appears on a site called "Budgets are Sexy," generously labeled a "personal-finance blog" by its creator, one "J. Money." As you can read for yourself, the article's author describes how she, allegedly a professional runner and CNA working on a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree, supposedly makes money on the side by coaching other runners, a task she describes as banal yet somehow rewarding.

I am not going to deconstruct this entire eye-popping slag heap of obvious falsehoods, brazen internal contradictions, and all-around weirdness -- yet. But I do want to point out a few things:
  • The author claims that she "had a coach who was helping me for free" in or around 2008. This much is mostly true -- the arrangement she's talking about began in October 2009, and she paid her coach a total of $160 over a period lasting about 18 months and covering two different coaching stints -- but it clearly doesn't mesh with this claim of being self-coached between the ages of 18 and 34.
  • The author was never a professional runner -- not before 2008, as she claims, and certainly not at any point afterward. There is a difference between doing nothing but running because you're unemployed, and making a few bucks in the bargain because you're fairly fast, and being paid to run.
  • The author wrote: "I coach a 55 year old guy that had never run a marathon or more than 25 miles in a week. Within 6 months, I had him up to 80-85 miles in a week and qualified for the Boston Marathon. He ran a PR at Boston that year." None of this is true and most of it is impossible. For quite a few years now, entries for a given Boston Marathon, a race held on the third Monday of April, have closed sometime the previous fall. For this year's race, registration opened on September 12, 2016 and closed nine days later. Now, I suppose given the author's scattershot and imprecise prose that she could have meant "ran a PR at Boston the following year" -- but I know she never coached such a person because she would have told me. And even if this apocryphal tale about moving a 55-year-old runner from a lifetime high of 25 miles in a week to 80-85 miles a week within six months were true, it would only make the "coach" an extremely untrustworthy advisor.
To me, though, the real eye-opening stuff is the disconnect in the author's attitude from one part of her narrative to the next. She starts off by claiming that she had a coach herself during her salad days, then goes on to say that she learned everything she knows about running simply by doing it -- but also from older runners in her hometown club. She claims that she doesn't read about or research running at all. She says that USATF coaching certifications are basically worthless apart from making people who attain them feel better about themselves. She speaks of both current runners and former runners in openly pejorative terms. She employs an overarching theme of running being about self-knowledge and self-reliance, which apparently means she's boasting about being a scam artist or attempting to be -- yet in this comment she rushes to point out that she's different from those online scam coaches.

All in all, she shows that she's aware of not writing for an audience from which she intends to attract coaching clients, but shows a remarkable lack of awareness of how easy it is for any sentient person to read between the lines of some of her claims and immediately recognize them as lies. And again, I could go into great detail about those, but I'm a little pressed for time and, despite the fact that this person actively waged a pointless and unjustified but highly energetic war on me for a long time and may not be done with that project just yet, I almost -- almost feel bad for her.


  1. I've never figured out that side. Nor have I figured out the matrix of runners. The ones that treat it like a math problem I tend to appreciate. The ones playing checkers, but act like Bobby Fischer....not so much.

    1. The mathematical aspects of running are what drew me most strongly to it when I was 14 years old -- I liked the idea of being able to quantify everything, most of all my own improvement. I never foresaw, however, the day when pretty much everyone from joggers to elites would be far more data-obsessed than I ever was or could be. The numbers are very helpful with online coaching, but easy to get too caught up in at the expense of, "OK, but how did it feel and how do you feel today?"

      As for the Bobby Fischer "types," they're no more rare in running than they are elsewhere. You would think that the advent of the Internet would have largely put the kibosh on fifth-degree liars, but if anything being confronted with reality just pisses these people off and leads them to double down on their bullshit. Don't hold yourself accountable for not appreciating where lunatics are coming from, and don't waste time analyzing their contributions and influence when I already do too much of that.

  2. "It's not about how good I do, but how bad everyone else does." I was told this 25 years ago. The summary seems to be most people are not concerned with how special some people want to be. People will cheer against you in those scenarios.

    I no longer get a kick out of following these people as it is as you have alluded to...pretty sad.