I went from an arrogant amateur to a cautiously successful, Boston Marathon qualified runner in a couple years, thanks to Tania’s coaching.
I attempted my first Boston qualifier at the Bluenose Marathon in Halifax NS, in June 2011. I had been training at a level that I felt was fairly advanced and Tania encouraged me along the way, being careful to raise my mileage and intensity of workouts at a level commensurate with my enthusiasm, without putting me at unnecessary risk. Come race week, we discussed my plan. I suggested that a 3:15 (my BQ requirement at the time) would be a walk in the park (see aforementioned arrogance) but Tania felt that I may not have enough overall mileage to hit a 3:15 and that a 3:20 is more realistic. Despite my denial, I ran a 3:20 in Halifax–precisely as Tania predicted.
My next run was my first Philadelphia experience and again, I was possibly over-confident. I claimed that a 3:00 (or faster) was within reach. Again, Tania felt that running at that speed would be unrealistic and might compromise my chances of achieving my 3:10 (BQ) goal. She was right (I followed her advice to moderate the early miles) and I managed a 3:06:44 to secure a spot in the 2013 Boston Marathon.
Next up was a 1/2 marathon in Atlantic City, which we were using as a training run for Philly 2013, where I hoped to run a sub 3:00 marathon. In this case Tania felt I was better prepared than I might have thought and that I should push a bit harder by setting a pace that would result in a 1:22 finish (3 minutes faster than my previous PB, which I’d set merely 3 months prior at the Manitoba 1/2 Marathon). This struck me as a departure from her previously conservative goals for me but it appealed to my sense of adventure… as she predicted, I managed to run much faster than I ever had before: 1:21, earning me 2nd place among runners in the 30-39 age category and enabling me to have my picture taken with 2 Kenyans (woo!).
Finally (so far) was my attempt at beating 3 hours in a marathon. We’d chosen Philadelphia because A) I had run it before, B) it is flat & fast, C) the late November race date meant that the climate would be perfect for me.
I trained hard and Tania was entirely dependable and inspiring, talking me off the ledge through a calf muscle injury 3 weeks prior to race day that sidelined me for a week, and pushing me to work harder when I was otherwise healthy.
In the end I ran a 2:54, which was almost exactly what Tania felt I was capable of and a PB that I am very proud of.
Tania accomplished all of this without actually training with me in person. We exchanged emails; I sent calendars with my running schedules and she reciprocated with XL sheets with targets to improve my fitness. I called her when I was in a panic (more than I’d care to admit) and would bombard her with neurotic emails when I needed specific advice. She was always there and always had a nugget of encouragement or a sobering cautionary tale.
Luke was on the cover of the July 2011 iRun magazine. Read about his running adventures as a travelling musician at http://www.irun.ca/issues/article.php?id=317&intIssueID=23