Green and Growing....Lesson From My Running Mentee
by Michelle Scribner-MacLean
Co-Captain, Team AllEars
This year for the first time Team AllEars has implemented a running mentor program: members can request a veteran runner to offer one-on-one virtual guidance along the way. Although we have lots of support systems in place to help our runners, the hope was not that folks would have professional coaches (because none us are), but rather that they could have a personal and more experienced cheerleader. I believe that the original idea came from Team AllEar Bud Amanda Gonzales, but right away I knew that it was a good one. During my first Walt Disney World race several years ago, Mike Scopa volunteered to take me through the ropes and offered lots of support over my many months of training and it was so valuable (and I will always be grateful to him for that help).
Here’s one of the nice things about being team co-captain: I get to assign the mentees. As people request help, I consider the race that they are going to be running, their experience level, and where they live (if possible, I try to match people with mentors who are close by). Lots of people have requested mentors and lots of wonderful Team AllEars veterans have offered to informally coach people through their first 5K, half, marathon, or even Goofy.
Something wonderful happened…we had so many requests for mentors that we ran out of people to fill the slots. Because Mike and I are so busy with team planning, we weren’t going to mentor, but when a request came in from a new runner in the Boston area, I decided to jump in and be a mentor…and I’m so happy that I did.
Although we haven’t met in person yet, we stay in touch weekly via email. She gives me training reports and I make suggestions (based on my three whole years of running). We talk about everything from how to train (I’m suggesting cross training so she doesn’t run into the problems I had with IT bands and stress fracture), to technology (she now uses the DailyMile so I can see her progress), to what gear to use.
As I was replying to an email that she wrote this morning, I realized that something else was happening. I was learning from her just as much as she was learning from me. Answering her questions was helping me to reflect upon my own practice of running, why I do what I do in terms of training, how to be prepared mentally and physically. Through every interaction and through her very thoughtful questions, I have to stop and think about why I’ve made the choices that I have.
Today we were discussing what it takes to be prepared to run a WDW race and I told her….well…wait…let me just find that email and I’ll tell you exactly what I said:
“I have to say that part of doing a half is just being mentally prepared. It took me 4 or 5 just to start to have fun and not feel the worry about whether I could finish. It's kind of like taking a big test at school that you're worried about...you can study and study but you don't know if you can do it until you actually sit down to do it. Then you realize that you're fine because you did the work. Same with running...as long as you have several 10-11 mile runs under your belt about a month before the race, you'll be fine.”
As I finished writing, I thought, “Gee….I never really considered mental preparation before she asked me that question. I’m learning, too.
In my regular job, I prepare people who are going to be teachers. A large part of what I get them to work on is reflecting on their practice. After a lesson they should consider what worked and why, what didn’t work and why, and what can be done next time to help improve. Until I started working with my mentee, I really hadn’t taken the time to realize that improving at running requires that we ask ourselves these questions each time we run.
What worked about that run? Did I try something new? Did I change anything? What made that run better than the last?
What didn’t work about that run? Did I change my stride? Did I change my gear? Was it the weather? Was I just not rested?
What one or two little things can I change to do better next time? Should I bring more water? Wear different socks? Should I try a new route, a longer distance, start earlier in the day? Should I ask someone for advice?
I often tell my students that teachers can either be “green and growing or ripe and rotting.” The great teachers are the ones who are constantly reflecting and improving their practice. My mentee, Christine Griffin, is teaching me the same thing about my running. I need to constantly think about what I’m doing, why I’m doing it, and what I can do better next time.
Thanks, Christine! Can’t wait to give you a high five and a big hug at the finish line as we rock these Walt Disney World races in January and work together to beat breast cancer.
[Postscript: I've advised her NOT to run with the apple on her head. -- MSM]