Running Coaches; do you need them?

In short, I don’t know. But I am hella glad to have mine. To be clear, I am not an elite athlete. I do not follow a vegan diet, or a paleo diet, or a keto diet. I don’t run graceful 8 minute miles, or spring hills like a gazelle. In fact, I am a back of the pack, DNF-having, slightly thick for a runner, mother to two, wife (to one, duh), and public school teacher (to, seemingly, hundreds). I am about as “every woman” as they come. I am the “I” in the old saying, “if I can do it, anyone can do it”. My running life started a little over three years ago, just before I turned 30, and it was supposed to just be a 5k race with some girl friends. But that’s not what this post is about. I don’t really know what this post is about, but here it comes, so let’s find out together, (my writing instructors in college would be offended by my lack of planning, but also not surprised), because adventures are fun, right?

Maybe this post is about the reward of taking truly ridiculous chances. After all, that is how I came to be coached by Jenn Shelton, and Trails and Tarmac.

jenn whiskey

“What the hell was I thinking, coaching Perky?” PC Outside Voices, film by Joel Wolpert

You can read about how I lucked into getting coached by Jenn here. So, why Jenn? I could hire countless other local, but qualified, coaches for similar (or lower) amounts of money, who would have me log every calorie, bore me with graphs, and probably squelch my will to run. But I run in order to feel alive, not to be tied down to details and statistics. I am not very good at Type A choices. I am good at printing out training plans, and ignoring them because running 5 miles in the woods is more fun than hill repeats at the local high school football stadium. I am a “hold my beer and watch this” personality, without the physicality to make the “watch this” portion worth your time. On one hand, and for a simple explanation, I chose Jenn because she is Jenn. Fucking. Shelton. Have you been living under a rock for 11 years???? But, really, I picked Jenn because of who she is when she isn’t running. From what I know (because I am a fan), Jenn is kind, and funny. She is ready for the next adventure, probably before the current one has ended. She is focused and driven, but doesn’t take life too seriously. Jenn is a student of the written word, and a beautiful writer of creative non-fiction. She also seems to have an artistic understanding of profanity usage, and the ability to tell a good fart joke, probably while snorting back her own laughter before the punch line has been delivered (I have no proof of this, but I’m guessing). I chose Jenn because she seems to be everything pure about running, and living, and I think we need more of that in our world. And I like to be connected to those types of humans.

The real question, is why did Jenn pick me? Why would a world-class, world-famous endurance athlete choose to spend her time on a nobody from Bryan, Texas? Maybe she is hoping for that eternally-satisfying, but unicorn-level-fictional “started from the bottom, now we’re here” story, but hopefully not. She would be sorely disappointed. Probably, she is just an amazing human who wants another human to feel better about herself (and she has succeeded). But perhaps, she saw a woman her own age, who had a silly dream of becoming the best runner she could be, knowing that her best wouldn’t be a Western States qualifier, but that’s ok. It’s possible she saw this “every woman”, read her writing, found her to be the most ridiculous human in all of existence, and decided, “hell yeah, I want to be part of this shit show, because it’s going to be a blast.” And hopefully, it will be.

It’s only been 10 days, and already I feel more confident in my running. I am not a fraud. I am a runner. There is something both humbling and badass-ifying about being coached by one of the greats. I’ll always be indebted to Jenn for taking me on as a client. I know she didn’t have to. Hopefully, I can repay her in creative-naming of bodily functions, snapchat video run reports, and a shared love of articles on horrible topics.

Thanks Jenn.

5 thoughts on “Running Coaches; do you need them?

  1. In my opinion coaches are only necessary in limited situations. For example if you’re trying to qualify for Kona or something like Western States, then yeah for sure you need a coach. You may also need a coach if you are trying to lose weight & just cant get it done. Times like these listed I think you would be well off getting some professional help. but beyond that i think if you’re healthy & can run without injury etc then there is no need for one.

    Jason /


  2. I’m about as from an elite as they come, and after 14 years of running I have in the last six months started using a coach. He’s new to the coaching game, but experienced in the sport. It’s been rewarding so far. How lucky you are to be able to learn from Jenn!!! I’ve always thought she is so cool.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s