When the challenge began, a running friend (thanks, Becca!) told me to check out the work of a guy named Matt Fitzgerald. He writes about endurance training and nutrition.
Jess said she was well-aware of his writing. “He’s a good writer. Smooth, easy-to-read prose,” she said.
I checked out his books – mainly Racing Weight and 80/20 Running. They completely reshaped my uneducated view of running and I began to model my training after his approach.
Then I had a thought.
This guy seems like a dynamite coach – maybe he’d be willing to work with me?
So I tracked him down through his website. I sent him an out-of-the-blue email telling him about the 30@30 campaign and asking if he’d consider helping out. I didn’t really expect a reply.
He shot me back a note right away.
He was in Arizona, finishing up a summer of training with the Hoka NAZ Elite team and getting ready to attempt a marathon PR in Chicago. If I could wait until late October, he’d be happy to help work with me as a coach.
Of course, I could wait!
After his stunning 2:39 marathon PR, coach and I had our first Skype get-to-know-you session and we talked about the Campaign and my running history and goals. Matt was intrigued by the unique challenge of training someone for such a busy, diverse racing schedule. Training for this many events year-round simply isn’t done. It would be a new coaching experience for him.
Over the next nine months, coach and I would chat almost daily. I probably communicated with him more than anyone else in my life, save Jess, Savi, and Russ the Doggo. He not only whipped me into shape and managed to work around a few untimely injuries, but he also quickly figured out the kind of coaching and motivation I needed. We built a candid, brutally-honest coaching/coachee relationship that was unquestionably the single most impactful element of my training this past year. There is absolutely no doubt that any success I enjoyed was driven by his coaching wisdom. He introduced me to 80/20 training, the value of strength work, and strategies for mental preparation. Looking back, it’s crazy to me to think that I could have even tried to do this without him.
Now, I talk about Matt’s work constantly. “Matt says…” and “well, let me see what Coach would say…” My wife now refers to him as “your coach/boyfriend Matt”.
Normally, working with a coach of Matt’s experience and expertise costs a pretty penny. But Matt did it all on his own time and dime for a place he’s never been and for kids he’s never known. I would constantly hound him to see how I could help him and somehow begin to return the favor. Could I introduce him to someone I knew? Could I help promote his new books? Nope. He never asked for a single thing. He would just say “Jake, that’s not what I’m doing this for,” and change the subject.
Well, coach, I may not be able to precisely articulate your motivation for giving this thing a shot… but I do know what you did for me. You helped me rediscover something that was once so important to me. You got me healthy and held me accountable to myself and to the Campaign. You turned me into a half-decent 30-year-old runner with some pretty absurd/ambitious goals for the next few years. You ignited a passion for learning about the sport that has already inspired me to take up my own coaching. You’ve got me hooked on running. You gave me so much time when there was so many other books, articles, coachees, and conversations requiring your attention. If I look at how I spend my days now, physically, intellectually, and emotionally, there is no way around saying that your guidance genuinely changed my life for the better.
So thank you, so, so much. More than I can express.
And coach, if by some miracle I can continue to stay reasonably healthy, finally get to my racing weight, and continue to improve to the point where I can reach that lofty goal we’ve talked about (definitely not saying it publicly), then you had better plan on flying to the east coast and joining me for a race.