Health & Fitness

The Art of Being a Spectator: What Coaching My Partner For the NYC Marathon Taught me

The past few weeks have been a whirlwind! As many of you who know me or follow along on Instagram know, my S.O. ran his first marathon this past Sunday. Not just any marathon (though that would be enough) – the New York City marathon! Just over 52,000 runners and more than 1 million spectators (yes you read that correctly) turned out for the race. And wow, was it spectacular!

Here’s a quick marathon refresher for any of you who are sitting there reading, scrunching up your brows and trying to remember the details beyond “long and painful”:

  • Marathon distance is 26.2 miles/ 42 kilometers
  • The average finish time for the 2017 NYC marathon was 4 hours 37 minutes (so basically picture yourself running for 4-5 hours and you’ll have a good sense of what this entails)
  • And yes, it often hurts, a lot.

Since I’m a personal trainer and fitness instructor my partner roped me into his training process early on (who are we kidding, he didn’t exactly have to beg!), though he relied on a well-developed program as the backbone of his training structure. I have to admit that I was not ready for everything that the process entailed. Not only did I need to refresh myself from a knowledge standpoint on a few specifics (as well take in a lot of new information related to this particular marathon course), I also had to find a balance between supportive partner and coach – all while living with my client/S.O.! That said, here are my biggest takeaways from coaching my partner for the marathon:

Partner > Coach

As a PT it was natural for me to slide into my focus as a trainer and want to push my “client” to do the best he could do … but it turned out that doing MY best actually meant learning when to bea partner, and when to be a PT. It also meant realizing that when it comes to my S.O., I always need to be a partner first. For me that meant checking some of my own training opinions at the door, stepping back when I sometimes wanted to push harder, and honoring our natural relationship dynamic above anything else. All simple things, but they took work and focus on my end that caught me by surprise!

I Was Emotionally Invested

My S.O. is actually my first client to have a big specific fitness goal, so it was awesome practice for me! (My clients typically set smaller goals related to strength or cardio fitness which are great in their own way.) While I’m always happy for my clients and very proud of them, the emotions related to my partner’s marathon started to creep up about a week before he actually ran the race. Cue the waterworks at 6:00am the day before the marathon while he slept and I made posters! The combination of such a big achievement and loving the person who was pursuing accomplishment was emotionally exhausting and exciting, all at once. That meant that I had to work harder to stay cool and calm around my partner so that his emotions could be supported first. After all, this was his experience have all the feels about – not mine!

Sh*t Will Always Happen

Around mile 23 my S.O. started to get awful pain in his right leg, above the knee. A perfectionist, he struggled not to beat himself up at the end when we reviewed the course and he talked about having to walk out the pain before switching back to running. After hearing his disappointment, my inner critic kicked in and started berating me for not insisting on more stretching the day before, for not pushing for training strategies X, Y, and Z… but the truth is that sh*t will always happen, it just might not happen to you. At the end of the day, he had to run his race his way. Remembering that helped me to stay positive, not just with him, but internally as well. I hadn’t let him down – life had just happened.

Being A Spectator Is Exhausting

When looking for funny poster inspiration online, my friend and I stumbled onto one that said “my arms are killing from holding up this sign!”. All jokes aside, being an active spectator was seriously fatiguing. Not only was I tracking pace and location via the TCS marathon app, but I was also coordinating with friends and family who were at other points along the route, as well as dashing from Brooklyn to the UES to Central Park – all the while having to negotiate my way around and through those 1 million spectators I mentioned earlier! It was a lot. It was also tough to be completely sidelined on the big day. For months leading up to the race I ran or biked alongside my partner (biking happened once the runs got too long for me), passing over water bottles and energy bars and blasting our speakers with uplifting music when necessary. It was interactive and it allowed me to coach actively, remind my client about form, breathing and so on. But the day of … that was all him! I had to sit back, breath and trust in his own abilities to take it from there! 

Luckily my partner finished his first marathon and was happy with the overall experience, but there are definitely those out there who struggle more. If you’re considering running a marathon take the time to train properly ( I recommend taking eight months to a year, if you’re not already a very active runner), make sure your gear is solid (two pairs of shoes to alternate using during training is a must!), and get your doctor to check you out and give you a certificate of good health before you run your 26.2.

Have you run a marathon before? I’d love to hear who supported you and how you got through it! Likewise, if you were the support person, how did it go? What did you learn from the experience? Share please!



P.S. A HUGE thank you to all of our family and friends who came out and supported us during both the marathon weekend and the marathon day! We’re so lucky to have y’all in our lives!! xoxo

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