I ran my first marathon, a 3:00:21 at the Shamrock Marathon in Virginia Beach in 2009, on a plan I made myself along with pieces from my training partner Jarrod's plan has he had ran marathons already. For my second marathon, a 2:55:10 at the Tobacco Road Marathon in Cary, NC in 2010, I trained with my friend Pat Price as he was training for Boston and did a lot of the same training he did. I kept taking pieces from friends and adding it to what I thought worked in the past for me. I eventually got the book Advanced Marathoning from my friend Greg and used the 18 week, 55-70 miles a week plan for the 2012 Boston Marathon. Although I felt I was in the best marathon shape I had ever been in, the record heat that year in Boston ruined a shot at a PR although I did PR in the half and 10K while in marathon training. I used Advanced Marathoning and Pete Pfitzinger plans for my next three marathons. For the 2014 Boston Marathon I did another Pfitzinger plan while making modifications to it from workouts I got from a friend that is trained by Zap Fitness Coaching. I liked the new workouts and mix up and it helped me PR for a third time at Boston with my first sub 2:50, running 2:49:52. The plans in Advanced Marathoning stress tempos and goal marathon pace miles which I am a big believer in. You can't expect to run a certain pace on race day if you haven't ran at that pace a lot in training. I also liked the fast finish long runs such as 18 miles with the final 8-10 at goal marathon pace. Doing all your long runs at an easy pace won't benefit you come race day if you have a time goal. I loved the book and I highly recommend it!
This year I began seriously considering a personal coach to take my running to a higher level. I was already leaning towards one company when I got the book Faster Road Racing, by Pete Pfitzinger and Philip Latter. Unlike Advanced Marathoning, Faster Road Racing focuses on 5K - Half Marathon training. Along with having plans for 5K, 8k and 10K, 15K and 10 Miles, and the Half Marathon, the book has chapters on base training, Masters Running, dynamic warm-up, core workouts, and running nutrition. I used a half marathon plan for the 2014 Crystal Coast Half Marathon and won with a time of 1:21:47. It wasn't my fastest time but it was in very windy conditions and I was all by myself with no one to push me as I won by almost five minutes. I followed it up with a 10K two weeks later in 36:49, close to my road PR. I think that is a great book and highly recommend it for anyone training for 5Ks to half marathons.
I did some research online about Philip Latter because I did not know him but a couple friends did. I found his website, The Running Syndicate. Philip Latter and Peyton Hoyal do online coaching on their website. I read about each of their backgrounds and was very interested. Both coaches are very talented runners in their own rights with some impressive PRs and accomplishments. Latter has been a successful college and high school coach winning multiple state championships. I decided to email Philip Latter and get more information about online coaching and the price. After exchanging emails and a phone call I was convinced Philip Latter was the coach I wanted. I agreed with his training philosophy and his price per month was cheaper than the other company I was considering.
I started working with Philip Latter on June 1st. It has been going well so far although we are still base training with the bigger picture of a fall marathon as the goal. I want to lower my PR from 2:49 to anything under it but would like to get close to 2:45. I want to get faster across the board and I believe Philip Latter and online coaching will get me there.
Hiring a professional to tailor my workouts just for me will help me train smarter and get fitter than I would training by myself or following plans out of books with modifications from friends like I've done in the past. Working with a coach may seem like a privilege reserved for professional runners and an extravagance for the "normal person" but non-professional runners can benefit even more from the attention, knowledge, and guidance of a coach. I am enjoying not having to plan my training: I can turn off my brain and just let my legs do the work.
There are a lot of things to consider when hiring a coach. Obviously cost is a factor. Personal coaching can range from $60 to $200 a month depending who you cho0se. If you're willing to put in the work, effort, and are dedicated and determined enough to train very hard it is worth the cost to have the guidance of a more experience coach. It's an investment in yourself and your training if you are serious about improving as a runner. The right coach is willing to push you when you need it and wise enough to rein you in when appropriate. A personal coach is going to analyze your past training and current goals and find what the missing pieces are and make a custom plan for you that no one else will have. An online coach is going to work around your schedule and make adjustments as life events come up. That's something a plan out of a book will not do. If you start feeling tired, sick, or injured a coach can help determine what will do you harm and what you can handle.
If you are considering hiring a personal coach, I highly recommend The Running Syndicate. There are a lot of options out there for personal coaching so do your research. Interview several coaches and ask them what their training philosophy is, how many runners like yourself have they worked with, how much experience do they have, and what amount of communication and extras aside from a plan are you getting for the cost of personal coaching services. Finding a good coach can help you reach goals you previously didn't think you could accomplish.