I’m always looking for ways to improve my running and to help other people become better and more confident runners. So when I found out about the RRCA running coach certification class I jumped all over it! How did I NOT know about this until just now?!?
When people ask me questions about running I want to make sure that I’m giving them good and reputable advice–not something I think sounds good just because I saw it in a magazine or read it online.
I heard that these classes can be nearly impossible to get into and typically fill up within a couple of hours. So when I checked the RRCA website and saw that spots were available in a new class that just opened up in Chicago I signed up immediately. I really had no idea what I was getting into…I just took a leap of faith and did it!
The only hesitation I had about signing up for the course is that I’m really not a GREAT runner! I only started running a couple of years ago and on a good day (with a shorter run) my average pace is around a 9:30-10 minute mile. At the time I signed up for the course I had run 4 half marathons, and was scheduled to run my first full marathon in a couple of months. So I would consider myself a “newbie” as far as running goes. However, I’m definitely not a newbie when it comes to learning, so I wasn’t all that worried about it. 🙂
A couple weeks after signing up for the Chicago class I decided to check the website on a whim and discovered that a class had just opened in Ann Arbor, MI which was only 30 minutes away from where I live!! Amazingly the class wasn’t full yet, so I signed up. I was able to get a refund on the Chicago registration minus a $50 fee but it was totally worth it!! I ended up saving SO much time and money in travel expenses so I was really grateful that it all worked out the way it did.
Our event was hosted by the Ann Arbor Track Club and they did such a great job! Our training was November 23-24 at the Ann Arbor Regent Hotel and the track club supplied all the food we needed to stay well fed and nourished during the two days of intense training. There was fruit, sandwiches, salad, granola bars, yogurt, snacks, bagels, and a homemade blueberry cobbler for breakfast that was totally out of this world!
I learned so many things over the course of two days and it was an honor to be surrounded by so many positive and knowledgeable people! A small handful of people were just normal runners like me looking to learn more and develop their own skillset, while others were already coaching and working with runners at some level, either paid or unpaid. We had a teacher from Nova Scotia who was developing a running program for kids at his school, people who worked with different charities like Team in Training, as well as others who were in charge of running clubs in their community.
As the class got going I noticed one gentleman sitting near the back of the room who seemed to be getting a lot of attention from the instructor. When he talked his voice sounded very familiar. And then I made the connection…it was Frank Shorter, the Olympic Gold medalist! As the class progressed I also learned that the gentleman sitting next to me was Gary Morgan aka “Mr. Ubiquitous”, a former Olympic race walker and recent survivor of a 500 foot fall down Mt. Hood!
We gained some valuable insights from them as well as from other experienced runners in the class. I was surprised to learn that Frank was his own coach while he trained for the Olympics. I thought it was totally awesome that even at his level of wisdom he still made the decision to take the class and continues to learn as much as he can about the sport he loves.
What a great example!
Over the course of two days we discussed MANY topics related to running and coaching such as, the history of running, different types of runners, the physiology of running, building programs, nutrition, the business of coaching, psychology, injuries, and running form. It was 8-9 hours of classwork each day and I felt like my head was going to explode, but it was a lot of fun! I give a lot of credit to the instructor, Randy, because the only thing harder than trying to absorb that much information is actually TEACHING the information and he did a great job of keeping everyone engaged with the material. However, I recommend that you do NOT show up late for class, especially on the first day! 😉
While I was sitting there I kept thinking about how limited my knowledge and experience with running was coming into the class, and how willy-nilly I had been about my training up to that point. Now that it’s over I feel like I know SO much more about running, how to become a better (smarter, safer, faster, happier) runner, and how to help others even if their goals are different than mine. One thing I really liked about the class is that whenever we covered a topic we were given resources (books) we could go to if we wanted to learn more information on that topic. We were also given a copy of Jack Daniel’s Running Formula book which I thought was pretty cool.
On the second day while we ate (inhaled) lunch, we split into small groups and put together a 16 week training plan for a marathon case study. I wish we had time to do more case studies as a class because I found it to be a valuable learning experience. Each group came up with an entirely different plan, each one with different pros and cons according to the instructor. This made me feel better about the whole thing, because it shows that as long as you understand the basic principles there are many different ways to approach a training program. And what makes one program better than another really boils down to the individual and his/her goals.
In our certification book we have this quote: “I argue with my good friend Bob all the time about training theory.” Joe Vigil, PhD
It was put there to remind us that it’s OK not to agree on everything, and that while periodized training programs are based on science we need to add a touch of “art” too.
As a slower runner I felt slightly out of place, but I don’t think that was the intention of the class or the instructor. That was probably my own interpretation of what was going on. I’m definitely glad I didn’t let my own self-doubts get in the way of me signing up for the class, because that’s just silly.
I like what our instructor Randy said, “Take your negative thoughts and put them in a pink balloon.” I also liked his definition of an “elite” runner. To him, an elite runner is simply any runner who wants to improve and do their best, and I think there is A LOT of truth in that!
In order to become certified as a running coach with the RRCA you have to meet 3 requirements:
1. Attend the two day course.
2. Have a current First Aid/CPR certification or obtain certification within 60 days of taking the course.
3. Pass the 100 question online test (score of 80% or higher) within 30 days of taking the course.
I would recommend taking care of your First Aid/CPR certification BEFORE taking the course just to get it done and out of the way. That way, after the course is over you can just concentrate on studying for your exam. I also recommend taking the exam shortly after you attend the course while the information is still fresh in your mind. I attended the course right before Thanksgiving so I took the test about 10 days later. I would say a good week of study and reviewing the materials is plenty of time. As of right now I’ve completed all the requirements, and am just waiting on confirmation that I’m officially certified!
I’m so excited to apply all of this knowledge to my own training and the people who seek my help. I think up to this point I’ve been way too easy on myself and I need to set the bar a little higher when it comes to my running goals. For a while there I had given up on my goal of a sub 2-hour half-marathon, but I think with some work I can totally do it now! I also look forward to going into my next full marathon with a whole new game plan. Once I cross the finish line at the WDW Dopey Challenge, I will be setting some new goals for sure!
If you’re on the fence about signing up for a RRCA certification course my advice to you is to just DO IT! Go to http://www.rrca.org/programs/coaching-certification/ and put yourself on the mailing list to receive notices about upcoming certification courses. If you are REALLY interested in taking the course and you find a date and location that are convenient for you, don’t wait to sign-up!! You never know what kind of an adventure will be waiting for you!
Do you have any questions about becoming RRCA certified? Hit me up on Facebook and I’ll do my best to help!