So, you’re thinking about joining a Rogue training group. If it’s your first time, chances are that you have questions. Can I do it? What will the workouts be like? Will I be the fastest? The slowest? What are the other runners like? What is the COACH like?
Because the coach shapes the program and the experience, it seemed the most important question to address here. We sat down with our four Summer Half Marathon coaches, Cameron Gage, Jenn Howard-Brown, Chris McClung and Michelle Sears, for a some Q&A that will give you an inside look at the how, why and what of their coaching styles:
When and why did you start running?
Cameron: I used to run as “punishment” in high school and college basketball practices. It wasn’t until after college that I realized it was fun and so fulfilling.
Jenn: I started running to get in shape a couple of years out of college. It wasn’t pretty and I did everything wrong in the beginning. I ran too hard and ran out of steam. As I got a little smarter, I trained and ran half marathons and marathons, but all within about 5 min. of each other. I finally found Rogue and started training methodically and have improved every season.
Chris: I started running in college after my sophomore year. I was a soccer player previously and was looking for a way to stay in shape. A friend of mine goaded me into training with him for a local 10K, and I’ve been hooked ever since!
Michelle: 2008. A friend talked me into trying a 5K group at Rogue & I’ve been hooked ever since!
How did you get into coaching?
Cameron: I think I first talked to Steve Sisson about coaching when he was still at RunTex. That was a LONG time ago. I think it took years for me to take the plunge because I take the responsibility so seriously.
Jenn: Initially I started coaching beginners and loved helping people do things they never thought they could do . . . run a mile, run a 5k, run a 10k, etc. That led to coaching those same athletes on to half marathons and I found my niche. I love coaching the half marathon. It’s superhuman, but it’s reasonable to fit the training into a person’s busy lifestyle and juggle along with a family, career, etc. I’ve enjoyed coaching my athletes to their first halves and personal bests. I can achieve one or two personal bests in a year myself, but coaching gives me a chance to multiple that by 25-50!
Chris: I am passionate about sports and have always wanted to coach in some way, whether it be soccer, flag football in college, or, now, running. I am passionate about helping people change their life through sport, and there is no better sport than running to drive personal transformation. My first official gig as a run coach came in grad school when I coached a group of 75 classmates for the Capitol 10K. I led several to their first 10K and many others to personal bests for the distance, and I that’s when I fell in love with this.
Michelle: I was invigorated by the power and spirit of Coach James Dodds!
What is your trademark coaching philosophy and/or style?
Cameron: As Steve says, “there are type A coaches at Rogue, and then there is me.” I am all about people having the experience they want. Whether that is a Boston Qualifying time or a check on a bucket list, if we are aligned as coach and athlete, both will be happy.
Jenn: My coaching style is nurturing with a dash of drill sergeant. My athletes have called me a “Tiger Mom,” “but in a good way.” I’m supportive, but want to push them to their personal best at the same time.
Chris: I am a big believer in the power of the TEAM. Coaching philosophy matters, yes. But, the group dynamic and community is what helps the group push each other to places no one thought possible. So, I invest a lot of time and energy helping my groups channel the power of the team and find no greater joy than watching them run on the roads or circle the track in small packs, working together.
Michelle: Encouraging. Cowbell. Positivity. More cowbell. Keep it fun!
Most memorable run?
Cameron: I was running the Greenbelt with another Rogue and I took a spill on some rocks. I ran the 4-5 miles out with a mild concussion and a broken thumb and elbow.
Jenn: Running the New York Marathon six weeks after 9/11. Flights had barely resumed. Ground Zero was still smoking. There were still threats on bridges across the US . . . and the NYC Marathon goes over a lot of bridges. But, we decided we needed to go and show our support. Only about 20,000 people ran it that year (vs. 45k) and it was an emotional roller coaster. I stopped and hugged firemen and policemen and took photos all along the way. I ran alongside people and listened to their stories . . . and cried. It was an amazing experience to run that year with no focus on running a personal best, but being part of the healing and recovery post-9/11.
Chris: I’ve done a 2-hour long run on the trails around Crater Lake in Oregon. An easy run alone surrounded by nature’s glory = bliss.
Michelle: The SeaWheeze half marathon last year in Vancouver (amazing scenery with even more amazing running partners)!
Favorite post-run meal?
Cameron: Breakfast tacos and beer (really).
Jenn: Tacodeli. . . specifically an Otto with Dona sauce. It’s an addiction. If I run 16+ miles, I’ll splurge on a Mexican Coke too.
Chris: Kerbey Lane breakfast platter with apple whole wheat pancakes. No question.
Michelle: It used to be breakfast tacos…until Kerbey Lane cinnamon roll pancakes debuted. Gamestopper!
If you could give one piece of advice to a new runner, what would it be?
Cameron: Think in the big picture. Rushing to a goal will most likely leave you injured and down on running.
Jenn: Be patient, consistent with your training, and have a positive attitude. It will pay off.
Chris: Slow down. Most new runners start too fast. The assumption is that you have to hurt in order to get benefit through exercise, but in running, that’s dangerous. Not only does it lead to sub-optimal aerobic development, but it also usually leads to early injury. You should start slower than you think you need to and keep any early running at easy, conversational paces. If that means you need to walk or run/walk initially, then do it. Keep it easy and your pace or ability to run more continuously will improve as you build consistency.
Michelle: The body is truly an amazing machine! Stay consistent. Positive self-talk. Smile when it hurts. (Oops, that’s more than one!)
What about to an experienced runner?
Cameron: Are you still training, competing, living, eating and thinking like you did as a new runner?
Jenn: Don’t set your own limits. . . . and have a positive attitude. Most of my experienced runners don’t push their limits enough because they don’t realize their potential and their brains get in the way. They need to have an open mind, push their limits to see what they are truly capable of.
Chris: Slow down. My athletes have heard this a thousand times: you have to go slow to go faster later. For an experienced athlete this applies in two ways: 1. For recovery. Your easy days should be super easy. I like to call them “active rest,” allowing your body to recover and prepare to get more out of your hard days. Only when you get the right balance of training and recovery will you truly see your potential. And, 2. During workouts. It isn’t always about going as hard as you can. You need to mix up your paces in order to work various parts of your aerobic system depending on the timing of your target race. For some workouts, there is more benefit gained by holding back while staying relaxed and in control at pace, while in others, you might need to press closer to the edge.
Michelle: Trust your training. You are strong, powerful and awesome!
What do you do when you aren’t running or coaching?
Cameron: I like to take spin classes and do yoga…oh, and I have a wife, kids and a job too.
Jenn: By day, I focus on marketing for an engineering company, National Instruments, to top accounts like General Motors, Ford, Chrysler, etc. I am passionate about raising awareness and funds to support Girls on the Run of Austin, an after-school program for young girls (8-12) to build self-esteem, teach life skills, acceptance and awareness and culminating in a celebratory 5k. In my spare time, I love hanging out with the hubby, Scooby, and our pup, Kennedy or spending time out at the latest restaurant with friends.
Chris: I have 3 little kids at home, ages 1, 3, and 5. They keep me on my toes!
Michelle: Cooking, laughing, sipping on cold beer, flossing, watching football or futbol and snuggling with my puppy.
What is one item that is ALWAYS in your refrigerator?
Jenn: Sparkling. I don’t indulge a lot, but I love a glass of Champagne, Prosecco or sparkling rose. I wish I could say baby carrots or Greek yogurt, which yes, are usually in the fridge. But it’s not an emergency if they aren’t!
Chris: Crunchy, organic peanut butter. I usually eat it straight from the jar with a spoon!
What is one to-do on your bucket list?
Cameron: Running Big Sur and Grandma’s Marathons
Jenn: Complete all 6 of the World Major Marathons . . . New York, Chicago, London and Berlin done, only 2 to go — Boston Marathon 2014 and Tokyo 2015.
Chris: Run Patagonia. Coming to a Rogue Expeditions trip soon!
Michelle: Learn to play the guitar.
Cameron: “For when I run, I am a hunter and the prey is my self, my own truth.” – George Sheehan
Jenn: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” –Maya Angelou
Chris: “If you have a body, then you are an athlete.” – Bill Bowerman.
No matter your background or current starting point. You are an athlete. The only question is: are you in training or not? You can do more than you currently think possible if you have the courage to go for it.
Michelle: “We don’t laugh because we’re happy, we’re happy because we laugh.” ~William James
– “Live happy, joyous and free.” ~my beautiful mother’s daily advice
And finally, why Rogue?
Cameron: Community, community, community.
Jenn: There simply is no substitute. I spent years running on my own or with a friend here or there, but without purpose and without improvement. I wanted more. I wanted to be a better runner, run faster times, have running partners. Once I joined Rogue in 2008, everything changed. I have continually gotten better, accomplished goals I never thought were possible (like qualifying for Boston) and reset my limits and expectations of myself. My coaches and teammates are irreplaceable. They drive me to be better and support me when I’m not. I try to give my athletes what Rogue gives me. Rogue is a community, a network, a team, a training philosophy, a family, a support group, and a way of life. Once you find your way in, you don’t want out.
Chris: Rogue is not about a single person. It’s about the community. And, in this community, you will find a diverse group of people from all backgrounds who are passionate about setting and reaching big goals. You won’t find any pretense or bulls**t, just real people helping each other smash their perceived limits and crush big goals. Once you experience it, it’s contagious, and I can’t get enough!
Michelle: Why not Rogue?! Everyone is a somebody here!
Whether you want to run your first half marathon, set a new PR or simply become a stronger runner and part of an amazing community, these coaches and this program can get you there. Many day/time/location options available – find details for Cameron, Jenn and Michelle here, and details for Chris’ group here.