I'm a little more than 2 months away from running my second marathon.
The first time around, I trained with a very good friend that I've known since elementary school. We logged miles, exchanged complaints and ate a ton of pancakes and bacon together in preparation. Apart from having fun and someone to talk to for hours on a long run, it was nice to have a sense of accountability.
If no one is waiting for me...at 7:00am...in the rain...then chances are I'm gonna stay in bed.
So when I accidentally qualified for the 2011 NYC marathon (with the NYRR 9+1 program) this year, I knew it was probably wise to enroll myself in a program that would keep me in check. Since I am already running to raise money on my own for my woodsy alma matter, Outward Bound, I didn't want to train with a charity team that would require me to raise even much money. I didn't want an online program because it would still be too easy not to do the work. I definitely needed a real life, physical, tangible training program.
So I selected one.
Since this is my first experience with a group training program, I've tried to give it the benefit of the doubt, but I'm starting to feel like the pros are definitely outweighted by the cons.
There's a head coach in charge of the program (pretty much like the Wizard of Oz since he doesn't actually show up to all the sessions) who sends weekly emails, and 4 other coaches that actually attend the classes regularly. We can email the head coach with questions, a privilege I tend to abuse because I really just want the advice of someone who knows what they're talking about. I assume that if and when we meet he'll say something like "Oh, you're the neurotic one!"
The weekly emails outline Tuesday and Saturday workouts and homework runs, and even though we all should read them, not everyone does. Not even the 4 coaches, who consistently have us run in the wrong direction. They usually give a little speech in the beginning, and at the end some stretching and a few tips. I know there are a lot of runners in the group, but I never really feel like I'm being watched or coached or given feedback.
The few times during class I've approached the coach that seems like he's in charge with concerns about my injury, I got the feeling that he doesn't really listen and talks over me. As if a non-100% healthy runner has no place there. Which then leads me to harass the head coach with the same emailed questions, yet again. (On the upside, the class coach that usually heads my pace group is a great guy. He's always really nice and patient, and tries to answer my questions the best he can.)
The entire running group is too large to navigate many runs outside the confines of Central Park which means a lot of tedious loops. I really hate that park for runs over 5 miles and can't wait to run the east river bridges during our un-supervised Labor Day weekend long run. Even though it's a big program, I don't mind the size. I am enjoying being surrounded by lots of other runners with like minds, and we're broken down by speed so I've made friends with a handful of people in my pace group. It's a good thing too, since the pace-setters usually run faster than prescribed and we're left in the dust on our own anyway.
Lastly, there's no sort of check-in or roll call, and I don't think my presence or absence is ever (or will ever be) noticed. Really, anyone with a little savvy could enjoy the benefits of this class without actually registering.
I completely understand that if I need personal attention and want more bang for my buck, I need to, well, pay more bucks. But I still can't help but wonder, did I just pay $300 for a bag watch?