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Rick Mannen began coaching junior athletes when he was still in high school, a passion he had to put on hold when his own career as an elite marathoner took off. After a decade as one of the top marathoners in Canada (1984-1995), including winning the Hong Kong marathon and setting a 2:19 marathon PB at the World Cup in Seoul, Korea, Rick retired from competitive running—as a runner. Today, Rick coaches a number of top Canadian athletes, including Krista DuChene, who will be running in the Ottawa 10K at the Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend. Rick took a few minutes to talk to us about how runners of all levels can benefit from a coach, and why you want to stick to your pace on May 25th and 26th.
How did you make the transition from world-class marathoner to a coach of some of Canada's top marathon talent?
When my competitive running began to wind down, I dedicated much of my time and energy into my working career. As a General Manager, a large portion of my time was spent on developing relationships, people interaction and motivation, all skills that can assist coaches. After a serious health issue shortened my work career earlier than anticipated, I realized I still had a great amount of energy, time and passion for the sport I loved. It was at this time that I first met Krista after following her performances locally. After chatting over coffee, I think we both realized the combination of her drive and my experience could lead to more improvement and future success. It wasn't long afterwards that I realized coaching was what I was meant to do.
My transition from an elite marathoner to a coach was not a difficult one for me as I took a 12-year hiatus from the running scene after realizing I could not compete at a high level any longer. I vowed at that time, I would take whatever time I needed to return to the running scene with a renewed sense of drive. I had enjoyed success and now it was time to give back to the running community.
You’ve written that it's much better to be the tortoise than the hare. How do you make sure your runners stick to their pace and not get caught up in the moment?
Unfortunately the most effective way to learn this strategy is to learn the hard way. Most experienced runners have learned this early in their racing career. Most inexperienced runners learn the hard way as well by starting out too fast and then finishing with a very painful slower run and in some cases not even finishing. Incorporating pacing interval workouts and tempo runs at close to race pace helps reinforce this strategy. I also ask for a recap of as many split times as possible from each athlete after a race so they know they have some accountability.
Is a running coach just for elite athletes? How can a coach help us slower folks?
No, all levels of fitness and running experience can benefit from a running coach. Coaches can help avoid common mistakes such as doing too much too soon, running through injury without modifying activity and not listening to their body. Coaches can help analyze running style and look for inefficiencies, potentially avoiding injury. Coaches can layout personalized training plans customized to meet the individual and their goals whether it be to improve overall fitness, incorporate running into a busy day-to-day schedule, complete a 5K race or a marathon regardless of time. Coaches also provide all athletes with accountability, someone to report to and this helps keep them inspired and motivated.
Is there a different sense of gratification you get as a coach than you did as a runner? What is it like for you when Krista DuChene runs yet another PB?
I can honestly say I get the same amount of gratification as a coach as I did as a runner when Krista or another athlete performs their best. I have been fortunate to have the opportunity to feel the joy and pride of running well as an athlete. Now I feel honoured that I can share my experience and my passion to help another athlete achieve their goals.
Any last minute race day tips as we approach the Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend?
With just weeks remaining before the Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend, most of the hard training has been done, now is the time to start thinking about tapering, resting and giving yourself the best opportunity to be at your best for race day. Ottawa is a beautiful city, so enjoy what it has to offer.