It’s official, after being referred to as “Coach” by many of my running friends for years I can now officially call myself “Coach”. Following several years of comfortable procrastination a series of circumstances over the past several months combined to enable me to become a nationally certified running coach via the Road Runners Club of America (RRCA) coaching certification program.
The RRCA is the national running organization that has been promoting the sport of road running and racing since the late 1950’s, about the time that I began to take a curious interest in long distance running. It’s coaching certification process is focused on training coaches to train runners of all types for all types of road races. Coaches that achieve certification can be counted on as having a high level of integrity, knowledge of the sport, and passion to help their runners succeed.
The process to become a RRCA certified coach in a challenging one. It involves committing at least two full days of classroom training, successfully passing a lengthy exam, and becoming certified in CPR and first aid. You might think so what’s so tough about that? Well, it begins in finding an available class. That alone is more difficult than it appears as classes are held at various locations across the country and the enrollment is very limited. I was fortunate in that the RRCA National Convention was scheduled to be held downtown Detroit in Mid-March and the coaching certification class was being offered as a part of the convention. This duel opportunity meant that the fee for the class was higher and the classes would be spread over three days. I justified the higher cost by reasoning that I could avoid any travel cost. The higher cost also meant that this opportunity remained “open” a bit longer than normal and I was able to schedule this class within weeks of the actual class date.
The Class Experience
Approximately 30 candidates enrolled in the class. What surprised me was how far away many came just to attend the class! Out of the 30 maybe seven were from the Detroit area. The rest came from places like Tuscon, San Francisco, Minneapolis, Houston, Florida, and even one person from Bombay! About a third of the class traveled from nearby states such as Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, and one person from neighboring Windsor Ontario. It was quite a cross section. There were also a few more ladies in the class than men which reflects the national demographics of the sport too.
Thanks to the National Convention, we were treated with four very experienced instructors. Each presented their specialty in various topic areas. Topic areas covered physiology, psychology, training theory, running form, nutrition, injuries, business aspects, and even the history of coaching. There was quite a lot of information to cover and I was glad it was spread out over three days. Unlike similar classroom scenarios involving the architectural profession, I did not find my mind drifting even once off track from the presentations. We were in a small room, no windows, basic table and chairs, yet I found myself being comfortable and even invigorated with the discussion and presentations. Before I knew it each long day was over and I was anxiously awaiting to take on the next day.
The dreaded test. It was made very clear when signing up for this venture that each candidate would be required to take an exam. The exam consist of 100 questions, taken online, and an open book format that must be successfully completed within 30 days, Also, in order to pass, one needed a score of 85% or better. If not, then it was back to the starting line and repeat the process (and cost) all over again! So the pressure was on.
Immediately following the course, I spent a week organizing my study book (about 1″ thick of full pages). Yellow sticky tabs were everywhere by the time I was done. Then came the day I had planned to take the exam. My Saturday afternoon was planned to start, I had made it this far, I needed to continue. Much like approaching the half way point of any race, time to concentrate and “kick it in”.
The first few questions appeared simple, then I started to ask myself doubting questions. Even though I knew what the answer should be I made it a point to look up and verify the location of each answer in the book. This became very time consuming. Each block of the exam consisted of 10 questions. After you answered 10 you could save that section and continue. There was the opportunity to re-visit each section and change any answer.
About two hours later I had completed 50 questions! Half way! Yikes, this was taking much longer than I had planned. I saved my work and took a nap with the thought that I could finish the last 50 questions on Sunday. But I could not rest. After about 30 minutes of this anguish, I returned to my desk thinking that if I complete one more section then it would be that much less I would need to complete on Sunday. Well, one section merged to two, two to three, and before I knew it I only had one more section to go. Done!
Done, but not so sure of certain questions. I was tempted to the the FINAL SUBMIT button but decided to think about it over night. It was late Saturday evening, I was drained from my long run earlier in the day and nearly four hours of questions. When the final submit button is hit, you receive your results instantly! I was not mentally prepared for this. So instead, I printed out the questions and my answers and placed the papers aside until Sunday.
I was able to get a long run in late Sunday morning but it was not a quality run as certain questions from the exam lingered in my mind. Upon looking at my printed answers I discovered two or three that I had obviously incorrectly answered. Then there were another four or five that I was reading too much into the question and did not have confidence in my answers.
I spent the better part of Sunday afternoon dilly-dallying around. I returned to my desk with every intention to hit that dang SUBMIT button. Well… I also thought that before I do, I probably should have a glass of wine . . . or two.
Finally, after dinner, I returned to my desk, and like stripping a band-aid off your hairy arm, I hit that SUBMIT button and I swear, my finger no sooner came off the keyboard when a message flashed 95% ! I passed! In time I will be able to learn the answers to all of the questions.
You’re Almost There!
The worse was over and I truly was almost there, unlike certain points in a race course where well intended supporters think they are helping when in fact they may be hindering your race effort, all I needed to do now was take a 6 hour class to become CPR and First Aid certified. Fortunately for me I had taken such a class three years ago and knew exactly what to expect. Regardless, it’s always good to brush up on one’s readiness.
I was able to locate a class very nearby and attend this past Saturday. Good thing too because it was a cold and rainy day, who wanted to run in this mess. I simply moved my long run to Sunday. I had an excellent instructor, learned and re-learned my important items, and glad this part is now complete.
The first thing Monday morning, I sent my CPR/FA credentials to the RRCA and received prompt congratulatory notice and within a short time I will receive my official certificate documenting my achievement of becoming a certified running coach from the Road Runners Club of America!
The Next Steps
I plan to offer my services to the members of the newly formed 501 Running Club (formerly Running Fit 501) and continue being a helpful resource to the members of the club as each of them may see fit to seek my advice.
I also plan to establish my own business as a running coach in the very near future. I am already well into the process of laying the ground work for my new venture. Stay tune in the coming weeks for more news regarding this venture. In the meantime, I have NO plans to quit my day job as an architect at OHM Advisors. I do not foresee my coaching effort as a career change, rather I see it as another opportunity to further explore and share my passion for running with long time runners as well as those who only think they might like to try running someday.
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