Coach Will: In The Beginning...
Life can be funny sometimes. Often we think about the future and we picture ourselves in our dream job. To an engineer, that might mean working for a big company like Boeing. To another person, it may mean getting a nursing degree and working for a world-renowned hospital that is known for top quality patient care. Whatever the career path, we all have that something that makes us strive to be better, work harder, study longer so that eventually we can land that dream job. My dream job was and always has been coaching. It’s not the most popular career path or the one that will make the most money, but I always felt that if I could ever coach full-time, I would never work another day in my life. Fast forward 6 years and I’m sitting at my kitchen table writing to you about my journey and the unexpected twists that eventually got me to where I am today.
People often ask me how RunningLane started. I usually will go into all the long-winded details, as I am prone to doing. However, I will try to be to the point and share with you all, what RunningLane is and how we got here.
In the fall of 2010, I was a redshirt SR on the UAH XC & Track Teams. My coach, David Cain, was very supportive of my career dream of being a collegiate distance coach. I was hungry to learn the ropes and eager to follow him around the office doing simple administrative tasks, as well as finding prospective recruits who had the personal records that we were looking to recruit as a program. After a semester of experience, he encouraged me to begin contacting coaches in the cities that my wife was looking at Physical Therapy schools. Nashville, Chattanooga, Birmingham, and Johnson City were all on the list. After speaking with a number of coaches, I found a promising lead. I had a couple of interviews and finally, a breakthrough. A position had opened up at a university in the city my wife had chosen to attend therapy school, and I was going to be the assistant distance coach. Never in my life was I so excited to make the equivalent of $12/hr. I was excited to begin plotting out the training strategy for how we were going to take this program to the next level. After a couple of weeks, communication grew silent and I had trouble getting in touch with the individual who I had interviewed with. My wife Rebecca and I had already moved to the area, and I was beginning to grow a bit anxious as the school year was going to start in 3 weeks. Then I got that fateful phone call. “Will, I want you to come meet me in my office.” Alright! This is it, this is where we sign the official paperwork and then, let’s get to work! But that was not the way things played out. Another coach (very well qualified, I will add) had left their previous position and the university had made a decision to go with them instead of me.
Fear. Fear is the only word I can use to describe the emotion that overcame me. I had moved to a new city with no job, newly married (as in 3 months) and I was wondering how on earth I was going to pay the bills and perhaps even more frightening, show my new father in-law that I could take care of his youngest daughter! We all experience fear in different aspects of our lives. When you’re on the starting line of your goal race, those butterflies are buzzing around making you all the more anxious for that starter to say the words. Fear can also be a heckuva motivator. It is crucial to channel that fear into positive momentum. I turned my fear at that time in my life to getting a part-time job at a local running store in the area (Fleet Feet Sports) and also a part-time head coaching position at a private school.
By the summer of 2012, life was more stable. I was fortunate enough to work up to a full-time position at the running store and continue coaching high school cross country. It was also at this time that RunningLane was born. In March of 2010, a former teammate of mine, Brandon York, had taken a 2-year hiatus from running. After the rigors of collegiate training, and then taking a break, he had decided to get back into it and wanted help. I have always been a self described “Running Nerd” and was eager to help. Over the next 2 years he would start setting season bests left and right and eventually eclipse his old college bests. This success led to other friends reaching out to me who wanted help. I coached several of these guys just for fun because it was rewarding, and they were very appreciative of my willingness to be involved with their running. In 2012, another former teammate who I was coaching had the suggestion that we start a company with the focus of taking this proven system and bringing it to the masses. Up until this time, most coaching programs that were readily available to the public were more cookie cutter, generic, and packaged in a way to help a large number of people achieve their goals with little to no specificity. Our idea was to take the exercise physiology background that I acquired in college, the dozens of training books I read over the years, and the half dozen case studies (athletes) I was already working with and form RunningLane.
The goal of RunningLane was to do away with average. Average training programs yield average results. We wanted RunningLane to be extraordinary. We wanted to provide a service to runners that would enable them to have specificity with training, constant communication with a coach, and know the goal for each and every workout. We wanted to provide a service to all runners using training philosophies that had previously only been available to professional runners in groups like the Nike Oregon Project, Mammoth Track Club or American Distance Project. Anyone who trained with us would have access to workouts and periodization models that competitive and professional athletes use. The product that we laid out would eliminate the need for the everyday runner to scour running philosophy texts and try to understand mmol/L of lactate or the aerobic benefits on the cellular level relating to the expansion of mitochondria. That would be because RunningLane handles all of the confusing medical jargon and training headaches and serves it up in a simple, easy to follow training plan that helps you accomplish your goals.
The summer of 2016 was a busy time for our young company and in August of 2016, I was finally able to focus on RunningLane full-time. Since then, we have started a new coaching program called RunningLane PRO. RunningLane PRO is a program where athletes are able to attend 4 weekly practices in the Huntsville/Madison areas. Coaches, including myself, work with runners on proper warm up routines, workout supervision and cool down exercises like drills, stretching etc. We are still working to progress athletes via workout schedules online, but we are also able to be more hands-on, and communicate with our athletes face to face.
I have never wavered in my desire to coach and help people accomplish their goals. However, my idea of the ideal coaching job did change. Through the ups and downs (to read more about up’s and downs we face as runners, check out my previous blog post: http://www.runninglane.com/discussion-board/coach-will-one-step-at-a-time), I realized that my true dream is to work with runners of all ability levels, not just collegiate athletes. Sometimes the path I was on didn’t make much sense. As I shared, there were moments of fear when I didn’t know what I was going to do. But despite all the unknowns and uneasiness I experienced along the way, things came together perfectly and I’m doing exactly what I was meant to do. My lesson learned: focus on your dream and know that fear is normal. In the beginning it is scary. Taking that next step in your weight loss goal is frightening. Beginning to train for your first marathon is overwhelming. However, you have to have a goal and a willingness to channel those fears and doubts into something positive. Dream big and enjoy the journey.
If you enjoyed this read or have questions for Coach Will, let him know by sending him an email at firstname.lastname@example.org