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  • Writer's pictureMichelle Leduc

A Coach's Perspective on the Running Clinics

Updated: May 11

The Russell Run Club concluded their Running Clinic in late April, and many of the participants marked their progress by running in the St. Lawrence Marathon held in Cornwall, ON. While we can simply list the finishing times to applaud everyone's accomplishments, it's important to recognize that there's a lot more to those numbers. Behind each time is a unique story of personal challenges and triumphs that make these achievements truly meaningful.

Post St. Lawrence Marathon vibes

I have been working with the 1/2 Marathon and Marathon group since early 2023. They recently finished the Army Run in September and Russell Run in October. They were not looking to get a bit of rest and recovery. They want to get back into training. So instead of taking a coaching break - I got back in front of the computer and started creating training plans.

Half Marathon finishers from the Summer/Fall 2023 Clinic

We started in November - as the days are getting shorter and nights are getting colder. Every Tuesday evening we arrived bundled up questioning our choice of clothing. Is it enough? It was more than enough. They were complaining of overheating within minutes of starting. Then came the disco vest. We had some well-lit runners parading through the neighbourhoods in Russell.

The same for Sunday Morning. The challenges were not the dark but the snow and ice on the fitness trail. It brought us out of its safety and into the road and subdivisions. Cars were the challenge now. But the post-run beverages and conversation made the runs worth it.

I watched most of them drag their tired bodies into the Township of Russell's Sports Dome every Thursday at 5:30 AM. Evening workouts were a suicide mission battling the soccer crowds. Some were eager to get the training in. One greeted us by sticking out her tongue and giving us a "raspberry". She hates mornings but appreciates the satisfaction of getting the workout done and enjoying the rest of the day.

Tammy (who has supported me throughout the clinic) and I sat on the bench and watched the determination. Trying to hit the target paces or hone in on those perceived efforts. Finding out what the difference is between an easy pace, comfortably hard pace and good lord this is a tough pace. Some were pushing themselves to get that extra rep in.

At the end, we would gather and go over the run. The look of satisfaction on their faces when they see how well they did is worth the 5:30 AM wake-up call. Every week I take a picture of the workout and results and post it on our Facebook Group. Mainly to acknowledge their hard work and maybe to convince the others in the Club to join us.

March Break brought vacations. Well, vacations were taken throughout. The intentions were there to train but for some, it never panned out. Those who were successful taunted the other runners with their videos running on the warm beaches while we had snow blasting in our faces. Others just enjoyed the time off. I was okay with that - those are the memories that matter. Not the runs around the block.

Injuries happened. Hips, hamstring, knees, and feet reminded our runners that they had to listen to their bodies. Those limbs and joints wanted their owners to give them a bit more rest and recovery. Some got through them, others had to readjust their goals. Some may have been brought on themselves...oh the foot tattoo.

February rolled around - which brought in some fresh blood to the club. Our Learn to Run (LTR) and 10 km clinic. We welcomed those new to running and those returning from a break. Also, those fit in other sports who wanted a new challenge. And a dog agility trainer wanting to improve her endurance and her husband, who got "dragged" in.

Tuesday group run with including our Learn to Run and 10 km cohort.

It's been two years since I started the Learn to Run program. The participants show up new to the sport (or rusty) and eager to learn. Little did they know that their coach was also new to the coaching process. I make mistakes every session and learn from them. We are continuously updating how we hold the clinic. The signs of success are when the participants return every Tuesday evening to get their run in. And when they tell us - with pride - of the runs they do on their own.

Half of the original Learn to Run Group

Everyone is different, we say at the outset. We have family, work and other commitments that will impact training. We show up with different fitness levels. Some will progress faster than others. "Work with where you are at; not the other participants". This group did just that. By the end of the LTR we had a few running continuously for 20 to 30 minutes. Others are just happy plugging away at 4:1 run/walk intervals.

I utilize a coaching platform to deliver our training plans and monitor the progress of our members. I strongly encourage them to review their training sessions and report their physical and mental state during the workouts. In my experience, this feedback is crucial for achieving success and reaching their goals. I follow the same process with my coach and I hope our athletes will do the same. I interact with each athlete on a one-on-one basis, where I get to hear about their challenges, their great workouts, and the ones that might not have gone as well. I observe their growth and development as athletes.

Here are some of their stories:

  • Sarah returned to running after having two babies. She managed to get the training done - most days pushing a double stroller with her two "chunkers" as she lovingly calls them. That 75 extra pounds is being pushed on top of her body weight. What was more impressive - she did some of her speed intervals with them.

  • Melanie showed up to a group run in the winter of 2023. I caught her in the corner of my eye that day as we were getting ready to go for a run on a windy winter day. She was timidly approaching us. I kept her company while the rest went out for their run. We ran a few kilometers around a subdivision and I got to know her better. I knew it must have been hard for her to show up that day. She soon joined our LTR clinic, then the 10 km, 1/2 Marathon and now was training for the Marathon. She has turned into a beast - pushing her limits

  • Dominic got into running to move into a healthier lifestyle. He was a machine on the road - not supper fast but happy plugging away for hours. I had to pull him back a bit to get some rest but balance it with some faster workouts. I love to push him out of that all-day pace. He was a bit of a lone wolf but eventually enjoyed the support our gang. He is now turning into a valuable member of our club - taking the lead for our Trails Runs.

  • Pat decided that a marathon was not a "one-and-done" experience. She continued to push herself with the training. She consistently got out and did the work. Because she enjoyed it? Or was that because Coach was watching?

  • Tara has been with the clinic since day one. She struggled with injuries for years that kept her from running. With a team of health care providers and support from the club she finally got to a place where she runs daily pain-free. And if there is pain, she has the knowledge to address it right away. She is another person that became a key person of the club, a sounding board for me and a support system for new runners.

  • Julie tried some structured training to improve her 5 and 10 km time, then toed the start line of her first 1/2 Marathon. She brought a fresh perspective on training, never doing speed work before. Something I have been separated from with many years of experience. The comments usually had a positive spin on them regardless how how hard they were.

  • Sam struggled with an injury that quickly sidelined her first 1/2 Marathon training. Then life got in the way - but in a good way. Family time and vacation time made training difficult. Those memories can't be replaced with training runs. We managed to adjust the training to deal with that and other hiccups (concussions and colds) to get her to the start line. The goal was not only to get her there in shape but confident that she could accomplish the feat.

Honestly, I have more stories to tell. I hope that we can share them with our members directly.

As the weeks progressed and the big day approached - anxiety and nerves kicked in. The Facebook Group got more active with questions. I'd get more text messages. Our group run and track workout participation increased. Not for the training but to ask the last-minute questions and to have some worries and anxiety eased.

Then the big day was here. Tammy and I were at the start of the St. Lawrence Marathon to watch our Marathon runners off. Unfortunately one of them accompanied us as a spectator. Melanie was dealing with foot pain that made it difficult to run. The symptoms were indicative of a stress fracture. She made the difficult decision not to run. She was devastated and the rest of the club was heartbroken. I knew that it must have been difficult to watch her training buddies start on their journey. Her presence was still appreciated by everyone.

We saw the rest of the group off for their 5 km, 10 km and 1/2 marathon two hours later. Then it was our turn for the anxiety. It increased as the timer clicked away and we watched our runner's target time approach. Did they deliver? Of course. But what happened at the finish line was better than the numbers. The smiles, cheers, hugs and kisses from family and friends. Memories were created. For some, the number will be vague in the future. I honestly can't remember my first marathon time or even my first 100 miler. But the feeling at the finish is what lasts.

We were lucky to have one of our member's husband, Norm, capture these moments. The group inspired him to return to running and become a member of the club.

I walked away from this experience realizing how much our clinic had evolved. It started with me just holding a LTR clinic and honestly winging it. But what I gained was a support system to help build the club to where I envision it. I am extremely grateful for:

  • Tammy who reached out in the initial stages with experience in coaching beginning runners. She has taken ownership of the clinic checking in with the runners and writing up clinic content and lessons. Again another sounding board for me.

  • Tara, Jen and Scott showed up every week to support the new runners in their journey. Not only do they lead the runner but share their experience hoping to inspire them to continue when the clinic is finished.

  • The participants who continue to join our group run and offer help - by taking photos and videos and taking on the roles of run leads.

For those who tuned in for the numbers here they are below. But hopefully after hearing just a fraction of the experience we had over the last month, they will have a bit more meaning. Note that these are not just our clinic participants but also our Club members.

We are more than just a bunch of runners getting together every week. We care about our members and their fitness journey and goals. Consider joining us one of these days at our group runs, clinic or events.


Jenna Sharpe 36:00

Lorna Greer: 35:57

Ashley Whittal: 39:28

Rebecca Greer 19:14 First place female, 4th overall and new course record.

10 km

France Girard 1:11:17

Elise Solesme 1:08:35

Mathieiu Fortin 1:04:06

1/2 Marathon

Sarah Poirier 2:15:28

Sam Hamilton 2:26:57

Julie Hout-Hebert 2:33:36

Tara-Lynn Paul 2:30:58

Crystal MacKinnon 2:07:14

Maurice Bonneville 1:56:10


Dominic Fortin 4:30:21

Pat Yates 4:12:44

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