Dreamers for Dreamers: Coaching Moments with Steph Bruce
Last December when the CIM became the grounds for so many dreamers to make the Olympic Marathon Trials, coach Steph Bruce was there, watching her coaching success come full circle. Lauren Fleshman later tweeted this photo that resonated strongly with us and many following...the raw emotion and pure joy of achieving a lifelong dream. Women for women. Dreamers for dreamers. We asked Steph to share some of her top moments in coaching from the beginning!
It all started with an eager fan girl from NYC. 5 years ago I met Meggie Smith, who was a super fan, a med student, and a dedicated runner. Meggie is one of those people who has no fear of intimidation and would walk right up to President Obama if she had the chance and introduce herself. Meggie reached out to me shortly after we launched our company Picky Bars, and asked if I coached anyone. At the time the primary focus was my pro running career and it was a fairly selfish path. It's not like I didn't know how to coach, I had coached a small group training for Eugene Marathon in 2009, a local Eugene club, and currently the community group Team Run Flagstaff. I guess I just never thought about pursuing a side gig as a coach while training full time. Meggie Smith became my first "athlete" and she went from running: 5K: 26:06, 10K: 55:05, Half: 1:48:56, Marathon: 4:09:59 to...5K: 22:22, 10K: 46:39, Half: 1:42:26, Marathon: 3:34:07.
She not only smashed all of her PRs but she learned how to run "easy" on recovery days, how to run the tangent (still confused a little) and most importantly she learned to believe in herself.
What happened next? Meggie opened the flood gates on social media by bragging about her "before RC" vs. "after RC" time. (BTW she nicknamed me the RC meaning running coach). So the inquiries slowly began streaming in and Running with the Bruces was launched. The name just came to us one day as Ben and I were discussing how we would like the company to be viewed. We wanted athletes to feel like they were actually on this journey with us, our goals and their goals tied into one. Since we coach mostly across the country, a bonus would be if we ever race where our athletes race or live we'd get to meet and actually run together.
When my running career is over I've wondered how do I wanna leave my mark on the sport, be remembered by, what will my legacy be? Yes I would love it to read Stephanie Bruce, Olympian, National Champ, 2:22 marathoner but I want more. I want to bridge the gap between pro runners and the masses, inviting them in to share my ups and downs of training and racing openly and candidly so they can maybe identify or find motivation in it. I want to pass along my knowledge of the sport both physiologically and psychologically. That's why I coach. To take an injury plagued, stuck in rut runner and keep them healthy. To lead them to believe in their ability every time they step on the line. To help them find their mojo that they lost some time ago. My favorite accomplishment, however, has to be when an athlete finally understands the purpose of the dreaded tempo run... Hallelujah! Ben and I don't have a secret bag of tricks or a little black book that explains how one gets faster. We simply get to know our athletes, what makes them tick, do our best to keep them healthy, and help them believe in themselves. That's the recipe to becoming a better runner.
In 2015 Ben and I got to witness some incredible moments as coaches.
- Caitlin Comfort: debuted in the marathon at Grandmas in 2:35
- CH: got out of her comfort zone, attended our Running Camp, ran NYC marathon off limited training, broke 5 hours and PRd by 15 minutes
- EB: after years of injury, ran consistently for 8 months and PR'd in 5k to half marathon
- SS: stayed healthy for one of his longest stretches and PR'd in the half
- Sarah Mac: 16 months after giving birth to her daughter Penelope ran 2:42 at CIM and qualified for Olympic Trials
- MF: mom of 3 kids, PRd at CIM running 3:07
- MK: smashed some local master records
- SG: our only US Army Pilot, running in Afghanistan kept a sense of normalcy for her - training towards Houston 2016
My first "race" with Caitlin after two years of coaching!
There are plenty more that we could mention but these are a few examples of how when you put in the work, invest in yourself, you just might find what you're looking for (that has to be lyrics from a song?). My hope is that coaching people to achieve their goals and dreams allows them to grow as runners and be able to gain self-confidence and belief alongside their PRs. If they love running more than before we started working together, my job was a success.