Success Stories - McKirdy Trained
15001
page-template-default,page,page-id-15001,qode-quick-links-1.0,ajax_fade,page_not_loaded,,columns-3,qode-child-theme-ver-1.0.0,qode-theme-ver-11.1,qode-theme-bridge,wpb-js-composer js-comp-ver-5.1.1,vc_responsive
 

Success Stories

I had heard amazing things about Coach James McKirdy. Aside from his stellar car-karaoke skills, I was impressed with the amazing team of coaches and athletes he put together to make McKirdy Trained and I knew it was something I wanted to be part of.
-- Corrie H.
read more

My running journey began for me in High school. When I started on our school’s Cross Country team I could barely run a mile without stopping…or yacking. But, just like a lot of runner’s stories, it was something so challenging and yet so rewarding that I knew I had to stick with it. Fast forward to 17 years later (YIKES!) with half marathons, marathons, 50ks, and even Rim2Rim2Rim culminating my incredible running journey, not to mention some of the best relationships and memories made, and BOOM! I found myself facing a whole new journey…running through pregnancy.

 

My husband Sam and I talked for a while about having kids. In fact, he was ready well before I was. It may sound silly but, it felt like there was always something that pushed back our “goal time” of creating a family…”I just really want to run a 50K and then..”, “I just want to travel a little more and then…”, and finally, “I just want to run Chicago one more time and then…”. And there you have it….the last one sealed the deal and without planning we found out we were pregnant just a little over a month after Chicago. We were a mix of thrilled and scared and even more thrilled.

 

The weekend we found out we were pregnant we were registered to run a 50K in Alabama with a big group of our closest friends and trail training group. The morning before we left we went to the doctor. Sam and I made a deal that we would get the doctor’s advice for the weekend’s race and would not object if running was not in the cards (however, secretly I planned on asking as many “Why Nots?” as possible if needed). My doctor is incredible…a perfect mix of realistic yet understanding. She told us that it is more than safe to run during pregnancy…especially if it is something I did before and during the process of getting pregnant. She did not love the idea of me running a SUPER challenging 50K as early on as I was in the process however, suggested I drop to the 25K instead. So we happily did!

 

After that race weekend I knew I wanted more guidance and coaching for my journey ahead. I had debated the idea of getting a coach, pre-pregnancy, to take my running to the next level for some time. It may sound counter-intuitive but, once I got pregnant it felt like it was the time to make the commitment. I wanted a strong coach that would give me the tools I needed to push when it was the right time to push, pull back when I needed to, and overall ensure I was setting myself up for a healthy 40+ weeks and more importantly a healthy comeback.

 

I had heard amazing things about Coach James McKirdy. Aside from his stellar car-karaoke skills, I was impressed with the amazing team of coaches and athletes he put together to make McKirdy Trained and I knew it was something I wanted to be part of. I was nervous reaching out to Coach James at first. What would I say? “Uhh..I am 10 weeks pregnant and not sure how much longer I will be able to run but, I would like you to coach me.”..Yes, that is exactly what I said. His response was so refreshing and further sealed the deal that this was the right decision. He spoke about the importance of listening to my body and ensuring we communicated constantly to determine if we needed to adjust paces, intensity, or distances based on how I was feeling or changes aligned with pregnancy. He was aligned with my desire to be smart about training but also know I was setting a great foundation for a strong pregnancy and delivery while also ensuring I would be that much stronger when returning from having the baby.

 

Coach James did a great job creating plans that were right where I needed them to be. I was fortunate to be able to push myself (within reason) at the beginning. I was given a great mix of speed, distance, and most importantly strength training that would help as my pregnancy progressed. Runners are often guilty of week hips and glutes and with all the changes in my body, I knew that the strength of those key muscle groups was exactly what I needed, so much of the strength consisted of focusing on that as well as core to make sure I was building that solid foundation. In the early months, I was amazed at how great I felt and how I was able to conquer the workouts. Having workouts that challenged me but that were achievable made me feel a strong sense of normalcy to an otherwise very unique time in my life.

 

Aside from conquering workouts and keeping my life in balance as much as possible, my doctor’s appointments also seemed to be something I was conquering. Running allowed me to keep a healthy pregnancy weight while also ensuring I was keeping my blood pressure low and muscular and joint pain at bay. It was pretty normal for my doctor to commend my vitals and progress at each appointment and I know this is directly related to running and my dedication to an active pregnancy. It also seems an active mother has made an active baby and the movement of this little one is already off the charts. It is important to stress that if at any time I felt, or my doctor felt, I needed to cut back I would have in a second and knew that Coach James would have fully supported that decision and adapted my plan accordingly.

 

My training plan changed to accommodate the changes that I was experiencing. As I got further along I found it was harder to keep “threshold pace” and that the longer runs were more taxing. Since I was in constant communication with Coach James, I was able to share this with him and make the needed changes. After many workouts I would get a text asking how I was feeling and could give him feedback in real time so that we could adjust. Now that I am less than two weeks out from this little babe’s due date, I am still running…although I joke it’s more of a waddle.. and have given myself grace to do mostly walk/run intervals. I feel very fortunate that I can still run and move and James has reassured me at this point it is just about movement.

 

I know when I come back to running it will be another chapter in the journey that will look even different than pre-pregnancy or pregnancy but, I also have confidence that I have done all the right things to ensure I am healthy and after time off to recover will be back out there ready to face the new challenges. I told Coach James that it really takes a village and the support and encouragement I have received from my family, husband, friends, and Coach James has made this process do-able! I have, by far, the best village.

This entire community has been the greatest blessing, providing inspiration and friendships I can't imagine living without. These coaches truly care about the development of the individual as a whole person, not just as a runner.
--Kathleen B.
read more

Running for me has always brought the structure and stability I have craved from a young age. Though I never ran for a team, running has been a guiding force in my life as I transitioned out of high school and college and into the beginning of my adult years. Moving halfway across the country upon graduation, I used running as a way to bring focus to my work, and to make friends in a completely new city. I set my sights on the marathon and ended up having the most amazing race in Memphis, knowing full well that I had caught this crazy bug so many of us adore.

 

Without a strong running background, and off the back of a successful first race, I didn’t even think about hiring a coach. Why use a plan when I had had the most amazing experience on my own? A call with James completely flipped my mindset, and the idea of a support system and community was just the warm welcome I needed. In the tumultuous years that are our early 20s, many may find it strange that I have committed myself to this work with James. To the contrary, I this commitment is not work at all, but is the flexible support, faith, and love that I know will help me grow into the person I want to become. I am so grateful for his patience as my goals and skills evolve with age and knowledge under his guidance. This entire community has been the greatest blessing, providing inspiration and friendships I can’t imagine living without. These coaches truly care about the development of the individual as a whole person, not just as a runner.

 

I have lofty goals to PR in the Martha’s Vineyard Marathon on May 21st, and to break 3 hours while continuing to improve myself in the sport and in life.

 

Coach Mary, an incredible person and friend, once said to me, “Some people spend their whole lives searching for their identity, how lucky are we to have found ourselves in this community of others like us?”. This idea is something that makes up the core of McKirdy Trained’s allure. I cannot wait to see where this journey will take me, for wherever that is, I know I will not run alone.

I reached out to James and when we spoke I knew right then he was the perfect fit for me. He is not only a great coach, but he is also a genuinely good person and truly cares about the well being of his athletes.
-- Margo R.
read more

I have been coached by James for right around three months now and I must say I’ve never been happier with my training. After experiencing a burnout from years of competing and poor coaching, I decided to take some time away from the sport. About a year and a half later I decided to start training seriously again and this time around I wanted to do it right by hiring a great coach. I reached out to James and when we spoke I knew right then he was the perfect fit for me. He is not only a great coach, but he is also a genuinely good person and truly cares about the well being of his athletes. James has helped me to rediscover my passion for running and I am now more motivated than ever. He has been very patient with me and my training is gradually progressing. I am getting fitter with each day and I look forward to what the future holds.

I am finally feeling confident and am excited to tackle Boston next week. More importantly, I feel strong!
--Anna H.
read more

—This post was written prior to Anna Ball running the Boston Marathon. Since then she set her best ever marathon. 3:20 – 1:40/1:40 first and second half —

 

 

I have been a runner for over 23 years, and have struggled with multiple injuries – one leading to another – for the better part of the last six years. While I have been able to self-coach my way through several half marathons and two fulls despite the ups and downs of being hurt, I have not been able to commit to a consistent training regimen because I was always uncertain about how my body would handle the load.

 

After running a BQ this past August but wondering the entire 26.2 which step would be the final straw that would rip my Achilles, I took about 2 months completely off. I decided I needed a change – I was tired of being in my own head and needed someone else to take the reigns on my health and running.

 

I reached out to James on January 1 and explained to him my situation, with the disclaimer that I completely understood if he didn’t want to bring a runner back from injury or believed it was impossible. I told him I was determined to run Boston this year but concerned that time was running out and I wouldn’t be able to start running again, much less train for a marathon. He quickly calmed my fears and put me on an intense cross training schedule until I was clear to begin running the first week of February. He did not once let me think it wasn’t possible. Fast forward two months and I have had a great “condensed” training with weekly mileage and workouts I have never done before. I was very nervous about some of the workouts and started to question his plan – but soon realized that I needed to trust him. He pushed me hard and made me start to trust my body again. I am finally feeling confident and am excited to tackle Boston next week. More importantly, I feel strong! We have only scratched the surface with the strength aspect but I know it has already impacted my fitness and I hope we will keep ramping it up this spring and summer. I am eager to see what he has in store for me after Boston too!

James has some of the best coaches in the country working for him, and I scored big time when I got paired up with Ryan Dohner. His knowledge about running is never ending, as he is a top competitor in his own right with years of experience.
-- Tricky T.
read more

What if I went all in? What if I let go of this stigma that I’m not THAT fast…and just put in the work? Those were the questions I asked myself when I sought after coaching for the first time 5 months ago.

 

For years I trained by downloading schedules online & following them the best I could. I didn’t think I would ever sign up for coaching. That seemed like something only really fast runners did who had more time to commit to training. I didn’t think they juggled full time jobs, family schedules or housework the way I did (ha!). So I pursued on my own with moderate success, but I was also left injured at times without knowing why. When I finally got my marathon time down to 3:15, a fire was lit inside. I knew I was capable of more, but I didn’t know how to do it on my own. I wasn’t sure where to turn for coaching. There are so many options out there! I was following a few different runners on social media & I noticed their times dropping. The one common thread was that they were all being McKirdy Trained. What was that??

 

I’m so glad I found out. James has some of the best coaches in the country working for him, and I scored big time when I got paired up with Ryan Dohner. He listened to my needs, understood & validated my goals, and then put me to work. At first I questioned the method. Lower mileage, more easy days, but also HARD workouts that pushed my limits. Within 4 weeks I crushed my 10K PR, and a few weeks after that I set a 5K PR in the middle of an 11 mile threshold run. Ryan is great at checking in after workouts to see how I’m feeling & making adjustments. Exactly the opposite of a printed training plan! I’m running paces I never would have attempted on my own. The ability has been there, but it took a good coach to pull it out of me.

 

Ryan’s knowledge about running is never ending, as he is a top competitor in his own right with years of experience. I have a knack for texting him about my training during the busiest times of his life (while he’s running a huge race, while he’s in a wedding, while he’s getting engaged himself…). Each time Ryan responds in a timely manner with care and consideration. He steers me in the right direction and asks me to trust him. And I do.

 

It may not happen this cycle or the next…but a sub 3 hour marathon WILL be happening. Never in a million years did I think this was possible.

 

I’ve been running my whole life, and feel like I’m just now getting started:)

I really believe that had I not hired Michelle, I would have quit altogether. I’m a better runner with Michelle in my corner!
--Sarah S.
read more

I came to the Mckirdy Trained family after registering for one of my biggest bucket list races: The Dopey Challenge in Walt Disney World (4 days of races starting with a 5K, 10K, half marathon and finishing with a full marathon). I had run my first marathon the year before, and had run about 5 other half marathons before that. After registering, I started looking around for training plans and found that the generic ones online didn’t quite fit with my needs. I decided to look into getting a coach. After asking around at my local running store they pointed me in the direction of Michelle.

 

Our training started out great, I was running more than I ever had and feeling great. My first injury happened about two months into our training, I had Sacroiliac Joint Dysfunction, although my running hadn’t caused it, it kept me from running for about a month and a half. Michelle was patient and reassuring, talking me down from many panicked and frustrated text messages. She always told me to rest and recover, and we’d do what we could when I was healthy. Having that voice and reassurance kept me from pushing through pain and possibly making it worse. Finally, I was recovered, and although I was eager to hop right back in, Michelle took the time to slowly build up my mileage again. A few months later, I was making progress and feeling a bit more confident, when my second injury came along. This time it was runner’s knee, and I was devastated. Michelle again told me to be patient and rest. So, I went back to PT and recovered. At this point, I was frustrated with my body and doubtful that I could even finish, Michelle was adamant that I would.

 

Even though I didn’t feel ready, and my training hadn’t been even close to what we both had planned or hoped for, it was race weekend. The first two races went well, and the encouragement from Michelle made me feel confident. Unfortunately, the half marathon ended up being cancelled due to severe thunderstorms in the area. After the decision was made I contacted my coach for guidance. After discussing options we made a plan. She switched tactics to a run/walk interval and agreed that a finish time goal of 6:30 was reasonable. Throughout the marathon, Michelle texted  me encouragement and as I came over the halfway point she told me I was on pace to finish in six hours. My official finish time was 5:59:43.

 

I really believe that had I not hired Michelle, I would have quit altogether. A coach is so much more than a training plan. They can be the voice of reason when your body tells you its injured and needs to rest, but your mind says that this one run is too important. They can help you take a good look at your goals and progress to keep you realistic and on track. They are there to celebrate victories, and help you re-strategize when something isn’t working. I’m a better runner with Michelle in my corner.

Sarah Crouch has been an amazing coach for me. Thank you for everything and I'm so excited to see what the spring marathon brings.
-- Lindsey B.
read more

Last year Boston was horrible for me so I decided to run the Lincoln half marathon 2 weeks later to prove my fitness and that’s when I got 1:27:17.

 

After Lincoln I was feeling off both physically and mentally. I ran a couple of 10k’s in the summer and I felt horrible in them and even had to walk. Something that just wasn’t what I would normally do.

 

I continued to train through fall. I ran the KC half and had to walk twice. Three weeks later, in an effort to prove myself once again, I ran a half in Lincoln, Nebraska coming off being sick – big mistake. Once again I stopped at mile 9. I saw my husband and he reminded me that Im not a quitter. I was proud to finish but I knew something was missing.

 

A week later I contacted McKirdy Trained to start over and hoped to enjoy running again.

 

Only a few months have passed but I finally feel like my old  “running” self that I have been looking for the past few years. Sarah Crouch has been an amazing coach for me. If I had done this course in November I would have started walking at mile 8…I guarantee it.

 

I never thought of quitting when it got tough from mile 6-10. I felt my best from mile 10 to the finish and it was awesome to pass several people. It was amazing to me – that I could finish with my last four miles the fastest. Thank you for everything and I’m so excited to see what the spring marathon brings.

Under the direction of Coach Roger Busch, I was able to lower my 5k time to 14:48 and 1500m to 3:58 in less than a year. I couldn't believe it!
--Chaz D.
read more

After having three coaches in three years with moderate success, I was not extremely confident with my future in running and I initially thought coach number 4 would be no different.  I held personal bests of 15:37 for 5k and 4:11 for 1500m. But I lacked the guidance, and discipline needed to excel at a higher level.

 

Under The direction of Coach Roger Busch, I was able to lower my 5k time to 14:48 and 1500m to 3:58 in less than a year. I couldn’t believe it! I qualified for the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio, a feat that I would not have reached otherwise – I finished 10th in Rio!.

 

I came up with an idea that I wanted to run a marathon not long after my trip to the Paralympics in Rio (I’m blind). Coach Busch crafted a plan to ensure that I could be in the best shape possible. I managed to run the California International Marathon in 2:31, winning the USABA Blind National Championship and 41st place overall. What I’m most proud of is that I set a new national record by over 12 minutes for a blind athlete.

 

Every single one of my college teammates (Some reluctant to buy into a new program) ran significant personal bests under his guidance. I attribute much of my success to Coach Busch and have full trust in his coaching. His model of coaching encourages the concept of remaining healthy, rather than being overtrained and injured in any capacity. I think this is essential for longevity in the world of running.  I plan to continue with his coaching moving forward and only expect more success from here!

Michelle has taught me that it’s the day-to-day effort and focus that matter and not to get too wrapped up in the results: they will come if you put in the work.
-- Peter M.
read more

I had been running for about 15 years before joining McKirdy Trained.  I am not by nature a planner and in hindsight my approach to running was very disorganized and haphazard.  There were no plans or goals outside of perhaps a few key races that I would run that year.  My total mileage was low and most of my runs would be hard because I was only running a couple times a week and felt like I needed to make them count.   A “long run” for me was 5 miles.  My results were pretty decent all things considered, but I had plateaued and my times weren’t getting any faster.  I thought I had more potential, but just didn’t know how to unlock it.

 

Then in 2014 I signed up for speed work training group with James and realized this was not your average coach.   In the very first session, I heard him yelling at a few of the runners who had stopped mid-workout to get a drink.  “If you can’t make it through a 25 minute workout without getting water, you haven’t hydrated enough beforehand.”  My first thought was wow he is very direct, and my second was I am glad he’s not yelling at me.  Of course, that admonishment was followed up by a friendly joke and a thorough explanation of how to properly hydrate.   That exchange sums up the philosophy behind McKirdy trained:   be supportive, caring and helpful, but don’t be afraid to push hard when necessary, especially when your client least expects it!  When he started out on his own to coach, I know I had to join up.

 

I have had the good fortune of partnering with Michelle Kurnik as my coach for the past 9 months.   We discussed my goals and she structured training to help me achieve them.  While initially my focus was on hitting certain race times, over the course of the training I have come to respect and love the process just as much if not more so than the result.  Michelle has taught me that it’s the day-to-day effort and focus that matter and not to get too wrapped up in the results: they will come if you put in the work.    In particular, she has shown me the importance of building up endurance by consistently keeping a steady mileage base of comfortably-paced runs.  Michelle has provided clear direction while also pivoting when I need to alter my training – as we all know sometimes life gets in the way!    Somehow Michelle knows exactly when to push me harder and when I need to pull back.   She is always supportive and interested in hearing about how things are going – inside and outside of running.   Thanks to her expertise and encouragement, I was able to break a 10 year old PR in the 5K!  For 2017 I will shift focus to half marathons…watch out!

 

Thanks to Michelle and James, I have a new lease on running and am looking forward what the future holds!

I’ve been with James for three months now and am running faster, healthier and happier!!!
--Crystal H.
read more

I had been with my previous running coach for close to 5 years, 3 of which were spent trying to come back from multiple stress fractures and other injuries. After my last injury, double leg surgery for CECS and nerve decompression, my coach at the time didn’t feel like I was progressing fast enough. I knew it was time for a change as I was physically and mentally beat down by this point. I reached out to James based off of a recommendation, “one of the most positive people you will ever meet”, and within the first 10 minutes of speaking with him, I knew I had found my new home. His philosophy of treating everyone with respect, regardless of the times you run, was such a breath of fresh air. I could tell that he would care about me as a person first, and as an athlete second. When I went to run my first race under James, I received a text from him the night before the race asking me to do something for him. From experiences with my past coach, I assumed it would be some kind of “don’t” list (don’t go out too fast, don’t go out too slow, etc, etc), but what he told me only reaffirmed that I had made the right choice…”HAVE FUN regardless of what happens”. The training itself is awesome, the coaching is even better! I’ve been with James for three months now and am running faster, healthier and happier!!!

James understands that we are people first and runners second and uses this knowledge to get the best out of us. In addition to understanding how to devise training, he knows when to push, when to encourage, when to commiserate, and when to laugh.
-- Lucy E.
read more

James has helped me change from a casual runner into a serious one. And it is much more….fun, fulfilling, and fast. I met him at a running retreat before he started McKirdy Trained. The retreat was great; I went home and became more committed to running-signing up for races and a local training group. Then I got the flu and had to drop out, but I had lots of time to think. It became clear to me that a generic group training program was not going to help me improve-in attitude, commitment, or race time. I had to do something else, and that something else was to get over my belief that coaches are not for everyday runners like me and reach out to James.

 

James understands that we are people first and runners second and uses this knowledge to get the best out of us. In addition to understanding how to devise training, he knows when to push, when to encourage, when to commiserate, and when to laugh. He has made me see that I am capable of more than I imagined by providing me with training that stretches me just enough to keep me asking for more. Coaching is about getting results, but it is about more than the races. Although I have dropped 3 minutes in my 5K time since starting training, and the 25:00 goal he set for me, the goal I thought he was crazy to suggest, is now within striking distance, the real results happen each day when I lace up my shoes and can do more than I had ever thought possible. The real results are the grit, determination, confidence and energy I have gained from my training that have carried over into other aspects of my life in ways that I would not have imagined. For these results, much more than my race times, I am truly grateful.

 

I am looking forward to continuing this journey with James as my coach and continuing to grow both as a runner and a person.  And whatever the next running goals turn out to be, I will not think he is crazy to think that I can achieve them.

Over the last 7 months there have been many times I may have wanted to completely give up, and when running felt awful or even close to impossible! ... and James was always there reminding me to hold on to my faith, to be grateful for all that is good.
-- Jessica H.
read more

When I started working with James over 7 months ago, I was severely overtrained. I wasn’t sure he would want to work with me then, and was afraid he would tell me to hold off on hiring him until I felt awesome again, because I clearly wasn’t ready to compete at a race of any distance. Here I was, a 40 year old mom of three with 19 marathons under her belt and some pretty hefty “battle scars” (physically and emotionally) from overtraining. I was healing old wounds and putting myself back together slowly, with a long road still yet ahead of me. But James didn’t flinch. He took the time and genuinely listened to me share my story with him, and made it very easy for me to be open about all the gnarly details of where I had been as well as honest and brave about where I believed I could go someday. It was clear to me right away that James wasn’t concerned primarily with my fastest race times or my “running potential” – he does what he does because he is in the business of helping people live and feel their very best, through the sport of running. He doesn’t see me as “just one of his athletes,” but as a whole person who is asking for his help. In the last 7 months I have not once shown up at a start line of a race, a decision that was made because James puts my health, longevity and happiness before all else and helps me remember to do that, too. Over the last 7 months there have been many times I may have wanted to completely give up, and when running felt awful or even close to impossible! … and James was always there reminding me to hold on to my faith, to be grateful for all that is good. He also gave me other ways to enjoy moving that would allow my body to heal when running just wasn’t in my best interest.

 

James has no idea how helpful he has been to me during this time. I know I am not as fit as I can be or nearly as fast as I have been … but thanks to his support and guidance I am building a strong foundation, am grateful to be where I am now and am excited about where I am headed. I am so thankful to be sharing my journey with him, and with all of the coaches and athletes who are McKirdy Trained.

 

Thank you so much, James.

James genuinely cares about his athletes, so much so, that he prioritizes your health and enjoyment of the sport above everything else - this was completely new coaching territory for me.
-- Rochelle B.
read more

I reached out to James this summer (2016) after suffering from a stress fracture during my first (solo) attempt at training for a marathon. After talking with James though – I had a feeling this was going to be a good thing from the beginning and completely handed over the reins.

 

Yes, there have been times when I wasn’t so sure. The thing is though, James genuinely cares about his athletes, so much so, that he prioritizes your health and enjoyment of the sport above everything else – this was completely new coaching territory for me.

 

He is always available even for the most mundane of questions (or attempts to counter his plan for you). James has helped me to find my love of running again, something I never thought would happen again when I hung up my shoes in 2012. For this I am hugely grateful.

 

But be warned, James is creative! I just ran my first marathon as a workout in 2:51, in under four months. I don’t know how he comes up with this stuff but I can not wait for what’s to come!

James has an incredible intangible skill in his ability to push you further than you ever thought possible.
-- Cody B.
read more

James is the type of coach that fully invests himself in your personal development, so if you’re looking to tap into your true potential as a runner then he is the coach for you.

 

I first worked with James in 2005 where he helped coach me to 3-consecutive decathlon championships, and now here he is coaching me over 10 years later helping me complete my first full marathon. One of the things that sets James apart from other personal trainers is that he walks the walk as he is a well decorated and accomplished athlete himself. He is motivational, knowing just what to say when you need a boost; focused, helps you keep your eyes on your ultimate goal; aware, of your health both mentally and physically. James has an incredible intangible skill in his ability to push you further than you ever thought possible.

She knows just when to push me, when to encourage me, and when I should back off. Michelle readily modifies my training schedule to accommodate any bumps in the road that may arise, and I’ve come to truly look forward to our weekly track workouts.
-- Wendy P.
read more

I started running in 2009 at age 56 to get in better shape for ski season. Much to my surprise, I found that I loved running as much (well, nearly as much…) as I love skiing.

 

After running a few half marathons, the idea of actually running a full crept into my mind. I had no idea how to train for a marathon, and none of the plans I saw seemed to fit me, as an older runner, so I talked to Coach Michelle about having her coach me.

 

Thank heavens I did! She knows just when to push me, when to encourage me, and when I should back off. Michelle readily modifies my training schedule to accommodate any bumps in the road that may arise, and I’ve come to truly look forward to our weekly track workouts. Having a program tailored specifically for my needs has been worth every cent.

 

I recently ran the Hartford Marathon, and finished in 4:32:01. Slow, I know, but fast enough for me to qualify for Boston 2018 (since I’ll be 65 by Boston 2018, I get to go by the 65 -69 age group… the first time I’ve been happy about getting older).  As hard as the last couple of miles were, I never stopped running and I managed to finish with a smile on my face.

 

So now, with Coach Michelle’s help, here’s to Boston 2018!

I'm so glad I met Mary back in May and am so thankful she has taken me under her wing into McKirdy Trained. This experience has been so eye opening and I CANNOT wait to see where it will take me.
-- Tara C.
read more

After passing out at mile 13 and ending up in the hospital at the Faxon Law Fairfield Half Marathon back in June I was seriously shaken. It was devastating to fall short so close to the end. It’s taken time for me to come to terms with it and accept it as a new starting point for growth.
Throughout my struggle Mary kept my workouts appropriate and consistent. Though I felt out of my comfort zone during workouts where I had to push myself they were always doable and left me feeling better and more confident in my running than the day before. The greatest part is I knew my body was working hard and being pushed but I never finished sore or feeling overworked afterwards.
At some point, I’m not even sure when(really just a couple of weeks ago, I think), I had a major confidence breakthrough. That little voice in my head that kept telling me I couldn’t do it and that it was too hard went away and my running exponentially became more enjoyable.
I went into yesterday’s race feeling the most prepared I have ever felt going into a race.
I was ready to conquer it, and mentally redeem myself from my “failure” 3 months earlier.

 

I felt so strong yesterday, so confident and so under control of my pace and what I wanted to accomplish. I sailed through the half. Every checkpoint I was ahead of my target time, but did a body check and knew I was ok to keep the pace going. As I approached the hills, I remembered what you had said, ‘don’t pay attention to pace, just give the same effort’ before I knew it I was at mile 10 with just a 5k left to go.
Once I hit mile 13 I was in the clear, I was conscious and alive and not passing out and I kicked it into high gear to finish strong ( I must’ve passed at least 20 people in the final .1)
I not only crushed last years time of 2:19, I crushed my goal of 2:10 and finished in under 2:05 at 2:04:29.

 

The fact that 79 of your clients walked away with personal best yesterday is a true testament that what you are doing is something spectacular.

 

I’m so glad I met Mary back in May and am so thankful she has taken me under her wing into McKirdy Trained. This experience has been so eye opening and I CANNOT wait to see where it will take me.

There were so many things I didn’t know about training - especially for a marathon. We made minor adjustments and major changes. I would never have learned these things on my own – not without the guidance of a coach.
-- Alyssa C.
read more

I finished my fourth Hartford Marathon on Saturday, and I’m still overwhelmed with joy and excitement.  After months of training, things finally clicked, and I broke my PR by almost 10 minutes.  What better time to reflect on my journey?

 

A couple of years ago, I lost myself in the 9-to-5 grind.  I missed the passion I got from racing competitively in high school and college.  Last year I started racing again with some success.  After a couple months, my times stopped improving.  I wasn’t doing speed work, I didn’t own racing shoes.  In spite of years of racing, I was pretty clueless.

 

Eleven months ago, I hit a plateau as an athlete and took a leap of faith by signing up for coaching through “McKirdy Trained.”

 

There were so many things I didn’t know about training – especially for a marathon.  We made minor adjustments and major changes.   I would never have learned these things on my own – not without the guidance of a coach.  Even the strongest and most knowledgeable athletes benefit from coaching.  My story demonstrates that well.

 

I’ll never forget my first speed workout with James as my coach.  It was last December, the first time I had done speed work since college.  I huffed and puffed trying to keep my cool alongside my steadfast training partner Mary (another coach through McKirdy Trained).  From December to April I trained harder than I ever had in my life. I was running times and distances that I’d never been able to hit before.  I felt anything was possible.  We were preparing for the 2016 Boston Marathon.  Even though I’d done marathons before, I looked at Boston as my debut.  I had come so far in only five months.  My goal of breaking 3 hours wasn’t even a question in my mind.  It was going to happen!

 

It didn’t happen…  Boston did not go as planned.  I had a terrible race.  The conditions were not optimal and I became very sick.  It took everything I had to finish the race – twenty minutes off my target time.  I was in utter shock.  I’d done everything right… Did every workout spot on.  Never in my life had I worked so hard for something and had it go so terribly wrong.  It felt as if months of training had gone to waste.

 

In the days following Boston I was angry.  I wanted to prove that I was a “real” marathon runner and I felt like I blew it.  My initial reaction was, “I want revenge.”  I told James I wanted to do another marathon a month later.  He wisely advised against it.  In the weeks and months following Boston, I secretly thought about walking away from the sport.  I was going through the motions, but not motivated.

 

Then something great happened.  James had encouraged me to join Sound Runner, a local racing team.  I had always felt one thing missing in the sport was a sense of comradery and friendship.  Through Sound Runner, I soon met new friends and training partners.  With the support of my coach and other amazing runners, my attitude shifted.

 

I didn’t sign up for the Hartford Marathon until the end of summer.  I wasn’t sure that I would be physically prepared, but it was more than that.  I didn’t know if I could emotionally handle another dismal performance.  I was in a funk for a long time after Boston.  That, and I was dealing with some knee pain in July.   If I was going to run Hartford, I was going to have to give my all.  I signed up and there was no turning back.

 

I spent two months very focused on my training.  All of my preparation for Boston had not gone to waste.  I was still in great shape.  It was the mental side of marathon running that I had to confront.  The week before Hartford, I took an entire week off from work.  I relaxed.  I had an amazing workout that made me realize I was exactly where I needed to be.  Tremendous encouragement from my coach and training partners who had now become some of my closest friends really made the difference.

 

On the morning of the Hartford Marathon, I had a moment when I walked off by myself.  I worried that a November marathon would have been the smarter choice.  I had to give myself a mental slap to the head and remind myself that I was way stronger than last year and even stronger than I was in April.  My coach reminded me what I had to do.  He had taught me a lot about pacing, nutrition, so many things I didn’t know previously.

 

Hartford turned out to be the race I’d been waiting for.  I nailed it running a 3:01.  I wouldn’t have done that without my coach, my friends and family.

 

The day before Boston my coach reminded us all that “there’s life after Boston.”  At the time, I felt like that was the only race that mattered.  What I can see now is that no one race defines you.  I didn’t quite break 3, but it doesn’t matter.  I’ve come so far and will continue to go further.

Although I was nervous to start the marathon process, Coach Tim quickly put my mind at ease, mapping out what I could expect over the next 16 weeks.
-- Anne L.
read more

I never thought a marathon was for me. It was for ‘serious runners or faster runners or better runners’.  But, after a few half marathons and some encouragement from friends, I decided to see if the marathon could be for me. I knew I needed help, so I called up James McKirdy and told him my goal: just get me across the finish line.  He assured me he would be able to help and connected me with Coach Tim.  Although I was nervous to start the marathon process, Coach Tim quickly put my mind at ease, mapping out what I could expect over the next 16 weeks.  Soon excitement outweighed nervousness, and I found I loved training. And yes, training was challenging but it was never more than I could handle.  I knew I had someone to turn to when I had questions or a case of nerves, and ultimately to help me become a better runner. And somewhere along the way I realized I really wanted to become a better runner.

 

When race day came, I was nervous, but I felt prepared which allowed me to enjoy the experience. I spoke with many runners, all of whom were almost more excited than I was it was my first marathon. That’s when I really knew I was about to do something incredible, and it was incredible.  26.2 miles of beautiful scenery, hard work, and a big fat smile on my face because I was accomplishing my goal. So I learned that marathons are for me, and they are for people who are willing to take a risk, train hard, and put their trust their coach and themselves.

In the short 5 months we've worked together, Mary has taught me things I never would have learned from those non-personalized online training programs I used to follow.
-- Tara W.
read more

I have been running for about 13 years now but I don’t think I ever fully invested in my running until this past May when I made the decision to work with a professional coach. I wanted to take my running to the next level and when I came across McKirdy Trained, I immediately knew I wanted to work with Mary. In the short 5 months we’ve worked together, Mary has taught me things I never would have learned from those non-personalized online training programs I used to follow. Mary sets the bar high because she has complete confidence in me. I’m doing workouts I never would have thought to be achievable in the past, and the most important simple thing I’ve learned is to take my easy runs, easy! Sometimes when we discuss race plans, admittedly, I get a little nervous, because I don’t think I can hold the prescribed paces for so long. However, I’ve quickly learned to really trust the process and my work and not doubt myself anymore! Mary has taught me to believe in myself more, to push myself when the going gets tough, and to always run with my heart, but not to forget the plan. She has also instilled in me the patience it sometimes takes to achieve your goals, and I know it works, mainly because I see how hard she works to achieve her own goals. I would never know that she has several other athletes training under her because she is always giving me her undivided attention. I can’t wait to see what the future holds both for her and myself!

I look at where a started as a runner and how much I have improved in just 6 months with James and I am just completely in shock. Thank you James for believing in my goals, helping me reach them and just being an awesome role model.
-- Herry N.
read more

I have known James McKirdy since he was just a personal trainer at my local gym. I’ve seen him transform lives and when I heard he was starting his own business to coach runners, I knew I had to get in. Without a doubt, I made the right decision, it took me a little bit of time to adapt to his training style and concepts but when I did, my training became a lifestyle.

 

With James as a coach, I feel like a high school athlete again on the track team. I have a schedule I can work with and goals set in place to accomplish. Since starting with James, I have broken my half marathon personal records twice! Whereas before I’ve tried for almost a year to break the 1:30 time. James provided me with whole new insight on training and although skeptical at first, it clearly paid off! Also having a coach that you respect so much as an athlete definitely keeps you focused!

 

My proudest moment to date is the 2016 Eversource Half Marathon with a time of 1:25! Because I have been training with James all summer, I was so confident at the start of the race and nervous to just see how well I KNEW I was going to do. . I even heard his voice in my head at around mile 10 telling me to just go for it since I had just about a 5k left. I ran strong and proud and literally saw James at the finish line under the timer cheering me on.

 

I am very excited to see how I perform at this year’s NYC Marathon under the coaching of James. I also look forward to future races because the sky is truly the limit with James. I look at where a started as a runner and how much I have improved in just 6 months with James and I am just completely in shock. It truly is about training SMARTER and being consistent and disciplined. Thank you James for believing in my goals, helping me reach them and just being an awesome role model.

Beyond the success I’ve seen during workouts, working with James has been a real joy. His own enthusiasm and positive attitude towards running is infectious and it is immediately obvious that it is 100% genuine.
-- Heather S.
read more

I discovered running late in life, but that didn’t stop me from thinking that I knew exactly what I was doing.  I’ve read every conventional training book that exists and have followed many different training plans, each time thinking I was making THE change – I had found the plan that would lead to a big breakthrough.  But I couldn’t get any faster.  Most of my PRs are from 2012.  I had made almost no improvements in the 4 years since.

 

Eventually, I decided enough was enough.  Maybe I didn’t know it all and maybe it was time to reach out for some help in achieving my goals.  A good friend encouraged me to give James a call, and nothing has been the same with my running since.

 

In just six months time, I am already a completely different athlete than when I started.  I’m running paces in workouts that I wouldn’t have even dared to dream of a year ago.  My overall attitude and enthusiasm for training is completely different than it ever has been. I don’t dread workouts, I don’t skip speed days, and I don’t cut long runs short.  Because the training has been tailored to me and adjusted based on how I’m reacting and adapting to workouts, I’m never overloaded.  Everything is the right amount of challenge.  And that has been more rewarding than I ever even imagined it would be.

 

Beyond the success I’ve seen during workouts, working with James has been a real joy.  His own enthusiasm and positive attitude towards running is infectious and it is immediately obvious that it is 100% genuine.  It’s readily apparent how much he cares about his clients and is invested in their success.

 

I couldn’t be more excited for my races this fall, and yet I know this is just the beginning.  Working with James has already transformed me as an athlete, and I can’t wait to see where we end up.

From the beginning, she (Esther) had me running workouts I had never done and that were completely personalized to me and my goals.
-- Rosa F.
read more

Before training with Esther, I was a runner who would look up training plans online, follow them, and somehow meet big goals doing it that way, too. I completed several half-marathons and my first full marathon without any professional advice – but I wasn’t happy. I was working hard but my pace was stagnant. Injuries were common and it made me think I might not be able to perform what became my favorite sport for much longer. I decreased my weekly mileage and convinced myself not enough cross training was my problem. Then, after running my third half-marathon between 2:05 and 2:07, feeling frustrated and in pain, I was determined to break 2:00. Luckily, that’s when James was finally able to convince me that I needed a coach!

 

Though all of the McKirdy Trained coaches were well qualified, I loved being able to select the person I felt would best help me reach my next goal, and Esther seemed to be the perfect fit. From the beginning, she had me running workouts I had never done and that were completely personalized to me and my goals. I just felt my goals well within reach and I wasn’t even working any harder – I was working smarter! I was somehow running 2-3x my usual weekly mileage, faster, and without pain. In fact, I often find myself staring at my watch in disbelief that I ran that fast. Anyone who loves running knows that is the feeling we all strive for!

 

My workouts were impressing my friends and family, and even me, my own worst critic. So, when I decided to put my new skills to the test, I did so in a big way running my fastest ever 5K in 25:05, an improvement of well over 3 minutes overall and 1:30 per mile! It’s strangely exciting knowing that a goal I’ve worked on for years without success is suddenly attainable after just 4 months with McKirdy Trained. Thank you, Esther and James, for giving me my passion back!

James has helped me formulate goals, as well as strategies to steer me towards improvement and becoming the best me that I could become.
-- Linda D.
read more

In December 2015, I took a chance. I made a conscious decision. I hired coach James. James has helped me formulate goals, as well as strategies to steer me towards improvement and becoming the best me that I could become. I have been a runner ever since I could remember and admittedly fell off the fitness wagon more than once due to a multitude of reasons. In 2012, with much coaxing from a dear friend, I signed up for my second 5K (the first being back in 1999!), the O’Hartford on St. Patty’s Day weekend. I immediately became hooked on wanting to improve, to better myself, better my time. For several years, I sort of piece mealed helpful hints and guidance from obtaining advice from more seasoned runners, runner friends, Google, you name it. I was running and racing and making some progress, but I was missing that guidance, expertise, and a custom plan for ME.
Cut to September 2016 …. I have 60 plus races under my belt. I’ve raced countless 5K’s, Half’s, a Warrior Dash, and I captained a Ragnar Relay. With Coach James’ guidance, I’m training for my fourth marathon. Back in May, Coach James and I began talking strategy and a game plan for my October Marathon. I concentrated on my nutrition, calorie consumption and took alcohol out of the equation. Since May 8th, I have dropped 14 pounds. In the last 6 months, after having blood work done, my primary doc gave me the go ahead to discontinue my high cholesterol med as my good cholesterol was good and the bad cholesterol was where it should be. For those who like numbers/concrete proof that input equals output: Since May 8th, My weight dropped from 148.2 to 134.2 My BMI is now a 22. My blood pressure this week, 92/60. My blood pressure has always been on the lower side however, at my heaviest, it was 120/96, which for me, was on the higher side. My VO2 is now 35.16, up from 28.14ish.

 

This year I have also seen a 5K PR back in April, in New Haven, a 3rd place finish in my age group in Cheshire, and just last weekend, a PR in my recent Half Marathon where I shaved 4 minutes off my time.

 

Folks, it’s all worth it. I am proof. I can’t tell you how happy I am that I made the decision to work with Coach James and really, really focus and put in the work, no matter what. I am so very pleased with my progress and will continue to work with Coach James because I’m not finished yet.

This year when I started working with James, he showed me what a real coach can be. A coach who encouraged me, communicated with me, and also respected me.
-- Laura A.
read more

This year when I started working with James, he showed me what a real coach can be. A coach who encouraged me, communicated with me, and also respected me which in turn allowed me to build respect and trust in him. He pushed me to find new paces that I didn’t think were possible, he also knew when to tighten the reigns on me a bit which kept me from overdoing it. Any coach can tell you what to do, the right coach (like James) can explain why you should or shouldn’t do something and also how to get what you want out of training even when life gets in the way. I look forward to continuing training together, learning more about what specific training is best for me, and chasing goals as a McKirdy Trained Athlete.

When I toed the line in New Jersey I was confident in the training, in the plan for the race, and I knew I'd meet my goal. I ran a pretty evenly split marathon and finished in 3:04:11 with a Boston Qualifying time and a 5 minute 34 second PR!
-- Sean M.
read more

I began running in the fall of 2011 and started running with James this past summer as part of a group training program then later as an individual runner, but my running story starts long before any of this.

 

Growing up I was not a runner, I was a swimmer. Swimming pushed me to be the best I could be and taught me that even though I wasn’t the most gifted athlete I could be competitive on a regional and even national level through dedication and perseverance.

 

Then things changed dramatically as I got ready to enter high school. I got tied up with drinking and partying heavily. My days were filled with anger and fear and my nights fueled with drugs and alcohol. Needless to say my swimming aspirations dissolved into the bottom of a bottle. Years later after all the bridges were burned and I had nothing left spiritually or otherwise I found myself on my bed detoxing too afraid to answer the front door. The only person I would let into my life was my long time friend, Carrie.

 

Finally with a willingness to change and the help of Carrie and my family I started to put things back together. I began to take on life on life’s terms. I began to grow. I knew I needed a change and it wasn’t long before I enlisted in the Navy. During that time I took on a healthier lifestyle ­ eating better and exercising regularly. I found a group of friends that were training in mixed martial arts and even I began to workout with them. My exercise had a purpose and I was competing again.

 

My relationship with Carrie continued to grow steadily and it wasn’t long before we got married. When my enlistment was over we ended that chapter of our life and found ourselves headed back to New England with plans to start a family.

 

So here I am in CT at a new job, with a new house payment, a baby on the way, and I wasn’t doing much of anything other eating. Within a little over a year I had put on 50 pounds and was vastly out of shape. Then my daughter was born I knew I needed to make a change. I also needed an outlet for the stress I was feeling. I figured running was something I could fit into my busy life. I mean it’s simple ­ put on a pair of sneakers, step out your front door, and run.

 

My addictive personality took right over. Questions began to come up; “How far, how long, how fast, what are my limits, can I go beyond them?” I looked forward to the competition between myself and others and used them as a benchmark for my growth. Somehow what started off as means to an end became a passion.

 

Running may not define me, but it certainly has a strong bearing on my identity today. The past five years has lead me to toeing the line for an adventure race that lasted 3 days, 100 mile trail races, a 24 hour obstacle race in the desert, a Boston Qualifying marathon time, and a number of other road and trail races.

 

My past has certainly influenced the runner I am today. I’ve seen how dedication and hard work can pay dividends from my early days as a swimmer. I’m not afraid to suffer, I spent years suffering in the confines of my addiction. I’m willing to make sacrifices and stay disciplined ­ life lessons taught from my time in the Navy. These experiences both good and bad play a part in my running.

 

This spring I was all in, solely focused on qualifying for the Boston Marathon. I had tried three times before to no avail. I slated the New Jersey Marathon as the course to go for it on. This is what brought me to James for coaching. In the past I’ve read books, I’ve used training plans, and I’ve relied on my network of running friends; but I needed something I couldn’t get from all of that. I’m not a professional athlete, I work a full time job, have family obligations and I do my best to balance it all. It’s a nearly impossible task. I needed to have someone teach me how to adjust my schedule, to guide me through a training cycle based on the demands of my daily life and the unexpected things that come up. I needed reaffirmation of the things I was doing well and accountability to the things I needed improvement on. When I toed the line in New Jersey I was confident in the training, in the plan for the race, and I knew I’d meet my goal. I ran a pretty evenly split marathon and finished in 3:04:11 with a Boston Qualifying time and a 5 minute 34 second PR. Now my training focus changes to the next goal race The Superior 100 this fall.

 

Things have not always been easy on this quest to test my limits. Being a runner, and a husband, and a father, I know that I’m not the only one making sacrifices. My wife and children have certainly made their fair share of concessions to help me to continue pursuing my passion and I love them more than I could express with words for that selfless gesture. I hope they know that all accomplishments I’ve been blessed with are just as much theirs as mine. I couldn’t have done it without their love and support. I will continue to try to be a power of example to my children and hope that so far I’ve been a good one.

 

Years from now; I hope to have instilled in my kids a love for the outdoors and a desire to be active, I hope that I will have found the answers to the questions of; “how far, how fast, how much”?, I hope to have checked off most or all of the races on my bucket list, and I hope to find my soul filled with amazing experiences and incredible memories.

McKirdy Trained has given me a new set of fellow running enthusiasts to draw encouragement and energy from!
-- Brian M.
read more

Age is no barrier.

 

I was in the 50+ age group when I started to run on my own and had not been in any race since physical education lessons in high school which was a very very long time ago.

 

For my first two years of running new PR’s were set and times tumbled as I found my way but then my own training eventually took it’s toll – every half marathon I finished I found myself getting slower and slower.

 

My full marathon times were even worse with running over 53 minutes slower than when I first started. I was enjoying my running but unable to make any headway in lowering my times and for the longer distance moving backwards rapidly.

 

And then I crossed paths with James and found that running to a high intensity most of the time was just one of the things holding me back.

 

McKirdy Trained has given me a new set of fellow running enthusiasts to draw encouragement and energy from. Most importantly it provides a structured training program that is flexible and drawn up weekly building upon my actual experience that week.

 

Following the process will result in faster running in races but expect to spend most miles at your easy pace.

 

And the proof for the success of the McKirdy trained methods? I dropped over 4 minutes on my half marathon. For the full marathon I have lowered my time by over 16 minutes and finished the New Jersey Marathon over 67 minutes faster than my October 2015 performance.

 

McKirdy Trained has truly changed the way I train and prepare for races as well as my every day regular run!

I think Esther would be a great coach for any runner at any level of competition who has a goal and is committed to achieving it.
-- Greta S.
read more

Esther is the best! When I started working with her, I came on the verge of burnout. I had spent the last year running myself into the ground and racing poorly. Within a few weeks of working with Esther, not only had I fallen back in love with running but I felt so much better than I had in months. And it quickly started to show in my races too. In a year of working with her, I’ve run several PRs in distances from the 10k to the marathon, and I’ve come within seconds of my PRs in the mile and the 5k. I can always, ALWAYS trust that when I line up at a starting line, I’m in great shape.

 

But that only scratches the surface of what makes Esther a great coach. She has done wonders for my mental approach to running and racing. She is phenomenal at judging where my fitness is and giving me workouts that are the perfect balance between challenging and possible; the kind of workouts that I look at and think “I’m not sure I’m ready to do that” and then go out and nail. As a result, it seems like nearly every workout comes with a huge confidence boost.

 

What’s more, when races or workouts don’t go well for me, she really helps me to reflect on what went wrong, not only physically, but mentally as well. And then she helps me to work on that weakness, so that I can go into my next race with greater confidence than ever. She understands how critical the mental aspect of the sport is, and the work she has had me do on my mental strength has really paid off.

 

I think Esther would be a great coach for any runner at any level of competition who has a goal and is committed to achieving it. She is flexible with her training and genuinely customizes her training for each athlete. She truly is dedicated to her athletes; and she’s the kind of coach who inspires you to run well, not only for yourself, but also for her.

Coach Michelle Kurnik has helped me find success in training and racing with an individualized schedule, long term planning and great communication.
-- Michelle R.
read more

I started working with Michelle Kurnik with a goal of completing a half marathon. In only 2 1/2 months I went from a casual runner, with a handful of 5K’s under my belt, to enjoying the competition of racing. My 5K time has already improved from 30:47 to 26:28.

 

Michelle has helped me find success in training and racing with an individualized schedule, long term planning and great communication. She pushes me to achieve my personal best while helping me set realistic goals.

 

I’m glad I made the investment in my health and look forward to all that can be achieved with Michelle’s help.

My (running) progress is a testament to the mentoring James provided.
-- Rob P.
read more

I started running again simply because I didn’t like who I had become.

 

Looking in the mirror, I was no longer the lean athlete I’d been in high school and in college some 10+ years ago.

 

Age had caught me in the race of life and added nearly 60 pounds. It was a lot of extra baggage to carry in the front and in my face, especially for a former runner.

 

Then my employer, WFSB, became a sponsor of the Hartford Marathon. It granted employees entry to any of the races as part of a wellness initiative.

 

That, I thought, was as good a time as any to pick back up the mantle.
James McKirdy, an old high school teammate, graciously lent a hand.

 

Through his guidance, he reintroduced me to the dos and don’ts of getting back into shape. He offered meal advice and participated in structured workouts right alongside me.

 

I went from running the Oct. 2014 NU Hartford Marathon 5K in 28:26 (just over 9:00/mile) to completing the Oct. 2015 Eversource Hartford Half Marathon in 1:32:42 at a pace of just over 7:00/mile.

 

The second race of my comeback era was the Dec. 2014 “Santa Made Me Do It” 5K in Bethlehem, CT. The time was 25:40 and my place was 45th.

 

This year, at my second go-around of the same race, I finished in 18:31 and won the whole thing.

 

Over the last 15 months, James helped me drop nearly 50 pounds.

 

I’ve become able to run at speeds and distances that were mere dreams only a few short months ago.

 

My progress is a testament to the mentoring James provided.

 

With one child at home and another on the way, raising a family and finding time to workout has been a challenge. However, James has been there to help and modify workouts regardless of time restraints.

 

Now, it’s onto the next race and the next challenge.

I met the Boston qualifying time and James fulfilled his promised in helping me reach my goal. He did what he does best and overall, he enjoys it.
-- Felix F.
read more

I’ve been running for many years, but that’s all I was doing: “running.” I started competitive running a little more than three years ago. After completing my first marathon (3:41), I set myself a new goal, and it was to qualify for the Boston Marathon (3:25). I completed my second marathon in March 2015 and it was not very impressive (4:01). I needed help. In April of 2015, I met James. I asked him if he would be willing to help me qualify for the Boston Marathon. I’ll never forget his words: “That’s what I do best.” He educated me in how the body responds when running at different levels and what I needed to do. He met me at my fitness level and started a plan from there. He introduced me to easy and quality runs, and he always adjusted my runs when deemed necessary. He also taught me different strength workouts to strengthen my core, glutes and legs. My running became easier and I noticed that my speed had also increased.

 

My third marathon was scheduled towards the end of October of 2015. I was nervous, but James was always there to give me a word of confidence and encouragement. The day came to run my third marathon and display my six months of training. I reflected in all the hard work and knowledge I obtained from James. Some of that knowledge had to do with being patient with my pacing, hydration (I tend to sweat a lot) and fueling. Midway through the race, I was feeling great. However, around mile 22, my right calf started contracting. It got worse so I reduced the speed a little, but I was not going to give in. With about a mile to go, I could hear the people cheering at the finish line. I increased the speed a little, but my calf was completely numb and swollen. With a smile and some pain on my face – I crossed the finish line with a time of 3:23. I did it!!!!! I met the Boston qualifying time and James fulfilled his promised in helping me reach my goal. He did what he does best and overall, he enjoys it.

 

In addition to qualifying for the Boston Marathon, all my races under James’ training in 2015 were personal bests. I shaved seven minutes off a half-marathon (1:45 to 1:38) and three minutes off my 5K (23 min. to 20 min.).

 

I am very grateful for his knowledge and training.

James is always great about working around whatever life may throw my way. He is very responsive and works with me to schedule my training so that it works with my life responsibilities.
-- Amanda D.
read more

Under James’ coaching, I’ve seen some great improvements and am excited to continue to reach my goal for Boston in the spring.

 

James is always great about working around whatever life may throw my way. He is very responsive and works with me to schedule my training so that it works with my life responsibilities.

 

James has been a great coach for the two months that I have been working with him. I have PR’ed the 5K and 10K distance, and won overall female for both. He is very responsive and checks in with me often to see how I’m feeling and if any adjustments need to be made. He has given me some great suggestions and advice, and I trust that he will bring me to the next level in my running. I have my sights set on a big PR in Boston in April, and I have no doubt that James will do everything that he can to get me there. I’ve had other coaches that have made me feel like a little fish in a big pond, but this is not the case with James. He is very attentive and makes me feel like he is very dialed in to my training — not just handing me a cookie cutter plan.

Training with James has been a truly unique experience. My fitness program was tailored for me: a 50 year old female, who suddenly decided I wanted to run 5Ks. Six months and three 5Ks later, I have reduced my time by six minutes. I can't wait to see if I can reach my next goal of running a 10K.
-- Brett-Rae G.
James will keep you focused and motivated to accomplish things you may never have even thought of taking on!
-- David H.
read more

When I started with James, my initial goal was to take on my first marathon and complete it in under 3:30 (8:00/mile pace).

 

I’m a highly involved father of two young children (1 & 3 yrs old), and I work more than 60 hours a week (including commute), so being able to carve out the time to train is, frequently, a challenge. James excels at understanding these obligations and is adept at creating training schedules that maximize the quality of the workouts and time available for training.

 

I did not give James much time to get me ready for a marathon. In July, with practically no base mileage under my belt, I spoke to him about the idea of doing one in October. He crafted a schedule that was an engaging mix of easy runs, speed work, and distance runs that kept things interesting. What I previously would have considered relatively long runs became routine. Times that were being turned in on speed work sessions became consistent and on the lower end of the targeted pace range.

 

The bottom line is, you must be committed to adhering to the training schedule –there is no substitute for hard work –but if you do, you will see results that surprise even a veteran runner.

 

I’ve known James since elementary school, and we’ve been good friends since high school, where we ran cross-country and track together (our team won a number of league and state titles). As a veteran runner, I trust him implicitly and place a great deal of weight in his advice. It’s been 15 years since I walked away from the sport after a painful injury in college (that could have been avoidable with better coaching).

 

Since then I’ve:

– Broken the fibula in my right leg and completely torn the deltoid ligament

– Broken four metatarsals in my left foot and torn the LCL, PCL and MCL in my left knee after general abuse of six years in the Marine Corps infantry (think lots of hiking in full combat gear with heavy weapons over miserable terrain)

 

My knees were screaming when I began getting back in running shape — every step was painful. Eventually, that pain diminished, and ultimately the goal of completing a marathon was realized.  The sense of accomplishment that came from completing that race was so much better than any pain that went into training to get there.

 

The point is, don’t use an old injury as an excuse to avoid getting back into doing something you love and feels so good!  Take the initiative to get back out there and, I can vouch from personal experience, James will keep you focused and motivated to accomplish things you may never have even thought of taking on!

I know that in order to reach my goals I need a good foundation and a way to continuously move forward. Training with James gives me the tools I need to do that.
-- Haley S.
read more

I started training with James in June as part of a speed development group, but I have only been working with him privately for two months.

 

Since June I have seen huge improvements in my speed, confidence and overall health.  My easy run pace is more than a minute faster than it was this time last year, and I no longer fear speed work. I have also noticed a huge difference in what my body can handle. I used to get really bad IT band syndrome every 3-4 months and would then have to take four weeks off for physical therapy. Since I’ve started working with James, I have learned how to gradually increase my mileage and train effectively. James has taught me how important strength and flexibility is to my training. His methods are clearly working, as I have not had any issues with my IT band in eight months.

 

My goal is to be as fast as I can and to progress as much as I can as a runner. Since June, I have taken more than a minute off of my 5K time and a minute off my marathon PR — and that’s despite the fact that I had a serious stomach problem from mile 9 until the finish of the marathon. My pace is significantly faster, and I am excited to see what I can do race-wise in 2016. My goals for the next year are to get to an average mileage of 90 miles/week, run a 3:40 in the marathon and break 1:45 in the half marathon. These are extremely aggressive goals, and I realize they will take a long time to accomplish, but I know that if I am willing to put in the work and have patience, James will get me there.

 

Injuries seem to come with the territory for distance runners, and I developed a calf strain after my most recent marathon. James had me do a lot of strength training and workouts on the bike so that when my calf was better, I had not lost much fitness and I am getting my speed back quickly.

 

Persistence is probably the greatest contributor to overall improvement in distance running. While simple in concept, it can be challenging to get out there almost every day and slog through a training plan that follows the conventional: easy run, mile repeats, easy run, long run, then rest — the type of schedule that is so common these days. The great thing about training with James is that he keeps things interesting and challenging so you never get bored. Each training week is different and your workouts are based upon the work you have already put in. It is a whole new level of accountability as a runner. You know that if you skip a day you will not have as much of a progression in the workouts assigned the following week. This acts as a great motivator and is so much more fun and effective than a simple training plan you would download off of the internet.

 

I love running because it allows me to be in a constant state of self-improvement that I don’t really get anywhere else in my life.  There is great meaning in the creation of goals and the struggle and challenge that it takes to obtain them. Each run builds upon those that came before it, stacking up on each other like steps that will eventually lead me to that great race I have been working towards.  I know that in order to reach my goals I need a good foundation and a way to continuously move forward.  Training with James gives me the tools I need to do that.

James' enthusiasm for and belief in my success as an athlete helped me believe in my lofty goals, and his consistent feedback and knowledge of training principles helped me achieve them.
-- Daniel N.
read more

I started working with James when he was the coach of our local high school team, and we’ve been in consistent contact for the past 6.5 years.

 

While working with James, my goal has always been to be the best runner I can be. I want to train like a professional runner, with the ultimate goal of racing like one. Not only does James support this goal by providing consistent advice on training, lifestyle and mentality, but he is largely responsible for inspiring this goal in the first place.

 

When I first got to college, I felt much more prepared for college-level training than other freshmen on the team. I could more readily handle larger training volumes and was prepared and excited to devote big portions of my day to training. I also felt like I had a better read of my body than most, and was able to make training adjustments accordingly.
To this I credit James’ insistence on training by feel and listening to my body, as well as his commitment to treating me like serious athlete from day one.

 

When I’m asked how I first got interested in running, I invariably mention James’ name. James took me under his wing when I was in eighth grade and introduced me to the idea that running could be much more than a recreational activity.
The summer before my freshman year of high school, James met with me and another teammate to run seven days at week (sometimes twice a day). On these runs, he taught distance training philosophy and made me feel like I belonged in the serious running community.

 

James’ enthusiasm for and belief in my success as an athlete helped me believe in my lofty goals, and his consistent feedback and knowledge of training principles helped me achieve them. I very much look forward to working more closely with James after college.

I have had a positive experience working with James as my coach. The guidance is very much appreciated, and I have learned to trust the process.
-- Daniel V.
read more

I started training with James four months ago, in mid-August 2015.

 

Prior to training with James, all of my runs were the same; moderate to hard effort for varying amount of distances. I would run most days of the weeks with very few, if any, rest days incorporated. Based on my performances at races, I felt as though I had plateaued and was not improving. Now, each of my runs feel as though it has a purpose. Some are to build strength and/or speed, whereas others are meant for recovery. I now fully take advantage of those rest days. As such, after a little more than months of training, I was able to PR in the half-marathon distance by more than seven minutes.

 

My initial goal when I started training was to complete the half-marathon at 1:35. I have not hit that mark yet, but I’m confident that I will have no problem doing so at my next event in March. The journey has been both very rewarding and informative — rewarding because I see myself improving, and informative because I am finding out more of what I am capable of.

 

My “normal” schedule never allows for me to have a consistent training schedule. As such, over the years of running, I have forced myself out of bed at 3 AM so I do not fall behind in training. Or if unexpected events came up during the course of the day, I would find myself on the treadmill at midnight. Adjusting my schedule and running when half of the rest of the world is sleeping is what I have learned and chosen to do to improve.

 

I have had a positive experience working with James as my coach. The guidance is very much appreciated, and I have learned to trust the process. I remember thinking that I wasn’t sure if and how much I would improve when I started training, but decided to go with it and trust that James knows what he is doing. In doing so, in just a little over two months, I set a new PR. In March, it will have a little more than half a year of training, and I am eager to see what my new PR will be.

Regardless of the specific running goal an individual has in mind, they can be assured their experience (with James) will be tailored to them as an individual.
-- Nathan K.
read more

I’ve been training with James for about 18 months.

 

In just the first few months of training, I managed to drop my 5K time from 23:00 and change to 19:28. Some of that difference was due directly to training (strength, speed, etc.), but some of it was already there, and James was instrumental in proving that to me and getting me to push myself harder.

 

Looking back, my initial goal is difficult to define. Did I get faster? Yes. Am I stronger? Yes. More importantly, I learned what it meant to be a runner. I came to understand the dedication and appreciate the sacrifices becoming better demands. Simply put, since working with James, I have gained a love for running! It took me over a year, but I am finally personally ready to focus on some serious running goals of my own choosing. I’ve chosen to focus hard on pushing my 5K, and James is right there with me to help make it happen!

 

I’ve found James’ training style to be very flexible in this regard. I’ve been very fortunate not to have any big life events prevent me from training, but after I struggled for months with an injury that seriously frustrated my running efforts, I came out of it and found that I had lost very little of what I’d gained. This was possible because of the groundwork I had laid down with James, as well as his ability to find alternatives to running that allowed me to get healthy but keep up my fitness level.

 

I really cannot say enough positive things about my experience working with James so far. Regardless of the specific running goal an individual has in mind, they can be assured their experience will be tailored to them as an individual. If you follow the process, you will get the results you are after. It will not happen overnight, but, like me, you’ll be able to take your best (and worst) runs of today and look back at how far you’ve come. In my opinion, I’d say any client of James can expect:

– Dedication to the client
– Knowledge of the science behind training
– Passion for the sport
– Desire for continuous improvement

James relentlessly pushed us all to our limits until those limits gave way and we did things we never thought we could.
-- Elise U.
read more

For three years of cross country and indoor and outdoor track in high school, James was my assistant coach. I was a mediocre runner at best when he came to our first day of practice sophomore year. By the time I graduated, I had been a league and state All-Star, taken home three league titles and a state title, posted a sub-20 minute 5K, and competed in the New Balance National Indoor Track and Field Championship.

 

James relentlessly pushed us all to our limits until those limits gave way and we did things we never thought we could. Every single workout was designed to make us stronger, mentally tougher and faster. And it worked — because he believed we could and trained us like we could, we did.

 

Even outside of the accolades, James helped instill a love of running and a desire to push myself that never went away. In college, I ran my first half marathon, and training for it I always had a little voice in my head that sounded like him, saying that you could do it, run that next mile, climb that next hill. I broke two hours on that half marathon. I run almost every day, and four years after the last race James coached me through, I still have him to thank for that.

It took me a while to realize that the best things James taught me were not any specific physical movements, but rather how to be mentally tough and to push beyond previous limits to my performance.
-- David P.
read more

I started training with James in October of 2011 (wow — four years!).

 

When I began working with James in 2011, I was 54 years old. At that time, I weighed 235 lbs and had a BF% of 35%. Due to the demands of my job and resulting sedentary lifestyle, my health and fitness had declined significantly. My back and knees were constantly sore. I could not climb a flight of stairs without becoming winded. I told James that I wanted to lose about 40 lbs. In the first year of working with James, I lost those 40 lbs and my BF% dropped to 22%. My current weight is 182, and my BF% is approximately 19%.

 

During the past three years, we’ve continued to work on weight management and began to focus on running as a way to provide a competitive outlet for my increased fitness. James provided a solid plan to help me build both speed and endurance. My fitness continued to improve each year, and as a result I was able to pursue more challenging goals. As evidence of my increased fitness, this past summer I completed a number of endurance events, including the Timberman race, a 70.3 mile Iron Man event. In my first attempt at this distance, my finishing time of 6:42 placed me 39th of 77 entrants in the men’s 55-59 age group.

 

I have attained my initial goal of losing weight and becoming healthier. As I reached my goals, new possibilities opened up, and I set new and more challenging goals.

 

First it was weight loss, then it was running races, and now I am focused on getting more competitive in triathlon. My big performance goal for 2016 is to finish the Timberman race in 5:59 or better. That will be a huge challenge, but one that I look forward to meeting.

 

As a sales director for a Fortune 15 company, I face many travel and workload challenges. In addition, I have sustained several injuries that required both therapy and prolonged recovery time. James has been very good at tailoring our workouts to accommodate my schedule changes as well as compensating for any injuries I’ve sustained.

 

James possesses several qualities that make him a very effective coach. Of course, he has a thorough knowledge of the science of training. His workouts and programs are all grounded in solid principles of exercise science. With that said, there are two things that really make him effective as a coach: 1) his ability to communicate with his athletes to understand any challenges or limits that may exist and 2) His keen sense of when to play the role of supporter and when to simply demand better performance on the part of his athletes. It took me awhile to realize that the best things James taught me were not any specific physical movements, but rather how to be mentally tough and to push beyond previous limits to my performance.

It's been a great learning experience to have James coach me, and I'm looking forward to continued success as we keep moving forward!
-- Mary J.
read more

I started working with James after a frustrating year filled with not one, but two bone injuries — one of which was in my femur. To say I was intimidated to start running and pushing myself again is an understatement, but working with James really changed my perspective on training. He showed me the importance of recovery and, with his help, I started actually listening to my body. I learned that a person doesn’t need to be completely wrecking her body every day of the week in order to get faster. By taking the easy days easy and the fast days FAST, I actually started enjoying running WAY more than I ever had before.

 

When James first started coaching me, I was coming back from my second injury and only running eight miles per week. After only 3-1/2 months of regaining strength and training again, I ran a half marathon in 1:27:38 — a 50-second PR that I hadn’t even come close to in almost two years, before any of my injures. A few days after running my half PR, I entered a 5K and ran probably the most effortless and fun PR of my life — 19:28.

 

It’s been a great learning experience to have James coach me, and I’m looking forward to continued success as we keep moving forward!

Get the latest news and training tips!
Subscribe Now!
Never miss the latest news and training tips!