Earlier this fall, I ran my first marathon – in Chicago, at 3:37:49 – a far cry from anything I thought was possible a year and a half ago when I quit drinking and started drinking. jogging around my block. Now I know a lot about running. My brain is full of facts. I know Joan Benoit Samuelson broke the Boston Marathon world record not one, but two. She is the first woman to win the Olympic Games Marathon Championship, winning gold in 1984 in Los Angeles. When she had an arthroscopy 17 days before the Olympic marathon event, the surgeon kept her in bandages lest she rush to get back on her feet. In addition, she loves doing three workouts a day: a run, downhill skiing, then Nordic skiing. Also, like Benoit Samuleson, I know there are several basic rules about running: Don’t go too hard. Leave some in the engine for later. A fartlek isn’t something kinky: it’s a fast run, a bit slower than your typical 5K, or 3.2 miles. Yes, you can sprint to mile 15 if you push yourself. All of these facts and tips – my running education – come from the audio guided runs in the Nike Run Club app, a series created by Nike head coach Chris Bennett, better known to his followers as simply Coach Bennett.
I started listening to Nike’s guided audio tracks when there was no amount of anxious tunes from Rage Against the Machine or Jennifer Lopez. The 6 the album could take me through my 5.25 mile runmute from my Brooklyn apartment to work. (Later, when I first started training for the marathon, I couldn’t do 12-18 mile runs with just music.) A friend mentioned that Nike’s audio guided runs might reduce the monotony of the route.
Each guided run begins with the calm, upbeat voice of Bennett, who has the same enthusiasm that a new first-grade teacher has when he reads a fairy tale to a group of children. Users can choose from a wide variety of races depending on the time or distance they want. Some are short runs, like Lunch Run and I Need a Win Run. There is even a five minute race. Then there are the races Bennett leads with Olympians like Shalane Flanagan, Mo Farah, Lopez Lomong and Eliud Kipchoge (the first human to break a two-hour marathon record in October). The latter mixes a podcast-style interview with encouraging coaching from Bennett.
Bennett seems to have been born for the job of the friendliest running sensei in the world. The tone of his guided runs is perfectly calibrated so that you feel with a coach who gets that, which makes sense because Bennett has a solid resume. He was a captain of both high school (Christian Brothers Academy) and college (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill). He coached teenagers who also faced issues at home (divorce, abuse) and through the ups and downs of high school (homework overload, young love). And he can run a four-minute mile! He joined Nike in 2014 as a head coach and launched the Nike Run Club series in the summer of 2017. Do people who run think running sucks? ‘ Bennett says. “More people don’t run because it’s really hard to start a race. And most people, when they start to run, run the wrong way. So all you have to do is find someone to run the wrong way. (Lest you think that means a certain technique or form, the “right” way, at least according to Bennett’s distance coaching, means running relaxed.) Bennett thought he might motivate more runners by running. “with them. Soon after, he recorded the first four batch episodes: First Run, Next Run, First Speed Run, and Comeback Run.