Many years ago...maybe 15 or more...I was in the elevator at work and a colleague stepped in with me. I didn't really know him other than to know he worked at the same company, different division, and that he used to be severely obese but had, over a few years time, lost a significant amount of weight.
He turned to me that day, and said, "I want to thank you."
"For what?" I asked, confused.
"For saving my life," he said. "You motivated me to exercise and lose weight and finally get healthy."
It turns out, when he had seen me coming back in from lunchtime runs, we had frequently talked about running and why I did it and how I started. I doubt I ever said anything particularly profound or especially motivating. But I imagine I told him if he started slow, he could run too, and realize all the benefits of an active lifestyle.
"You saved my life."
Humbling. Certainly not deserved.
He saved his own life with his own decisions to change.
Even then, though, becoming a coach had never crossed my mind.
I had a corporate career that was fairly demanding and that I was fairly good at. I had advanced through the ranks, as they say. I was well compensated. On the side, I ran, and I coached for charity programs. Strictly for the perks and travel opportunities.
I wasn't qualified to be a "real" coach.
'Lo these many years later, I have ditched the corporate job, and upwards of 50 people know me as "Coach Karen." They are runners and triathletes in our Fleet Feet training programs. They are triathletes who have hired me to guide them to their next big race. They are triathletes who simply need someone on the pool deck helping them tweak their swim.
I still don't think I'm qualified to be a "real" coach.
(Shh. Don't tell my athletes that.)
Despite the certifications; the continuing education seminars, clinics, and webinars; and the endless research and consultation with other experts.
"Real" coaches are folks with real credentials. I've met them. Jamie Turner, Gwen Jorgensen's coach. Bobby McGee, coach to elite triathletes around the world. Gordo Byrn, who made a name for himself both as an elite athlete and coach to many others.
Compared to them, I am a poser. But I will continue to pose, for as long as it lasts.
Because I really, really like what I do. I like writing training plans. I like working one-on-one with all different athletes of all different abilities and experiences. I like sharing what I've learned and, hopefully, teaching folks new techniques that will help make them better, faster, more efficient.
If you had said to me in that elevator, all those years ago, that I would end up here, working at Fleet Feet Sports and coaching runners and triathletes in the metro Jackson, Mississippi, area, I would have surely thought you had lost your mind.
Yet, I journeyed from there to here.
And it's all good.