Erik Hajer, a self-described “wellness crusader,” avid athlete and author of the book “Live Fit and Be Well: A Personal Transformation Workbook” is a 13-time marathoner. And as a local native, he grew up watching the Boston Marathon essentially every year. He ran his first Boston Marathon in 1998 and since then, he has been in it six times.
“It was a defining moment that changed the trajectory of my personal and professional life,” he told me in an email interview.
And just like that, he found his calling: coaching others to take on the same challenge. Since he decided to take on that mission, Hajer has helped thousands of people. But getting your body — and mind — ready for a marathon demands a different kind of training.
So, how does Hajer instill the confidence, motivation and physical power needed for a first-timer to cross the finish line?
You’re training participants who have never run in a marathon before. What’s your strategy for getting them to a place where they feel prepared on the big day?
Taking on a Marathon for the first time can be daunting. The main strategy has been to build confidence with a focus on a progressively longer endurance run each week. Confidence is built over time when you create empowering evidence through action. The TUGG guys have real evidence (through their training) that while marathon will be a serious challenge, they have what it takes to cross the line.
Is the training regimen very individualized, or do you have them on a certain schedule?
We started with a weekly team plan and have since “tweaked” the plan in a few cases to fit the needs of the individual runners.
Do you integrate other kinds of exercise into the regimen besides running? If so, what kinds?
Yes. Cross training is [an] integral piece to any marathon training plan. I’m a firm believer in run-specific strength training and supplemental exercise modalities such as biking, swimming and yoga.
What has been rewarding about training people specifically for the Boston Marathon?
As a coach, being a part of a marathon journey is amazing. Helping people break through fear and limiting beliefs lights me up. There’s nothing like crossing the line for the first time.
As a coach, being a part of a marathon journey is amazing. Helping people break through fear and limiting beliefs lights me up. There’s nothing like crossing the line for the first time. Being a witness to this life changing moment never gets old.
What’s it like to coach people who are competing against one another in the marathon?
The camaraderie between the TUGG runners as well as members of the greater tech community (who have joined us on many of our long runs) has been phenomenal. The biggest competition on race day will be against one of the most challenging marathons in the world.
What kind of nutritional counseling have you offered the guys running in the marathon for TUGG?
Dialing in your nutrition/hydration, pre- during and post-run is critical. I’ve offered to work with the guys on creating a personal strategy for race day.
Are there any apps, gear, etc. that you think are helpful in the marathon training process?
RunKeeper, heart rate monitor, fuel belt and positive attitude.
A lot of what fuels someone to the finish line in a marathon is mental. Do you do any sort of coaching with people on that aspect?
So true. Much of my coaching is about building confidence and preparing my people mentally for their 26.2 mile challenge. No matter who you are the marathon distance is a bay window into the soul. Getting to that line is as much mental as it is physical.
What’s your biggest piece of advice for people who want to run a marathon for the first time?
Enjoy the day. I often tell my runners that race day is not a “final exam” but a victory lap for months of hard training. Take it all in, dig deep, smile and don’t forget to have fun!