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Marathon Training Team Coach Q&A: Chris White

Over the next few months, we’ll be sharing a Q&A series that features each Sports Backers Marathon Training Team coach in an effort to share more about the Marathon Training Team and the work the coaches put into helping participants reach their goals for the VCU Health Richmond Marathon on November 16. As we get closer to race day, you’ll have the chance to learn about the great things going on within the Marathon Training Team.

Featured Coach: Chris White


What is your favorite thing about MTT?

“My favorite thing is the camaraderie amongst almost everyone I meet associated with the program, coaches and participants alike. I’ve met a lot of new friends and rekindled a friendship or two as a result of being here.”

How many years have you been with MTT, either as a participant and/or coach? Which team do you coach?

“I’ve been with MTT for six years, five as a participant and last year was my first year coaching.”

Do you have a favorite memory from your time with MTT?

“My favorite memory used to be crossing the finish for my first sub-4 hour marathon a few years ago. Now, it’s having coached and run on marathon day with runners from Pink Nation. At least six people requested I cross the finish line with them. Watching them complete this five month-long process was magical and humbling.”

Chris White

What would you say is the biggest benefit that the program provides? 

“The biggest benefit is the framework for getting from 5k/10k/half territory to that first marathon finish. This benefit is realized through the coaches and organization’s care for helping the runners with the weekend run, free clinics throughout the year, various other weekday run groups, and all the constant follow through from coaches to participants. I know that’s more than one thing, but it all goes together!”

What is the biggest piece of advice you would give to someone looking to start training for a marathon?

“You can do this. I’ve watched hundreds of people do it before you, including myself…so you can do this. You will have to dedicate yourself mentally and physically, but you can do that. You will have bad runs and self doubt, but you can get through that. One step at a time, one bite of the elephant at a time….you can do this.”

Describe a typical weekend group run.

“My runs as a coach for Pink Nation sub-team start off out in front with our faster runners. I’ll talk with new folks and introduce them to the folks I’ve known for years if they don’t already know one another. Topics are pretty wide ranging: weather, how they got here to train for a marathon, what they do for work or play, and running tips for them if I have them. I’ll try to talk with a few folks, depending on the distance, and make sure they’re “running within themselves” and committed to long, slow distance running. If I end up having advice for them, I try to get them to focus on one thing that might help them. And I’m constantly looking around for cars and trouble around corners, intersections, etc, and guiding groups around those. Once this faster group is within a half mile or so of the stadium, if they’re looking and feeling good, I will turn around and run the route backwards until I get to our slowest team member that day. I’ll ask the runners as I pass them going in the opposite direction if they’re feeling OK, or need help, and assist as needed: running with them for a while, staying with them if they’re expecting a pickup back to the stadium between SAGs or whatever. Same story when talking with them: personal details, running tips, etc. Once I reach the slowest team member that day, I’ll run with them back to the stadium, with the same assistance or talking. Usually these folks are self-conscious about being slower, so I try to ensure they know they’re not alone, that there are places they can push themselves, what to look and feel for to make sure they aren’t hurting themselves and so on. Getting them out of their head is the most frequent topic.”

 What inspired or encouraged you to become a MTT coach?

“My first-year experience and watching or helping other folks as a participant finish their first marathon was the inspiration for becoming a coach. I wouldn’t trade that stuff for the world.”

Do you have a favorite place to run in Richmond?

“As much as I love MTT and the Richmond Marathon, I’m an ultramarathon junkie…so I love the RVA trail system: North Bank, Buttermilk, Forest Hill Park, the Richmond Slave Trail, Ancarrow’s Landing/Poop Loop. I love all of it. Dirt, mud and uneven trails are some of my favorite running things outside of being a coach.”

How many marathons have you done, and do you have a favorite memory or experience? What was your reason to run your first marathon?

“I’ve done eight marathons so far (and twice as many ultras). Outside of Richmond, I’d say my favorite moment was climbing the last tenths of Marine Corps Marathon, through a crowd of Marines cheering us up the hill, around the corner and through the finish. Humbling. I ran my first marathon as a result of a Facebook post: I posted a pic of a rotund gentleman running a race. The back of his shirt said “Over 50, Overweight, Diabetic…Ahead Of You”. My post was “I should do a marathon as a bucket list item before I’m too old”, and almost 130 replies later (most of which were “it was a life changing/affirming experience”), I decided to get some shoes and info on distance running off the web, and start running with an eye towards doing Richmond in 2013. I guess it stuck.”

 What do you like the most about the VCU Health Richmond Marathon?

“I love the marathon route. It’s beautiful and shows off so much of Richmond, it’s got hills and flats and there’s a TON of local support along the route, especially on Northside and in Forest Hill.”

The VCU Health Richmond Marathon takes place on November 16, 2019, and registration is available at