My name is Mary-Katherine Brooks Fleming. Had you known me prior to 2013, you might not associate me with running. I’ve never been on a track or XC team (my rural TN county school didn’t have them) and I’ve only seen the Olympic Trials on television. If you were to put my resume next to any other coach you know, my background won’t look much like theirs at all...
But it may look a lot like yours.
My story as a runner began when I was 6 years old; my father was recovering from a quintuple bypass and our world turned upside down. We all had to change our diet (no salt, pork, sugar, or red meat) but since I’m the early riser in the family, I was the only one who took up jogging with Dad. 60 minutes, five days per week, paying close attention to a heart rate monitor so we didn’t overdo it. The habit stuck; I’ve been running on my own ever since.
How I became a coach is another story.
Fast Forward to May 2013:
I had been living in Denver for 6 months and the altitude change was crushing. Not to mention I had a 1-month-old and a 14-month-old at home; a husband who traveled every week; $3000 of student loan payments each month and no job. In 2011 I had been MK Brooks from Carthage, TN: party animal, serial marathoner, and former sales-trader who left a career in Asia for an MBA in the US. The only part of my identity that remained in 2013 was ‘marathoner’ and I had no intention of letting that go. That meant I was running the 2013 NYC Marathon, no matter what.
My body was totally busted; I couldn’t climb a flight of stairs without panting. I’d never been *this* out of shape before and had no idea how to get to marathon-readiness in 6 months, or if that was even possible. What I quickly came to realize was that no one else did either.
“I can’t help you until you get back in shape,” the coach whispered kindly. “I can’t get in shape by running?” I asked; we started blankly at each other in silence, until he said I should probably hire a personal trainer. My husband and I had barely scraped together the $30 for a sitter that night, a personal trainer was out of the question.
Tears and shame would congeal into a rather focused rage. Jogging saved my father’s life. Jogging transformed me from an overweight kid to an overconfident freshman at Georgetown. Running helped me find friends and community in every country I’d lived thereafter. Every doctor I've ever met recommends 'a healthy diet and regular, moderate exercise', and jogging is on the list of recommended exercises. If a kid from Smith County could figure out how to get to Wall Street, she should be able to get into shape by running.
The word “no” has always prompted my best work, and this would not be an exception. I read everything I could get my hands on, starting with the books I remembered from my Dad’s office by Dr. Kenneth Cooper and Phil Maffetone. I’d been running for 25+ years at that point and could quickly sort the good advice from the bollocks, the good coaching cues from the good marketing, the science from the truthiness. One of my kids was always sleeping, so I worked around the clock. One month later I printed out my completed training plan in a Google document, dug out the heart rate monitor that came with my Garmin, and purchased a couple of hand weights from KMart with money I’d earned completing online marketing surveys.
I had nowhere to go but up.
Everything is easy when you are already fit. MOARRR is easy when you have disposable income. The pathway to fitness should not be closed to the rest of us. I insist on pricing my programs at a level I could have afforded in June 2013, and I commit to being the coach I desperately wanted back then.
There are no tricks. There are no shortcuts. Only work that is consistent, honest, and SMART will get you where you want to go and set you up for lifelong health rather than constant injury. My goal in life is to put your best next step within your reach in a way that is easy to understand and even easier to execute.
I see you. You are not so broken you cannot be fixed. Your genes are not so deficient we cannot change your course. I know your fears because I’ve had them too, and I’m ready to shout them DOWN at every turn. You have nowhere to go but up, and I swear you have NO idea what you are capable of. I cannot wait to show you.
Welcome to the Fitness Protection Program.