After six years of military service, I worked in medical administration. Because I could focus without being distracted by certain aspects of hospital environments I was often assigned to work in intensive care units or cardiology wards. What surprised me the most was not the challenge of learning medical-speak, or deciphering doctor handwriting, but the jokes during the "unguarded" moments which came intermittently on the wards, but flowed at a torrent once the end-of-week happy hour came. Nurses and techs who were "all business" for forty hours, once seated behind a glass of white zinfandel and a basket of tortilla chips, would become instant comedians or comediennes.
These were the moments where sacred cows were transformed into hamburger.
One Friday, I naively asked one of the nurses how they could crack such crass jokes about otherwise life-altering scenarios. She then explained to me that the first years for many health care workers are usually the the most difficult, because coping mechanisms have not quite developed and they come to the sudden revelation they will be around sick, injured, cranky people for the remainder of their career. Many times coping comes as a choice of humor over depression; most who made it past the first years chose to be humorous.
I eventually moved into education and learned that teachers aren't much different than cops and health care workers. These persons are asked to deal with (sometimes) the more difficult or dark side of human existence. And be professional at all times. So when the choice comes to laugh or cry, many choose laughter, but some choose the teachers' lounge.
Riding the lead police vehicle for the marathon course was a two-hour trip back to the teachers' lounge of my young adulthood, or the Fraternal Order of Police lodge of my youth. It was deja vu, all over again; perspective I never had as a race worker, but one which didn't surprise me much. The two officers I rode with were professional, yet their observations of runners and running were some of the funniest I had heard in the past 15 years.
Fit for public consumption? Not in the slightest. They warned I would be corrupted by the end of the ride.
Were there things I took away to file for future reference? Absolutely.
Coaches vary in personality; in how we approach training, recovery, success, shortcoming, injury, rehabilitation, communication, and so on. None, I bet, decided to be a coach so they could take total control over an athlete's life, much like few go into law enforcement wanting to deal with criminals, or medical professionals with sick people. Most decide to coach because they love the sport and the process of teaching. They get to deal with the side of athletes, though, which wants to do silly things, like race a 5K in the morning, a 5K in the afternoon...and then ask the next day why they ache.
And we do, sometimes, slap our foreheads in dismay. Sometimes we write caustic e-mails and blog posts to get ideas and opinions out of our head...and hope like mad the right message is put across. And those messages, most often are: Keep everything in perspective. One person's sacred cow is another person's food source. And, most importantly, you're only as good as your next race.