The PERMA Model and Running Your First Half Marathon

by Seanie Myler

My role was to support them in their journey and highlight their ability.

Seanie Myler is a former Tyrone GAA player and graduate of Kingstown College. In this feature he combines his knowledge of sport and coaching and shares how the PERMA model was used to keep 100 runners focused on training for their first Half Marathon.

I am a runner with Omagh Harriers and for two years (2016-2017) I was Captain and Club Coach. As a former Tyrone County GAA player, I also work with GAA teams on Mental Skills Coaching.

I graduated from Kingstown in 2014 with an Advanced Diploma in Personal and Executive Coaching. I returned in October 2017 and started my Diploma in Mental Health & Well Being Coaching finishing up recently in April 2018. During my recent Diploma, I studied Positive Psychology and came across the PERMA model used by Martin Seligman. Below is a story of how I put into practice the PERMA model with over 100 runners on their journey to complete the “Omagh Half Marathon” in April 2018.

In January of 2018, I took on the task of Coaching 100 runners on a journey to complete the Omagh Half Marathon. For the majority this was their first half marathon. I was asked to do this by my close friend Peter Dolan, who had set up a charity “Run For Enda” following the tragic death of his son Enda in 2014.

This was a perfect opportunity for me to take my learning of the PERMA Model and apply the 5 elements into my group and 1-1 coaching with regards to their Well-Being.  Also, my objective was to see them grow in confidence, overcome limiting beliefs and flourish in a new and challenging environment.

  1. Positive Emotion

I developed a hashtag #positivethoughtsonly which was added to the weekly training programme that I sent out to all on a Sunday evening. The aim was to have them think positive thoughts and to continually think about the benefits they were getting from their running in comparison to thinking of the difficulty of extra mileage they were being asked to do each week. Runners would reply to my messages and add the hashtag. The more it was seen by all, the more it embedded in their mind-set that what they were doing was helping them become more positive, not just in their running but in their whole life. It triggered a positive emotion. Levels of optimism were high and I could hear this in their language of “I will and I can”.

  1. Engagement

Engagement was delivered thorough their focus on their 4 weekly training sessions. They agreed that in some areas of their life they would have to make sacrifices but to be successful on this goal, these were necessary. Early morning runs on Saturday plus recovery runs on Sunday meant a change to their weekend socialising and diet. Running on a Tuesday and Thursday night meant certain rearrangements for work and child-minding. They were prepared to do this and used the resources available to them, like family and friends. I would hear numerous people talking after the Tuesday speed session that they were already looking forward to the following Tuesday session. My take on this was them being in a “state of flow” (Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi).

  1. Relationships

Relationships blossomed throughout the 12-week training programme. As people got to know each other, they were able to share stories on their own challenges both in running and in life. They found training buddies who they could run along with as they had similar target goals to achieve and enjoyed the benefits of running in a group. They found people that they could communicate with, who they could trust and felt safe in their company. One man who had just recently taken up running at the age of 48, said that his wife thought that he was mad putting all this effort, time and commitment into this Half Marathon goal. However, he was saying that, as a non-runner she didn’t understand the feelings that he was getting from being with like-minded people plus the release of endorphins contributing to his well-being.

  1. Meaning

This was all attached to something greater than all of us – the “Run for Enda” charity. The runners could have chosen to get together in 2s or 3s and organised themselves to plan their training but they didn’t. They joined and committed to something bigger. They had signed up and made a commitment. This run was not just for themselves, it was also for the charity. They had extra motivation with this meaning. There were times when they were sore and in pain but kept going. Some got injured and spent time resting in the pool or in the gym with the objective of getting back to the group. They were attached to something bigger.

  1. Accomplishment

For each member of the group the sense of accomplishment by completing the 12-week training plan was amazing. People who had only run as far as 3 miles in January where now looking forward to running 13.1 mile in April. My personal favourite was Annie. At 63 years of age, she took up running at 61. She had dropped from 12 stone to 10 stone and made a huge number of new friends. I would occasionally run with her on the long Saturday runs. She was always at the back of the group but never felt alone or lacked confidence. She had her own goal and was taking her own steps. So the run was completed on the 7th April 2018, medals received, tears shed, hugs exchanged with family and friends and huge pride in achieving this goal. No-one was going to take away the feeling that they experienced after crossing the line.

There were young, old, men and women, people I knew well and people that I had never met before. Firstly, connecting with them and then listening to their story as they explained being there for different reasons and having different needs. My role was to support them in their journey and highlight their ability plus positive impact they were making in taking on this commitment, overcoming setbacks and keeping themselves motivated as the demands of the weekly mileage increased. The fact they have completed this goal will now give them the confidence to tackle other goals and has been a great contributor to their Well Being.

Seanie Meyler works as an Executive, Sales and Well Being Coach with his company Meyler Performance, based in Omagh Co Tyrone.