Coach Turned Competitor

Robert Valentin, 45, will be taking his own advice on November 1. He’ll be running the race that he’s been coaching students to do for nearly a decade.
Valentin is the maestro behind NYRR Deep Water Running classes, which help runners build their strength and recover from injury. Ask his students, and you’ll find out that Valentin’s personality and antics make the classes lots of fun.
Belinda, Valentin’s oldest daughter, assists during class and together, they teach students how to run upright while wearing flotation belts. Their 45-minute workouts, including strides and cadence drills, are especially popular during peak racing season.
During TCS New York City Marathon Week, Valentin, a former wedding singer, uses pre-race visualizations, including renditions of “The Star-Spangled Banner” and “New York, New York,” to motivate his students. He structures class so that each minute of Deep Water Running represents a landmark on the five-borough course.
Valentin, who owns his own company called Blue Ocean Swimming, took over the popular NYRR classes from Doug Stern when Stern passed away in 2006. He loved what Stern had taught him, and he eventually took his mentor’s advice: “Doug used to try to convince me to do triathlons,” he said. “The only thing that scared me was the running.”
Valentin began running short distances with a former girlfriend. “I loved being outside by the river,” he says. “I kept it up, and I finished the Brooklyn Half in 2010. I thought, ‘If I can do a half, I can do a full.’ That’s how I got hooked.” Now he runs three days a week, along with swimming four days and practicing deep water running each week.
Valentin, who grew up in the Bronx, was always swimmer. Now the Queens resident is also a runner getting ready for the big day. His Queensboro Bridge practice runs are helping him prepare. “That bridge is so hard,” he says, laughing. “I don’t know how I’m going to do it on race day.” Valentin will approach the race just as he does his classes: with a smile and a dose of optimistic realism.
“I can’t imagine how good it will feel to see the finish,” he says. “Right now, it’s all psychological. I’ve also been watching marathon stories on YouTube to prepare mentally."
Valentin knows how to hit the pool to recover. And he’ll have plenty to tell his students after he’s finished his first 26.2!
By Ann Votaw
Watch the 2015 TCS New York City Marathon on November 1 on WABC-TV, Channel 7, in the New York tri-state area from 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. EST and watch it across the country on ESPN2 from 9:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. EST.
Enter to win guaranteed non-complimentary entry to the 2016 TCS New York City Marathon now.