What Does A Running Coach Do?

“In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” – Benjamin Franklin, 1789.

I’d like to add something to that list please Ben, if you don’t mind. The other cast iron definite, an unwavering truth, a rare guarantee in a world of uncertainty is this, when you tell people you are a running coach they will respond with “Ooh, can you write me a training plan?”.

In fact, the conversation invariably goes a little something like this:

Runner: “Oooh, can you write me a training plan?”

Coach: “Of course! When do you want to get together for an hour to discuss your running history, current activity, future commitments. I’ll need you to think about what sacrifices you are willing to make to fit in the training you need, and things you just can’t compromise on. I want to now what support you have from partners/family/friends. We need to work out your target pace so bring some race times. Then we can plan how often we’ll get together for sessions, I’ve got my diary ready, when are you free?”


I’m going to let you in to a secret; if you just want a training plan with no consideration given to you as an athlete then you don’t want a coach, you want a copy of Runner’s World. In fact, here you go, trusty Hal Higdon training plans as used by runners the world over who have completed races. But if you want to compete not just complete, if you want to reach your potential, then you need a coach.

So, what do coaches do?

If they aren’t there to churn out training plan after training plan to runners who want nothing more than to be told what miles to run, then what are coaches good for? Well here’s a very brief list of some of the things a decent running coach should do… (I will probably expand on some of these points in future posts)

  • Help you set realistic goals and interim targets
  • Monitor and record your progress
  • Keep you consistent and motivated in your training
  • Warm you up and cool you down (because none of us do it when we’re on our own)
  • Help you prevent injury
  • Work on your technique for improved efficiency and speed
  • Work on your strength and conditioning (again, something you don’t do on your own)
  • Give you all the instruction you need to get the best from your speed sessions and hill reps
  • Advise on fueling and nutrition
  • Help determine a race strategy
  • Keep you accountable on the days you are training alone
  • Signpost to other professionals for massage, physio etc
  • Link all of the above back to your goals and make adjustments when needed
  • And yes, they can help you create a training plan that is bespoke to you and built around that weekly swimming lesson you can’t miss and the fact you won’t want to do a long run on your birthday

Image result for running coachSo there you have it, next time you meet a running coach have a think about all the benefits they can bring you and your running and find some way of tapping in to it, whether it’s one-on-one coaching, group sessions or just a chat. They will have qualified because they want to work with athletes and make them better runners, and not because they want to spend their evenings writing training plans!

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