Teaching People to Run

The other Tuesday evening I was watching my group of runners warm up when I had a realisation. Those 20 women jogging and skipping their way round the netball court were there because of me. They’d turned up on a Tuesday night, not for the first time, and put their training in my hands. And it was an overwhelming moment.

I’ve been thinking about it a lot since. I thought about it too last week when the latest group of beginners finished their first parkrun. It’s brilliant to see a group of non-runners grow in confidence each week and start to enjoy getting out.

I know it’s hard starting running, and the fact that (most of them) come back week after week on a Saturday morning encourages me to keep showing up in my own training.

I love being a coach and helping this all happen. Despite the cold nights that are coming our way, or the rain that I’ll be stood out in, and despite the admin that goes on behind the scenes, I love it.

This summer I trained as a Tutor for England Athletics coaching courses and I’m excited to help other runners use their love of the sport in a new way. Helping other people learn to enjoy running and see them improve in their training is a really rewarding thing to do.

Do you need to be a super fast runner to coach? Absolutely not. Being super fast doesn’t mean you’re going to be any better or worse at giving encouragement, observing what people are doing, listening to them, explaining a session and generally creating a supportive, inclusive environment.

I’ve run a lot of races, trained hard and achieved times that I’m really proud of. But none of it compares to the feeling I get as a coach when I see runners run their first 5k and do things they never thought they could do. So if you have a few spare hours in your week I really recommend it.

A few tips of where to start…

  • Volunteer for parkrun or a local race – just giving runners a much-needed ‘well done’ can help them and give you some experience of encouraging runners. It might sound silly, but it can take a bit of confidence for some of us to tell someone you don’t know that they’re doing well.
  • Offer to go for a run with a friend who is just starting out. A few tips: run at their speed, don’t jog backwards, don’t walk while they run, don’t run ahead and wait for them – this will all make them feel too slow. Last week I ran 13 min/mile when my marathon pace is 8:00/mile. It’s possible.
  • Get involved with your running club and volunteer your time. Standing with a coach and just observing and asking lots of questions was how I got started in coaching. They’ll hopefully be glad of the company on a cold night. And your club might even offer to pay for you to attend a coaching course.
  • Finally have a look at your governing body’s coaching courses.