Why do I need a coach?

Good morning, and a very happy new year. I am not big on resolutions generally, but the fact that the start of January is usually the start of marathon training does mean that it's usually a time to reluctantly push aside the panettone (if I had any left to push aside, that is) and start focusing a bit more seriously on training. It's not that I ever really stop as such, but I am quite definitely a runner motivated by specific targets, and therefore tend to drift slightly when I don't have a deadline looming. 

Many will be in the same boat. (It's a boat made of kale, quinoa and spinach and the sails are made of old copies of the Guardian, and it prefers to go by a gender nuetral pronoun, ok?) and are perhaps thinking about training plans or coaching advice. A clubmate, who also coaches, was writing recently against the 'tyranny of the training plan' and essentially saying they are mostly worthless. I think I disagree with this, because it presupposes a great deal of knowledge and experience to suggest people can effectively train for a marathon without any kind of guidance. But equally, I agree that those plans all need to be a) properly vetted (some are just badly written by people who don't know their arse from their runner's knee) and b) followed to the spirit, not the letter.

This in turn made me think about coaching. Specifically, why I have a coach. I've worked with Tom Craggs (of Running With Us) for nearly two years now. What does a personal coach - as opposed to following a plan - do? Listens to you. Sets goals for you. Helps you achieve them. Knows when to push you and perhaps more importantly, when to hold you back. Makes you take rest days even when you are really rubbish at rest days (if you are reading, Tom, I'm writing this in a horizontal position and have no jog plans, promise!) and responds to how you actually feel. Takes into account the other stuff in your life that training plans can't (illness, lack of sleep, family stress, work stress, etc). I mean, Tom also knows more about running than I've had portions of panettone, so of course he also sets the right sort of training at the right time. Yes, it's my legs that run the miles and my lungs that got me over the sub 3 finish line, but without Tom that simply wouldn't have happened. I have absolutely no doubt of that. Did I ever thank you enough for that, Tom?

Anyway, much like training plans, the decision to get a coach may depend on your personality. I've known really good runners who were 'uncoachable' because they just couldn't rein back, or follow the plan set for them, despite paying good money for it (and yes, of course, I know there's probably a huge number of runners who would love to have a personal coach but can't afford one).

Oddly, despite being in absolutely no way whatsoever someone who likes following orders - I think my family would agree that I am, err, rather the opposite in nature - I really enjoy being told what to do when it comes to training. Actually, I think that comes from respect, and understanding that Tom (as with other good coaches) fundamentally knows more about what kind of running I should be doing to get into shape for X race, than I do. I mean, I've got the basic coaching qualification myself and could probably write a half decent, sensible training plan for someone aiming to complete a marathon, but could I identify the early signs of over training? Explain heart rate variability? Give a brilliant pep talk the day before a race? Nope. Some people don't need those things: I do.

So these meanderings are by way of saying, if you are ever thinking of getting a coach, get a good one. Like many of you, I'm sure, I read this article and wondered why on earth a PT would suggest 50 deadlifts and sprints in training for a 10 mile race, but then what do I know? Probably more than a lot of people (because, I hasten to add, of my work writing about running for years) but not nearly as much as Tom.

So, anyway. As I said: Happy new year, and hope Christmas bought you all the socks and running gadgets you need to get you off to a flier in January. Come share your hopes, aspirations and goals for the year as always.

Comments

  1. Lots of family and friends have complained that my wish list is so boring as all it contains is running stuff, I said to them this is all I want in life and boy did they listen, I'm pretty sure I now have a new pair of running socks to last me every day until June!

    Having finally joined a running club in December (always wanted to but work would not permit) and entered the Hamburg Marathon in April (marathon number 3) hopes and motivation are super high at this time of year - 16 weeks to go and day 1 of the training plan! :)

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  2. Hello all and Happy New Year. I have just returned to work (which I am avoiding by reading and posting on here) after a week in beautiful Northumberland where running on beaches can go on for miles and miles. Lovely start to the year and relevant to today's subject because part of the week was spent in the company of a proper runner who has a coach. She is the daughter of friends who we stayed with and is seriously good. So, when me and her parents went for a run she said she couldn't go because her coach said it was a rest day. But she did come with us and then rang him to apologise because she said he would have seen her run on Garmin Connect.. His answer was rather deflating as he said the run was as good as a rest for her due to our pace. The shame! Anyway, I can proudly say that I ran with the winner of the Women's Under 20's Cheshire Cross Country Championships (Saturday just gone). She beat her younger sister by 10 seconds and the rest of the field by over a minute. It doesn't mean I'm going to get a coach as I think my ship has sailed but I can see the benefits.

    As for plans this year - Tatton 10k on Sunday, Anglesey HM in March. Fewer pies and cakes every month. Two of these things will happen, one has very little chance. Happy running, everyone!

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    1. Always good to know that you instinctively have the ability to allow "elite" runners the conditions to have a rest day GJ!

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    2. BHP, seeing an elite athlete run is amazing. They cover so much distance with such little effort. I was huffing and puffing and threatening to blow Bamburgh Castle down. She took one look at me and instantly analysed my poor style with downward facing hips. "It's like you're trying to run downhill". So perhaps I should have a coach just to tell me how to run properly.

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    3. Grumpy Jim, the thing that brought it home to me recently is that on youtube, there's a guy who is a parkrun tourist who has videoed most of the courses he's run. He always starts at the back and normally finishes somewhere in the middle, so the form of the runners he's filming is, shall we say, not the best. And I'm thinking: I probably look not too different to most of these runners - not kicking my legs back/up, not driving my knees up or driving with my arms, leaning or stooping too far forward. Then in the recommended videos, you've got James Dunne analysing Shalane Flanagan; and coachRYP with high speed slo-mo video of Tirunesh Dibaba (2012 Carlsbad 5k); and Dibaba's final mile at the Great North Run (in the aerial shot, they are absolutely flying). The gulf between elites and average recreational runners is mind-boggling!

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    4. Amateurs should never, ever, watch themselves doing sport - it just shatters any last pretense of ability!

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  3. Happy New Year!

    I've never been one for training plans. They have always frightened the life out of me! My mind finds itself saying, "but what if I don't want to?" Or felt that they sucked the fun out of what I was doing.

    But guess what, I've got a training plan! A 24 week one to prepare me for my half distance triathlon on 19th May. The good thing is that I didn't look at it for the first for four weeks due to injury and illness. However, I can now see that it's going to help me achieve my goal and I'm actually paying attention to it, though if I was doing some of the things it suggests at this point I'd likely make myself miserable and fall ill again. So, I've been adapting it to fall into line with my level of fitness at the moment knowing that I'll be at the right level in another week or so. I won't be bore you with the swimming/cycling bit but the plan had me doing an intervals session last week and I adapted it to do 7 reps of quarter of a mile. I'd not done any structured running sessions for ages and was a bit anxious about it, but wow! It was fun! I'm not going to tell a lie when I say that the best bits were the quarter of a mile recovery, in other words dead slow! It felt like you were cheating and was the reward for going hell for leather immediately before. I'll bet doing that again.

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    1. A 24 week training plan? I could barely manage 12 weeks without getting injured at least once!

      Good luck Pete!

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    2. Cheers Asta. The good thing is that the first 8 weeks are about making sure you are in a good state before the training getting more intense. And I've started to understand the need to rest as an important. After all, it going to take 6+ hours on the day. That makes me feel a bit wobbly!

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    3. Anyway, my running goal is for sub 2 hours at the end of the triathlon. My pb is 1:49, so there isn't much leeway but I want something to aim for. And if I declare now that I'd like to be sub 6 hours for the whole thing, I've got nowhere to hide. This might be a tall ask but I've decided that's what I'm training to achieve.

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    4. What are the distances involved Pete?

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    5. 1.2 mile swim, 56 miles bike, 13.1 mile run.
      And as soon as you start the clock is always ticking. There's 2 transitions that take up time and and toilet stops as well. Time will be tight!

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  4. Happy New Year.

    Lucky for those starting training this week, 16 weeks to London so makes sense. Us Manchester Marathoners are well into it and had to power through Christmas and New Year! I think I was constantly running, drunk, hungover, or a combination of the 3 for 2 weeks solid.

    With training plans, I can't imagine training without one, but I now tend to research a few and add bits/change bits where I know I can to help me. (I always laugh when I see a training plan with "hilly run", this is County Durham, I don't think there's anything but hilly runs). But you can't really go wrong with 1 track session, 1 tempo run, 1 long run, 1 easy run a week. I would love a PT, and there are a couple from my running club that do it, but I'm definitely in the can't afford it camp.

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    1. I’m doing Manchester too! I need to shed my Christmas kg first though. (If only it was just Christmas lbs...)

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  5. Happy New Year!

    I feel like training plans and definitely coaches are for 'serious' runners, not make-it-up-as-you-go-along pootlers like me but it's interesting to read about all your approaches. I do set myself goals, and last year, by the skin of my teeth (i.e. the last Saturday of the year), I did the parkrun I said I'd do! The week before, I'd run a new 5-km PB, and my first parkrun was just shy of this, so not a bad end to the year.

    Yesterday, I also finally ran the whole of a 9-km route having previously always had to walk parts of the big hills or managed to run them (run, who am I kidding?! We're talking barely more than a walk but feet permanently moving) but then been so knackered I gave up and walked the last kilometre or two...

    House-hunting and life plans still mean I can't commit to races too far in the future but I hope to get settled soon and then who knows. There are plenty of local running groups so I might start small with one of those and see how I get on.

    Here's to a great running year for us all!

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    1. Congrats on the parkrun and the 9k! Good luck finding a running group...it will definitely bring your running along even further!

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  6. Happy New Year everyone.

    I achieved one of my two goals for the end of the year - a 12 minute plank without giving myself a hernia. I am now retired from planks.

    The other goal was to run under 20 minutes in a NYE 5k race but sadly I missed that by 7s. Close enough to be clear improvement though and hopefully if I stick to Coach's plan I'll continue to take back the minutes I've lost.

    The tough business starts now though - No beer until Jan 25th. Mission Impossible?

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    1. A 12-minute plank sounds brutal.

      I'm also on a no-beer January but being in the UAE makes it somewhat easier. I had some 'non-alcoholic malt beverage' mind.

      Anyway, more importantly, Gboly Ariyibi - any good?

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    2. My mate (Chesterfield fan) was pretty pissed off when we signed him and the noises coming out of the U23 games at the back-end of 16-17 season sounded like he was going to be decent...but he was loaned out all last season and hasnt had a sniff this one.

      Hopefully he does well for you and we both win...basically its either win-win or lose-lose!

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    3. We will see...certainly if he can't make an impression with us he should be speaking to a careers adviser...

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    4. I was thinking of you today Asta, as I planked in the gym (two minutes max - 12 is unspeakable).

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    5. Don't think, just do Grasshopper!

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    6. What on EARTH do you do during a 12 minute plank?? I guess you have a screen underneath you (A phone) to watch at least?

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  7. Happy new year all...a slightly slow start to 2019 for me due to a combination of life and a couple of niggles but I've now done a couple of treadmill runs and will hope to get outside tomorrow. Sadly it's forced a renegotiation of the target at the Barca HM next month but as that's only a stepping stone to May, no biggie.

    As for training plans, I don't understand how you could prepare seriously for a target race without one - even if you don't write it down, most people would at least follow the basic structure as CP says, figuring out what to do at the start of each week.

    Coaches, I will definitely get one at some point. Just now - despite intending to improve - I'm still stuck fitting in what I can when I can so it's rather piecemeal. I asked a lot from Mrs Handsome to follow plans religiously in 2017 as a marathon year but with Junior Handsome and, from April, Juniorette Handsome, being prio 1 I don't really want to spend money on a coach without the commitment to do it justice. The plan, all being well, is to shave a couple of chunks of the 10k this year and next - or depending on life, at worst tick over around my current level - then find a coach to help with the final push towards the big goal in 2021 or 2022.

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    1. In my first (albeit brief) foray into 'coaching' I helped a friend knock 15+ minutes off his HM PB from 1.52 to 1.36. Another chunk will be coming off that in Hamburg.

      Some stick, some carrot, no rocket science. I know a fast type in Berlin with a similar profile who should be able to work a similar trick on you before your sleep deprivation kicks in...!

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  8. Happy New Year all!

    A coach always sounds like such a luxury, perhaps more in terms of time than anything else. If you commit to it, you have to give up some autonomy in terms of shifting things around when there's too much going on. Or at least that's how I'd feel. I don't like making a commitment and then having to go half-assed.

    On the other hand, I've toyed with the idea of trying a coach for 3-6 months and see if I can make some improvements. Who wouldn't want that?

    Despite my coachlessness, I've been doing pretty okay in recent weeks. I switched to longer aerobic training in November and results are improving. I run for 60-80 minutes per day at a lowish HR plus 2x week I do 8 all-out 20 sec sprints on the track. Starting next week, I'll sub in hill reps for one of the sprint sessions.

    Since I started this, I've run three trail races, all approx 5-6 miles. The first was in very sub-freezing conditions a day after returning from Peru. I ran very slowly at first, sticking behind a slow group, then ran the final 3 miles progressively faster. Felt ok. Think I was 5th female. Didn't try for anything more. Second race was just before Christmas. Course was rerouted due to a dam break and general flooding (record rain year here) and began on an outlandish uphill road section. I realized halfway up the hill that I felt great and that feeling stayed with me through copious amounts of mud and water and more hills. Finished 1st female by a large margin. Last Saturday was race #3. Lots of up and down in sticky mud and lots of running sideways on very slippery grass hillsides. My core was sore from trying to stay balanced. But the legs kept going - this seems to be a benefit of this type of training - and I was 2nd female, behind a very good teenage runner.

    So not bad at all. And I'm enjoying it. The question is how to add workouts back into the mix but I figure that's another six weeks away.

    Specific goals? Not really. I'd written off the entire first part of the year to work on a TV project that I'm now being paid *not* to work on (a truly bizarre situation) and so I need to take a serious look at this new and different landscape. And who knows, maybe I finally can find the time to finally seek some coaching.

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    1. jer, I am available at very reasonable rates ;-)

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    2. Thanks for the offer. Reasonable rates, perhaps - but would the workouts be reasonable? I'm leery of a man who's deep in the throes of swearing off beer! ;-)

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    3. Oh God, the workouts are hideous. Someone has to pay!

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    4. hi, how about I coach you for free for 6 months. I am a qualified coach at runinthesun.com I am currently the fastest middle distance runner in the UK for my category. Just came 4th ( I did say before I went, 4th was the worst thing that could happen ) in 1500m World Championships. Currently running about 35mins for 10km, not bad for a 60 year old. I am coaching about 13 runners at present but it would be a pleasure to help
      Paul

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  9. Happy new year everyone! I have a mixed relationship with "the plan"... I don't like following one, but if I don't, I tend towards not doing enough proper workouts and "just running". If I'm targeting a good performance at a half marathon, I need to get some good quality tempo, interval and long-not-all-easy-pace sessions in to do my best, and having them written down means I actually do them.

    So I've embarked on a plan to take me through the Wokingham Half (end Feb) then to the Shakespeare Half (end April), trying to work my way down to 1h30m.

    For 2019, my goal is a medal each month. Some running, perhaps some cycling, and possibly the Swim Serpentine in September to complete the "London Classics" and get TWO medals. With all my run-streaking last year, I didn't sign up for as many events as in previous years, so my medal haul was decidedly meager. Not this year!

    Can I get a toot on the PB klaxon please? Saturday saw my first 2019 medal and new 10k PB at the Run Through Victoria Park 10k. It wasn't pretty, and I hadn't done any 10k-specific prep, so I think I've got more to gain there, but shaved off nearly a minute to 43m31s.

    I think with better pacing and less of a cold, I could hit 42m, so will have another crack soon.

    I've also decided to continue running every day - it's had a lot of benefits for me, not least that I keep running when I'm on holiday or "life gets in the way", even if it's just 2k a day, and it's helped me retain fitness and recover faster from hard efforts. Two half marathon PBs last year and a 10k PB already this year; something about it clearly works for me!

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  10. Hello everyone and happy new year!

    I certainly take a huge amount of benefit from having a coach. Some of it is science, some motivation, some problem solving support. But I have taken 50 min off my marathon time since working with one.

    Coaches are expensive but it does depend how you think about it. Mine is approximately the price of a London gym membership. Last year I calculated that I paid for 80% of my coach’s fees by replacing my consumption of alcoholic beer with Brewdog Nanny State - cheaper, and better for me. Priorities...!

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    1. Love that (raspberry blitz good too)

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    2. 50 minutes??? Blimey! That is worth it!

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  11. I think that having a coach is a unique way of squeezing out the best of your running capabilities. I don’t need motivating but it did force me to push myself and realise paces I wouldn’t have tried left to my own devices, and structured running which isn’t particularly fun (long intervals anyone?) but has huge benefits in endurance races. It’s hard to get the gumption up to do those when off plan! However, I have trained for 4 marathons but only been able to run 2 of them due to overuse injuries, so something was amiss. Not blaming coach for this btw.

    I haven’t tried an off the shelf plan before, but I suspect with a decent amount of running knowledge they could be quite sufficient. I did enjoy the coach/coachee relationship though, so I would miss that for sure!

    The valuable thing about either of these is that, if followed more or less to the letter, you can toe the line in the knowledge that you can trust the training. The weather may let you down, or something else, but you should be entirely capable of putting in a good time.

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    1. Hello kyd, happy new year. I saw an interesting video on youtube that included a study of cyclists (not elites, but serious). After 12 weeks of well structured "best practice" training, it was clear that the general 'across the board' result was a likely improvement in performance. However, this was not the case for everyone and the variation in the cyclists' improvements was huge. Interestingly, quite a few went through all that training and did not improve at all - some even got worse despite training for 12 weeks using best practice plans! There must therefore be significant individual factors at play that sometimes override or work against the sports science generic best practice advice.

      I think this is one area where a good coach comes in: to identify what works best for each of his athletes as individuals. As per the last slide in the video, unlike the sports scientists who do group studies and reach general conclusions, the coach says "I observe mitigated responses. I'm using it only with athletes A and B but it does not work with C and D".

      Here is the video at the relevant time (the whole video is worth a watch actually):

      https://youtu.be/Pf3tczZrUgs?t=2138

      (x-axis = athlete number ordered by least to most improved; y-axis = performance change)

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  12. Try to run according to somewhat of plan. My problem is (and I think I will have to get over this if I want to get faster) that I hate when they get complicated. I like to just be told to either to run slow, fast, short or long, instead of trying to decode a host of acronyms.

    I ran a half marathon in Armagh and accidentally came second. Meant to pace a friend but that didn't work out and after a mile found myself in 3rd. Decided to push on a bit and see what would happen, past the guy in 2nd in the last two miles.

    Don't expect to ever finish that high in a race again, so will enjoy the feeling whilst it lasts!

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    1. I agree duke - if the plan looks too complicated, I tend to move on! I don't have the patience to decipher. I think that's also why I was no good at knitting - I didn't have the patience to understand the patterns.

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  13. In my club we're lucky enough to have a few level 2 and 3 coaches who will provide their services via the club for free. So I have a coach who's taken on a few of us who have specific goals - mine being Brighton Marathon in four hours. I also used a (different) club coach to get me to a sub-2 half a few years ago, and for London marathon last year. For me, off-the-shelf training programmes are massively stressful as I can never make them fit around my life. The joy of having a real live human being putting a programme together for you is that you actually talk to one another about what's possible and what isn't, and they can work with you. It took me and my current coach lots of batting backwards and forwards to get the Brighton programme right.

    Despite the meticulous planning though, life intervened. A sprained ankle on almost the last day of 2018 has meant almost two weeks of rest and rehab. Marathon training was supposed to begin today, but instead I spent a gloomy hour in the gym while the kids swam. Is the elliptical trainer the dullest thing known to humankind? I think it could be.

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    1. Sorry to hear about your ankle and I hope you feel OK to run on it soon. Are there at least some interesting podcasts to make impact-free machines more bearable?

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  14. Hello and happy new year all!

    I would love a coach but will need to up my running significantly before I can justify one I think. I'm especially interested in having someone look at my form and help me correct it.

    I've never had the need to investigate a training plan, but I don't see that they need to be too complicated. I would have thought the basics are firstly doing the volume (hours); then roughly an 80/20% split of low intensity (aerobic) / high intensity (intervals/ some hill sprints); plus strength/conditioning and some tempo/race pace workouts. I guess one of the main things a more detailed plan of prescribed workouts aids is discipline to actually get them done.

    I have been thinking about goals for this year and have come up with the following:

    Get back to parkrun and beat my 5k pb
    Do my first track
    Run a 'fast' mile (not going to put a number on it but want to see how fast I can go...)
    Enter and complete my first HM
    Run 1000km (up from previous highest of 181km last year...)

    I suppose I need to add in finally overcoming my persistent ankle injury so that I can run more regularly and longer distances. This will be the major obstacle to completing the last 2 goals in that list.

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    1. Paul some coaches will actually do one offs for precisely what you suggest - just looking at your running form and helping you address any obvious issues (though hopefully they would also take a "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" approach! If you are in London I can even recommend someone.

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  15. My running (a bit like my cycling) started as a way to keep fit between weekends in the mountains. It has also helped shift the extra 15kg that I had acquired in my mid forties. In the 18 months since I started, I have come to enjoy it as it's own discipline, rather than just a means to an end. However, it is very much an ad hoc activity. Sometimes after the school run and before work, sometimes lunchtime and sometimes in the evening. I try to do at least 2 10K+ runs and then parkrun at the weekend. I don't think a coach would work for me.

    Goals for 2018 were affected by falling off my MTB and breaking my collarbone, but there were some milestones other than just going a little bit faster.

    First in age group at parkrun - I managed this a lot earlier than expected. It was not even a PB time, but all the faster runners in my group were somewhere else. It was also nice to get 20th overall as well..
    Run the Yorkshire 3 Peaks - I walk it most years, but wanted to try and run it. I came in a few seconds under 6H30M not as good as I hoped, but beating my previous 8H13M which was a walk with a few downhill trots and in no way an attempt to 'run' the course.
    Three Peaks again, but walk it twice in two days. I had tried this before and failed, but this year I managed it.
    Swimming has never really been my thing, but it really helped with the shoulder recovery. Getting to 1K, then 1 mile and then finally in December a 2K swim. Times were not an issue, it was all about distance without putting a foot down.

    Goals for 2019
    Actually race something other than parkrun - Maybe try a HM as I have run the distance a few times in ad hoc runs.
    Have a go at a sprint triathlon with an indoor swim - 400m, 20K, 5K
    Run the Yorkshire 3 Peaks again and get in under 6H. This should be possible as the rules allow any circular route taking in the summits and I have test walked a route that is 3K shorter, albeit it with a much steeper ascent of Whernside and a boggier crossing between PYG in Ribblehead
    I would like to get another two parkrun age group firsts, one in my current group and one in the next group up after my birthday. In theory, being at the young end of the new group should be easier, but unfortunately that group is packed with fast runners.
    Finally, the biggest challenge...get under 20 minutes for 5K. My best parkrun is 21:31, so it seems possible. If it looks like I am failing this one at parkrun, I can always try a track 5K....nice flat and smooth and hopefully fast.

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  16. I started working with a coach last year and that has been a revelation. When things are going well, it can be hard to know how it's different from following a training plan - except that the training plan is a particularly good one. The benefits really become clear when there's a need to adapt. I've found it interesting to see how my coach has built my running back up after I took a few weeks off when I hurt my knee. I am continually anxious when various components aren't in the weekly plan, because I've read somewhere that they are important. But the articles I read are generic advice for generic runners, usually with a generic race in mind. It's great to be able to trust my coach to work out how to apply all the research and what we know about training to my particular circumstances. I reckon the hardest part about self-coaching would be to have that objectivity about your training.

    Since the last Monday Debrief (way back in 2018!) I've had spectacular runs along the coast, back home, in Sydney, Australia. I'm visiting friends and family over the uni break and loving the hot weather, beautiful views, and post-run swims. I wish I could teleport here for all my long runs especially.

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    1. How much longer have you got in Australia before you have to head back to Binghamton NY, and more importantly, have you got to run with your dad?

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    2. Less than a week to go BHP. No run with dad yet... apparently my presence inspired him to start his stair-climbing exercise again, so maybe it is possible to go from there to convincing him to try a jog.

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  17. Belated Happy New Year from a very hot and humid Sydney (as Brussels above has pointed out)! I've just been building up the mileage over the last few weeks (126km last week), with several runs on quite hilly terrain and a couple of decent enough parkruns over the Xmas break.
    Hopefully this is building up leg strength and I can continue this progression.

    As for the coach vs no coach theme, ultimately its a very individual choice. I had a coach for 18 months between 2014-15. He definitely helped me get to that "next level" but after a not-great marathon performance in 2015, I decided to do my own thing and have remained coach-less ever since. (FYI, my former coach remains a good friend) The only PB I'm yet to crack without a coach is the marathon but I believe this is only a matter of time. I wouldn't say I'm a runner who is completely "uncoachable" but making my own decisions about my training and racing is very important to me and that will always take priority over anything a coach would advise me.

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    1. That's great mileage/kilometerage I'm. I'm sure that you'll crack your marathon target soon!

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    2. LM, you are getting some really good long runs in at the moment - that's going to help a lot in your next marathon.

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    3. Completely agree that it's veyr much individual choice LM - though I guess I'd just say that a good coach would take into account your own decisions on training/ racing - not impose their own. If a coach said to you, you are racing too much, then you'd probably just have to agree it was the wrong coach!

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    4. Your running is looking particularly strong these days LM and nice and varied, I feel you're on the brink of a long distance PB!

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  18. Happy New Year to you all!

    I've occasionally thought about getting a coach, usually too close to the next marathon cycle, then the moment passes. I think one of the challenges that I'd imagine I'd have would be following a plan set by someone who doesn't know my schedule and constraints. I am usually pretty flexible with my weekly schedule (even more so outside a specific training block) - out of necessity. If I were paying someone for their coaching services I'd feel obliged to work to their schedule more closely - which could lead to stresses elsewhere.

    So, I tend to work through things with books, input from other runners and one or two of my club's coaches. Would a coach improve the output? Possibly, possibly not. I suspect most of the big gains have been made by this point.

    An area where I have found external feedback helpful is in goal-setting. It can be easy to convince yourself to choose goals that are maybe not too big. I've found when runners I respect started saying what times they thought I could run and there was a significant gap - it made me take on the idea that maybe I limit the potential upside in my racing. Over the last couple of years I have raced far more by feel than by what my watch says.

    Last year I had a stretch goal to make the top 250 ranking in the Power of 10 marathon rankings in the UK. With a bit of luck I made it in at #214 - in part due to the sharp change of season just before the London Marathon. I've still to set my targets for 2019, though Fukuoka 'B' standard is still out there.

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    1. Out of curiosity I had a look on the power of 10 website and it really does put your efforts last year into some perspective David. Pretty, pretty impressive. I hope that you have a great 2019.

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    2. Cheers Pete. I look forward to seeing your progress updates as we move towards May!

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  19. Happy New Year, everyone!

    I ran my first half marathon ever off the back of a free Hal Higdon half marathon plan. And my first marathon off the back of a training plan from the book 80/20 Running by Matt Fitzgerald.

    In both of the cases there were things about the plans that were not perfect for me. But I followed the half marathon plan to the letter, and that was a running/personal development triumph for me. To be that dedicated about something involving my physical health was a big first for me, and it has contributed to a huge shift in my mind which means that nearly two years later, being active is just a nice part of my day. Not something I need to work up to or "should do", as it used to be.

    I didn't follow the plan out of 80/20 to the letter, in part because I was building up for a 1 September marathon which meant that some peak workouts were planned during 32 C+ weather. I modified as needed and finished my first marathon in a respectable time. The biggest mistake I made during that training block was never adjusting my paces (for twelve weeks! what was I thinking!?) which I believe kept me from meeting my A goal, but that's all right. I finished.

    I think that both of those mistakes could have been prevented by having a coach, but it was also valuable to learn these lessons on my own. I would one day like to be able to employ a coach for 3-6 months and build up to some goal race with them, but right now money and life prohibit it. I think I would respond well to working with a coach, even though I, like many here, would not normally be described as someone who takes orders gladly or well.

    Since the last debrief I've been trucking along and running as I like, shooting for 5-6 days a week and not running too fast too often. A highlight was a December 31st New Year's run with a good friend of mine. A lowlight has been this cold I've had since last week, but I'm on the mend now, and able to run easily again.

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    1. Good that you chose such good plans to work to osmenog! I worry about some of the magazine cut-out ones I've seen that are just stupid (sometimes I wonder if they are done by a computer not a person). Most coaches that I know would definitely have a LOT of clients who specifically only sign up for 3/6 months periods for a specific goal race. Sure, some of them might then carry on with the coach - like me - but that's totally normal if you ever did decide to explore that as an option.

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  20. I've found in my short running career (only about two years) that I've benefitted hugely from having a personal trainer (not a running coach as such) who I see once a week, and following a training plan that I've researched as one that suits me. Firstly, the PT motivates me to work on general fitness - core, cardio and strength - and encourages me to set goals. I am very goal-oriented. He is also very flexible and will run with me if I want to run, or design really good gym sessions, with regular 'tests' to monitor progress. Both physically and mentally he has helped me run first 5k, then 10k and now HMs - previously something I would never have thought possible.


    Having set myself the goal of a sub-2 HM, I researched some plans online, and picked a James Poole one. Followed it almost to the letter - which was quite hard at times - and crossed the finish line in my first HM in 1:56, then another later in the year in1:58.

    So plans seem to work for me, and I am motivated by 'ticking off' the days and recording distance, time, pace etc. I'm now contemplating a marathon, and will definitely need a plan for that. Being goal oriented and motivated by making progress against a plan certainly helps, as does having the wherewithal to enable 1:1 access to a PT who really suits my needs.

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  21. No doubt my running would benefit from having a coach, but I certainly don't want one. For me running isn't about achieving goals per se. It's about the freedom I feel while running. I try to run three times a week, with one of those being parkrun and one being a long run. If I'm training towards a half marathon then I'll gradually increase my distance, but otherwise my runs are as long as I feel like and across whatever terrain I'm in the mood for. Yesterday's was a beautiful 8km trail run through native bush at Waihi Beach (Bay of Plenty, NZ). I'm certainly not scoffing at people that have coaches, but for me, I feel it would remove the freedom and spontaneity that I enjoy with my running.

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    1. Like the sound of your approach, Cov Kid. Different strokes for different folks. I also love running in beautiful places - it makes me appreciate how lucky I am to live in a beautiful place and to have found the joy of running in it.

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  22. Oh wow.... this finally worked! It's taken me ages to figure out how to post on here. Doesn't work with my mac for some reason.
    Finally found a 10k race abroad in December: the Sao Silvestre in Lisbon. 10,000 people, a t-shirt, a red shiny foil wrap at the end - not really necessary but fun, made me feel like a proper runner - a huge medal, and a real sense of having taken part in something fab, even though I threw up at the end. That's not my normal end to a 10k so no idea what happened there. Slow time because it was very crowded and quite warm but I don't care. I need to look for another 10k somewhere Interesting this year. I hear there's one in Moldova.....

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