On coaching success


From November 2018 through to Marathons in April 2019 I had the pleasure of coaching a small group of marathon hopefuls at Stroud & District Athletic Club

Andy-Crace Calvert, vet 50, London 2:59:31, PB!

Will Hartop, Manchester 2:58:42, First marathon

Ian Cutler, vet 45, Manchester 2:55:57, First marathon

Ian Newns, London 2:53:21, PB!


I knew what we were doing would improve them all as runners. It had worked for me, it had worked for countless others. But did I expect all 4 to run PBs, and all of those PBs be under the magic 3 hour mark?

A 52 year old, 2 debut marathon runners, and a self-confessed positive splitter who’s only other sub-3 was on a downhill course? To all run sub-3, in my first season coaching anyone other than myself?

I remember saying to the 45 year old debutant, that if he broke 3 hours on his debut, I should probably write a book on marathon coaching. Ian was feeling great, had hit a 10K PB, and was full of enthusiasm for what he could achieve. I think was trying to help him understand how many things can go wrong in a marathon that just don’t in a 10K. How for some people they can convert their times over shorter distances into the marathon times that al those online calculators tell you that you should be able to do. But for others, being able to convert 10K times and realise their marathon potential can take years.

Well, he did it, so Whilst I’m not in print yet, this blog will serve as the material to be put into that book one day!

Now, I’m fortunate as a running coach in a few ways. I’ve been coached by several great runners and coaches, I’ve seen how they work with individuals as well as how they structure training. But I’ve also coached and mentored people in my day job for over 15 years.

As a coach I try to adapt my style for the individuals needs

We don’t all think about our running the same way, some are more negative (I’m not improving, I don’t think I can run that time, I’m not sure I can runn all these mile repeats at the pace I want to) and for these people it’s my place as coach to help see in them what they can’t see in themselves. Improve their running, but also improve their confidence in their running. For belief in your own ability is key on race day.

Others can over-reach. They are more naturally positive and optimistic. They have that growth mindset which mean’s a huge part of the coaches job is done. They believe they can improve themselves. But sometimes these runners can set themselves up to fail. No if you want to set off in 5K at a flying pace you’ve never held for 5K in your life before. I recommend you o for it. After all it worked for Pre.


What have you got to loose? If it all goes wrong you might hold on to hit a great tiem anyway. And you’ll learn your limits and can try again in a week or twos time.

If you want to set out at a pace in your marathon that you’ve never proven over a half. I’m concerned. Marathons can take a month or more to get over. You simply can’t race one every week at anywhere like your potential. Blowing up in a marathon can add tens of minutes to your finish time. The perceived wisdom is that to get the most out of yourself,  you’ll positive split. But only slightly. Even effort the whole way, with a 1-2 minute slowdown (for the 3 hr runner) as the body gets a bit more pickled towards the end.

The runners wanted to learn

These were people who had all run for several years. But they knew they had more to learn about the marathon and how to prepare for it.  We can all choose to train on our own, perhaps downloading a training plan or buying a book. We may well improve, but we’ll make mistakes and go through several cycles of trying things out and adjusting what we do.

I believe that by working with a coach, being open minded to new ideas and learning from the experience of others bigger improvements can be achieved in less time. I worked hard to explain the theory behind the process, why some of the things we were doing worked. This helped the runners trust in the process, even when they weren’t running as well as they wanted to, or missed key sessions or build up races due to illness.

We put an emphasis on not comparing ourselves to others. Each runner has their own history, ability to improve, amount of rest and sleep they can get, other life things taking their time, energy or causing stress. Yes we’re competitive, but the first person to be better than is your previous self. Do that properly and you’ll perform well against others too.


I once heard that any regular club runner can run the first half of a marathon at a decent pace. It’s the time for the second half we shoudl be interested in:

Ian N 1:24:44  /  1:28:37

Will 1:28:38  /   1:30:04

Ian C 1:26:52   /   1:29:03

Andy 1:27:56   /  1:31:35



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