1. Knowledge - A professional running coach is someone who has studied and continues to study all aspects of the sport in great detail. Being knowledgeable about the sport and how to train for it is how they make their living, so their level of expertise in this area will usually be beyond that of a most runners. The professional running coach focuses on what we should do, and why we do it, and when we should do it, which leaves the runner to spend their energies focused on the actual doing of it.
2. Experience – The frame of reference for a running coach is larger than that of most any single runner, simply because they have seen more situations through all the athletes they have coached. Additionally, coaches are trained (or wired it seems) to analyze the various experiences they have with different athletes and different situation, and it is this analysis of these many and varied experiences that helps them continue to raise their knowledge and frame of reference in the sport.
3. Objectivity – Many runners find that they are too close to their own training and racing to stay completely objective as to what they should or need to do to be effective. But a running coach has the right blend of familiarity and distance necessary to remain objective about the situation. This point has even prompted many coaches to hire a coach themselves to handle their training.
4. Accountability – Having a running coach provides an additional level of accountability that many runners find both motivating and helpful. On days when they are having trouble getting out of bed for scheduled morning run, or are feeling impulsive and considering deviating from the training plan, knowing that they will report in to, and get feedback from, their coach provides a level of accountability that can motivate the runner and help reign in impulsive behavior.
5. Customization – Generic programs found on the internet, or in a book, generated by a computer/app, or used by large charity focused training groups, lack the individual customization that is necessary to help a runner realize their potential and meet their goals. A personal running coach can take into account the strengths and weaknesses of the runner, and make adjustments for the personal situation (work, family, travel, life, race schedule) of the runner. This is something generic programs just can’t do, that often leaves their users scratching their heads, unsure how to best adjust it themselves. The failure rate of runners on generic programs is vastly higher to that of runners using a running coach who has designed for them a custom program.
While there are obviously many additional reasons, many often specific to runners themselves, the 5 reasons list above are the main reasons I believe a runner should hire a running coach, and the reasons I most often hear from the runners themselves when they first contact me.
There are many levels of running coaches. And all have their place in the market for helping runners. Some are professionals that coach as their job and passion and some simply coach part-time or as their hobby, and there are all levels inbetween. But not all coaches are created equal in terms of their ability to help with the 5 reasons listed above. Additionally some coaches have specialties in terms of events, runner ability levels, and/or age groups. Be sure to know what you are getting and ask questions so that what you get matches up to what you want and need from a coach.
I offer a variety of coaching services to distance runners of all ability levels and ages at: