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Running seems like easiest sport on the planet. You learned how to do it when you were about two years old and you’ve been practicing ever since. It burns more calories than almost any other form of exercise. You don’t need to sign up for a class or join a gym or even watch a YouTube video. It requires very little in the way of “gear,” you basically put on a pair of running shoes, your favorite shorts and top then hit the road. Run your first mile and then two, run a 5k, then a 10k… you can figure out what to do about those blisters and IT Bands, so onward you march…half marathon, full marathon! Yay you! What’s next? And what’s after that?

Did someone forget to remind you that running is addictive?…

Hiring a running coach is different for each person, as you would expect it to be. Knowing when it’s time to get another person involved is as individual as your running plan itself. There are many things to consider such as your goals, your “issues,” your location, your budget and your background.


My client Iain Jones who is training for his first 100 mile Western States qualifier (Rio Del Lago) says,  Coaching is not an opportunity to show off how much you know; it’s a partnership to learn and develop together.”

I have been coaching youth, adult runners and endurance athletes for over a decade. The kind of runners that I find need coaching are those who struggle to put together a training formula that gives them the result they are looking for. Some of the best running coaches have been successful runners themselves. There is definitely something to be said for hiring a running coach who not only has the academic understanding of the sport, but also the practical experience.

Joe working with one of his athletes.

My husband Joe Sanders is a former triathlete/duathlete who competed at the professional level at a time when endurance athletics were still taking off. He ran his first competitive running event at 12 years old. In my opinion he is one of the most knowledgeable run coaches I have ever met. (I KNOW…that’s a big statement! But I challenge anyone to talk running with him.) He is also the Founder of Smartrunning in the Bay Area. I asked him to offer his thoughts on why someone should consider working with a run coach. He replied with the following list:

  • Help Motivate
  • Offer Accountability
  • Express Knowledge
  • Assist with Goal Setting
  • Educate in areas of Injury Prevention
  • Offer insight into Running Mechanics/Form

I then asked him what qualities he thinks MAKE a good run coach.

He replied with the following:

  • Experience in the Sport (i.e. they have competed)
  • Patience
  • Understanding of Physical Strengths and Weakness
  • Ability to Progress a Client to Reach Run Goals
  • Knowledgeable of Running Mechanics/Form

According to my Google Search there are over 8,730,000 run coaches in the United States. When I searched Top Run Coaches, the number narrowed to 359,000.

Some reputable organizations such as USA Track and Field, as well as Road Runners Club of America, provide a database of run coaches around the country to help guide you to running success. In the event you decide you are ready to take the next step and hire someone to coach you to running success, here are some points to consider:

What are my short and long term running goals?

It’s important to have a realistic starting point. Don’t bite off more than you can chew right out of the gate. Ease into your season and plan your races accordingly. If you have never run a ½ marathon, don’t start with one. Start with a 5k or 10k then work your way up.

Am I flexible enough to be coached?

A big part of hiring a coach is to have someone guide you toward achieving your goals. This means being open to feedback and how you can improve as an athlete. Don’t have an “I know everything” attitude. Running is a sport of patience. It takes time to build your run fitness.

Am I a person who needs accountability in my training?

If you have dreams of doing great things with your running but don’t do the work, then you won’t get anywhere. A big reason for hiring a coach is to have someone check your progress. So YOU have to do the work!

Am I an avid reader/researcher? How far can that get me?

The internet opens up a world of information. You can Google just about anything when it comes to run coaching and find lots of articles to satisfy your questions. However, some of those articles have been written by people who may not be experts in the field of running.  Nor may they have the practical or academic experience to really know what it means to run or train properly. Having a good coach to filter information through is very helpful.

What are the best options for hiring a coach?

This is where you get to determine what is going to work for you.  What time do you have to give a coach each week? What’s your budget? Do you want an online coach or one you see weekly/biweekly/monthly?

Bree Lambert enjoying some miles on her local trails.

Hiring a coach is a very personal thing. It’s like selecting a dentist, doctor or hairdresser. This is someone you will check in with and who will get to know you. So be prepared to build a relationship of transparency.

“A coach helps see the macro picture based on their own experience and that of their other clients. While everyone’s circumstances are unique, they are especially qualified to spot anomalies and areas for improvement. This may be completely opposite recommendations – in my case, pushing me harder than I would have done on my own; for others, it may reining them back.”   -Iain Jones

The best coaches are those who get to know you and will want to develop a program that speaks to your strengths and weaknesses. A good coach will know how to progress you without injury and will also take what you have in terms of ability and make you better. Ultimately, it’s up to you to do the work.

So evaluate your reasons as noted and when you are ready to make the commitment… find a good coach who can help you be the runner you desire to be.

For more information about run coaching visit:

Email: [email protected]

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