Running Coaches

I posted a while back (probably about a year ago) about my thoughts on coaching and people having coaches.  Long story short, as a collegiate runner at the time, I thought it was great.  Coming from a cross country team that I was NOT forced to do track workouts and NOT forced to make a certain weight or compete inner team like…I full enjoyed the laid back appeal of my coach.

Hard to believe this was 6 months ago...
Hard to believe this was 6 months ago…and one week into cyst recovery

OH the joys of running D3.  Honestly, though I still keep in pretty good contact with both my college coaches and they inspired me to keep running after college.  This post isn’t about giving them all the credit they deserve though, because that would take a few thousand words.

This post is about why I do not think everyone and their mother needs a coach. To me personally, it seems like everyone talks about their coach and how their coach forces you to run harder…you never would have made it out there without HIM (please comment if you have a female coach because I’m curious to find someone who does).  I often feel when I say I’m at the point where I’m uncoached on my blog, people don’t get it.

Well why don’t you have a coach?

Because I’m improving right now without one…because I don’t need external motivation to go out in run…I run almost every morning with no coach telling me…Hollie go run this morning.

I’m not doing speed workouts and even if I was…there are plenty of sources to tell me what goals I need to hit my dreams.

I’m not saying every person should not have a coach. Caitlin and I are on the same boat with this…I think elites obviously should.  I think high schoolers/collegiate obviously should…their running is much different than those going to road races for a good time (ie: me).

I do not think for the average runner that it is necessary to further your running career by having a coach.  I think running basically boils down too: if you train smart and run more…you will improve.  If you aren’t improving, maybe then it’s time to look for a coach.  (or maybe it’s time to change your training first).

If you have a coach, that’s great and I’m happy for you.  If you have an exact mileage, speed you need to be hitting daily with no room for change and thrive off that…well great.

For me I need the flexibility to start off every run, not knowing exactly how far or fast I’ll go.  I wouldn’t mind having a coach but I am not obsessivly looking for one nor do I feel incomplete without one. 

Questions for you:

Do you have a coach?  Do you want a coach?


  1. My coach is female! And she is awesome.

    I think anybody who wants a coach and can afford one should have one. You don’t need to be elite, or lacking motivation, or whatever, just interested in getting support for your training, whatever that means to you. Personally, my coach is great for stopping me from overtraining or doing too many races. Not everybody needs that, but it’s a huge benefit for me.

    I think this is the same for any pursuit – outside, expert advice can help you out. I know somebody who is a writing coach who helps people get published. I mean, why not? If it’s something you care about and you have the money to get assistance from somebody who will help you become more successful or enjoy it more, go for it.

    1. That makes me so happy to read about a female coach. I think my general opinion of the blogging world is that everyone and their mother needs a coach. Of course, some benefit..but some don’t. I’m deciding for myself whether I would want to go back to a coach.

  2. I’ve had male and female coaches, and I definitely prefer being coached by guys. In my experience, they’ve held me to higher standards and pushed me more (and weren’t catty and didn’t play mind games). That’s not to say female coaches aren’t as good, but overall, I respond better to male coaches.

    I agree with Victoria–if you want a coach and can afford one, then you should get one. Obviously, these are loaded contingents that are based on a variety of factors. One of my main reasons for joining a triathlon team with several coaches is because I’m so new to the sport, so I need that structure, guidance, and feedback. As I gain more experience, that may change, but for now, I definitely need that support system.

  3. Well, I had no-so-great coaching in high school, an awesome coach in college (awesome as far as DI coaches go, most seem to have at least one major downfall!) until he left for another school, then I was uncoached for a good 9 years before I enlisted my best coaches yet- my brothers! When I’m training for a marathon, they coach me. When I’m just racing a bunch of 5ks I don’t work with anyone. I use my brothers for my 2 workouts a week. The rest of my schedule is up to me. It’s helpful because I tend to overwork and second guess my own pacing and I like putting that part on someone else. 🙂 Takes the stress away!

    I think a big problem comes when people think they NEED a coach to be better. Not true at all. Also, it bugs me when people blame their coach when they don’t perform well. A coach is a guide, but they can’t do the work for you.

    I don’t think everyone needs a coach. It’s great to learn to listen to your body. This is sort of like the garmin or no-garmin debate. 🙂

    1. I remember you saying that. I think I could benefit from getting some good/solid training advice and just having someone to check into periodically. Sadly, I need to figure out my primary location first, though a lot of that could be done on the internet.

  4. This makes me miss doing the kind of running you do: for FUN and for YOU. Running has been such a chore lately and I’m really missing it. But somewhere the spark went away and I’m trying my damnest to get it back. I should just let it naturally happen I suppose!

    You are one of the people I don’t think needs a coach. You’re motivated, driven & educated about running and your goals all on your own. Save the money 🙂

  5. I’ve had male and female coaches. My high school coach was female and she was great. Tough, demanding, but still a nice enough person to get along with. My college coaches were men and were also great. I don’t think I would necessarily want a coach at this time since I’d always be comparing them to my old coaches… plus I’m cheap and don’t want to pay.

  6. Well you know I have a coach as a collegiate runner but you also know that I’m happy to be free from all of the pressure that comes with it. I definitely think certain people benefit from it more than others. I’m not one of them. I’m much more self-motivating and when a coach is there telling me what to do, I tend to crack under the pressure and not improve. I like going into things on my own terms with no expectations and I don’t think I would ever pay to have someone coach me. If I want to run, great, if I don’t, that’s great too. I wish I had your situation for cross country (and track for me)… it seems like an environment I would have thrived in a lot more- more support, less “you must do this” attitudes.

  7. Our last half marathon/marathon training program for my run club (associated with a store) was led by two ladies who coached it. Both are actual coaches, but I think different from the type of coach you’re talking about as they were mostly dealing with first-time marathoners or recreational runners trying to PR, rather than coaching someone who is possibly going elite or would win local races, etc.

    I agree that most people do not “need” a coach- kids, teens, and college students on a team DO. Obviously they need the motivation but they also need someone to guide them because a lot of them didn’t grow up with running parents.

    I think mainly adults need accountability. We have coaches here who coach Couch to 5K, things like that, but I think the people join and pay the $50 to work out with the group mainly to have some structure and to stay accountable, and because they don’t know a lot of runners and need friends to run with, advice on running. For those of us who blog or can get on the computer and research all the time, we can figure a lot of this out :). I paid for the half marathon training program last year but $50 is pretty negligible, lol. Most of the private coaches out there cost hundreds or thousands of dollars and I just don’t feel like it’s worth it unless you’re shooting to become elite or going to the Olympics, etc.

    1. I could see that I suppose. A lot of people need some sort of accountably which certainly makes sense. I am tired of the everyone needs a coach or else debate though. ha ha.

      1. Oh yeah, I don’t like that debate either! I wouldn’t pay big bucks for a coach. Our training programs go over great though, it’s $50 but you get the training emailed to you each week, all your questions answers, a free tech shirt, etc. But I know that’s not the same thing you’re talking about as in having a coach. I feel like a lot of people who want to have coaches could get the same benefits from something like the programs we offer.

  8. I completely agree with you. I didnt run in high school or college, and picked it up as a pastime a few years ago. After I got more competitive, I got a coach for a while, mostly for speedwork purposes. I ended up getting injured, and when I came back from it didn’t go back to my coach. I started seeing major improvement on my own. It’s been two years now, and I’ve thought about going back to him, but at this point see no reason to change anything that doesn’t need changing – I am not an elite nor am I competing on a collegiate level. I run for fun, and to see how far I can push myself, and have bee doing really well. I’ve found that I am my own coach. Maybe I’m lucky that I can motivate myself on a daily basis to get up at 4:30 AM and go run or go hit the track or go to bridge repeats in the rain, but it’s luck that I’m not taking for granted!

    1. We are on the same page with that! I’m still improving without a coach now, so there isn’t a need for me to get one either. 4:30am is no joke, that is awesome. 🙂

  9. No coach and I never will! I think it will take the fun out of it! I used smart coach training for my half in March and I always ran the distance it told me to and would try to beat the pace it said (brilliant, I know). Then for trail training I was like okay run hills once a week, run a trail once a week, play soccer when you have a game, and do whatever you want (running or lifting or whatever) on the other days. I really loved that schedule!

  10. I started running almost 2 years ago after I quit D1 swimming. I had absolutely no idea what I was doing and I was fine with that. This past fall I trained for a marathon and had a miserable experience. Since I was scheduled for run the NYC Marathon this year I thought I wanted to get a coach to kind of show me the ropes and so I would be properly trained. After the marathon was over I would stop working with them. Well I ended up meeting a coach that lives only about 30 min away via twitter and he offered to “help” me train for my spring half marathon. I don’t pay for the coaching so I love having his guidance. Coaching can be insanely expensive though and if I had to pay for it I would only do it for a marathon primarily for how much I would learn.

    1. I used to swim as well actually. What events did you swim?

      I’m glad you have had such a good experience with coaching and that it helped you. You are right, so many coaches are extremely expensive and I often wonder if it’s “worth the hype”?

  11. It is definitely up to the person and the goals for whether or not you need a coach. ALSO, sometimes stupid people who just do not train smart and get injured badly (merp, me.) probably should invest in a coach if you’re looking to get time goals. If I start running again, I’ve read so many things about running in the down time to realize how STUPID I was while I was running. Also, I think the more freedom you have with goals and just running in general calms your mind AND your body down… Decreasing the risk of injury.

  12. So far, I have not used the services of a running coach and have been able to improve my distance and time on my own with the help of some seasoned running friends, who have been great mentors. One of the things I love about running is that those who do it are almost always willing to mentor new and up and coming runners. That has been my experience and I try to pay it forward.

    I am certain that I will hit a point where I am not seeing the improvement in speed and distance that I would like and will consider the services of a coach. Hollie, I think your point is a good one, which is that it is an individual decision and not something that the average runner needs.

    1. Thanks Steve and I certainly agree with everything you have said. I think there will come to a point that perhaps we do need a coach but if that point is not now and we are continuing, I suppose there isn’t a need.

  13. My coach always says that his goal is to make himself obsolete. He wants his athletes to learn to be self-sufficient so that they don’t HAVE to have a coach. His thoughts are that there will always be more clients so no need to retain people who have been able to learn enough to train on their own. That being said, he’s not getting ready of me any time soon! lol

    1. That seems like a coach I would benefit from. I don’t think I could have an intense coach that would be very type A and aggressive. I would need a more laid back one as well.

      1. Yeah, Dai pushes his athletes but only as hard and as far as they are willing to go. He’s also ALL about making training work for you rather than you working for training – life balance and all of that. AND he’s super honest with me. He’s been really good for Justin and I, but in different ways. I definitely couldn’t work with an aggressive coach. I would totally recoil and not want to do any of the workouts! lol

  14. Personally I don’t want a coach. I’d love some guidance, but I can find that through conversations with awesome runners/other athletes. I don’t need a coach for what I am doing right now. At least for my running. I know what works for me and I am good about pushing/or holding back when I need to. I had coaches all through high school and college, and I owe them A LOT. but at the same time, it was me doing the work and at the end of the day I had to use my own instincts on things.

    With my Triathlon training (and being the rookie I am) a coach would probably help. BUT, I ask for help from people all the time. If I don’t know something I ask, so I don’t think I am completely missing out or failing by not having one.

  15. This was a great post and I could not agree more with you! I think that some people automatically think that having a coach is their immediate solution. Sometimes I think people just need to dig a bit deeper within themselves and they’d be just fine! My husband has kind of “coached” me the last few years. I’m very hesitant to use that word because I write all my own training plans, research my own workouts (he just fine tunes them if needed) and I’m also MUCH more likely to get up for an am run than he ever is. If anything he just talks me off my “crazy runner” ledge and that’s about it. Which, I think that can be found even in a group of friends.

  16. Just wanted to give a shout-out to three of the most incredible, strong women in my life – my head cross country coach, track coach, and assistant track/xc coach! All three have pushed me to become a better runner and a better person, to hold myself accountable for my own actions, and to pursue my goals in all aspects of life. My cross country coach, Chris Daymont, was one of the first woman coaches for one of the first collegiate women’s running programs, and has been going strong for 37 (38?) years now. I am so impressed with her, and with the two coaches who she’s brought up, our assistant coach and head track coach. I know that because of these women, I have learned enough discipline and hard work to not need a coach when I graduate, because of all the knowledge and persistence they’ve instilled in me. I also know that during my long 10k races on the track, I would not have gotten as fast as I have without turning over all of my trust and fears and thoughts to my coach, and let her hold on to all of those while I simply run. When she tells me my lap splits, and they are faster than I’ve ever run before, and I start to get nervous, she tells me with such certainty that I can keep going that pace that all hesitancy leaves. In that sense, I need a coach. I need someone who has pushed me to my limits before and knows what I look like when I’m running strong, and can tell me without hesitation that I’m doing right. I will miss having that when I graduate. But I also know that I don’t need a coach to be motivated, or do my own training or racing, because they have taught me so much that I could probably coach other runners!

    1. That is so inspiring to read, thank you for sharing. Often times, you hear of male coaches but not as frequently with female. I am glad you have found a group of coaches that have mentored and helped you so much!

  17. Kind of how I am in regards to wedding planning … if you have the motivation to do it yourself, then do it! I, for one, probably would benefit from a coach for running because I have no motivation. Aka I suck at making myself do anything!!

  18. I agree with you- I can motivate myself and improve without a coach. As a coach, I find most of my clients are either new to running and have no idea what to do, OR seasoned runners that need accountability and are not great at motivating themselves, especially at motivating themselves to do any sort of speed work. It’s been rewarding to work with both sides!

  19. I think coaches are imperative to improvement, especially to people just starting out in a sport, but even long-time athletes. No matter how much reading you do and how many workouts you find online, you will never have an outside source viewing what you’re doing as a runner. A lot of the times I don’t realize things about my form, or my breathing, or the way I’m pacing myself without my coach telling me. Yes, one of your friends or teammates can as well, but that can get competitive.I don’t think anyone needs a coach for ‘motivation’ — another person telling you to do something isn’t going to make you want to do it; motivation is intrinsic to the person.

    I wasn’t a good runner until I got a coach. I think when I’m through collegiate running, I’m still going to need to join a road runners club in order to have that external help. Running is completely individual, but just having a guiding force can be so helpful and can contribute a lot to your success — especially when that force has been trained in what you’re doing.

    I also didn’t even think about male or female coaches! I’ve never been coached by a female so I’m not sure if it would be different. I think as a whole our society tends to respect women less than men, though, so I’d probably naturally feel that way about a female coach.

    1. I often hear a lot of people talking coaching and it’s almost always about a male coach. It baffles me to no end. I think certain people can benefit from coaching, but in all honesty, you aren’t going to find that sort of coach (like yours in college) in a road runners club. That will be more of an one on one thing…which is all fine too! 🙂

  20. I am excited to have a coach for my first marathon, mostly because I like the support of someone who just knows more about running than I do, and because I get coached for free. However, I don’t think I will have a coach after I finished my first marathon. There are 1000s of training plans out there and so much to read about running. If you have questions, you can pretty sure find the answers on the intranet, so why spent money on a coach?

  21. In the fall, I had a coach and it became too much accountability. I wasn’t running for fun or for me, and I didn’t like that anymore. It reminded me far too much of why I fell so out of love with competitive rowing. Now, I don’t have a coach, but I do have a mentor who coaches others. He’s a running buddy who I email every once in a while, to bounce ideas off, and to ask weird/random running questions from time to time. Definitely much preferred for me. I’m not looking to be elite and there’s no reason why I should need a coach, but having someone who has been around the running bend on my side is definitely something I’m grateful for.
    Your running and views on coaching have aged and matured as you have. Don’t think you could go wrong one way or the other. You know where you want and need to go and what you should be doing to get there. In the end, that’s all you need.

  22. I wouldn’t want a personal running coach (I agree about liking flexibility) but I think it would be cool if my running club had a coach we could consult. And my coach in high school track was male, but we had a female assistant coach for one year. Our coaches were really just whoever felt like coaching us though, haha. The assistant coach was a preschool teacher in the same county as my high school who liked to run while our main coach was a team member’s dad who used to run in college.

  23. Both of my college coaches were female! Coach Jay at Bates and Coach Kathy at W&M (except we called her Coach Newbs because her last name was Newberry…she loved it….lol anyway). I agree, in college it was necessary – especially because I was a new runner and had no idea wtf I was doing. I never got injured under them and I spent my entire freshman year PRing in every race. It was baller. I’ve thought about getting a coach post-surgery but honestly….nobody knows my body better than I do, and now that I’ve worked as a coach at CTS, well, I kind of know how to train myself. I don’t think having a coach is necessary and I think it’s really important for runners to experiment on their own, and really get in tune with what specifically works for them. It also actively engages you in learning about your sport, while having a coach is much more passive in that respect. On the other hand, after working with CTS it’s incredible how much people – even everyday people- improve with a coach – and I’m thinking those people whose performance skyrockets, their the ones who work 60 hours a week, have families, and just don’t have time to do the research on their own. Which I guess is legit, in that respect having a coach is a way to reach your running goals without sacrificing family or work or whatever. I think it can also be helpful for new runners – I coached one of my friends when she was just starting out and it helped her figure out how to train without getting hurt, how to get faster etc – and now she doesn’t need it anymore. BUT regardless, I ultimately think that the people who teach you most are your peeps in the running community – for example I’ve gotten a lot of ideas about training from you, from the runner guy I used to date, from a local elite that I’m friends with – they generally know you really well so I feel like that kind of info is more valuable at times – or at least for the average runner – than a coach would be.

  24. I have had tons of coaches but never run coaches (although coaches who made me run- a lot lol). Maybe one day I would like one but right now I have improved on my own.

  25. I do not have a coach. I do not think I’d benefit from a coach now.

    I had a coach (a SHE!) in high school, though when I was debating on running in college, they were both men at the 2 schools that were talking to me.

    It’s funny because when I tried to run again for personal time and races, I couldn’t push myself. I thought the only way I’d be able to run again was if I had a coach to push me. I gave up on running again until a couple years later and somehow found it in me to run again with a purpose (to run 13.1).

    Now that I’ve gotten serious about goals, I find it much easier to push myself. I tend to schedule runs and classes with a purpose (easy run, recovery spin class, crossfit for core, track workout geared toward my weakness, etc.) and I can’t imagine having a coach. Right now, I think I’m my own best coach. And I love not having to measure up to somebody else telling me what to do or when to do it.

  26. I am in complete agreement here. in high school and college or for elites coaches are a great thing. But if you are doing it for the love of running and have no reason to have someone telling you what to do I think the best thing is to do it on your own and ask for advice when needed. To be honest I sometimes think you should even question your coaches. I mean no one person can know everything especially when it comes to running because it has to do with what your body is capable each day. Only you can feel that. I also sort of wonder at the people who run the exact same distance everyday… I will leave that statement out there because I don’t want to call anyone out.

    I love your running mindset and like I said this week you have taught me a lot this year!

  27. Like you, my internal motivation is more than enough…a coach could tell me how to run smarter or improve faster, but so can a quick Internet search if that’s knowledge I was looking for. I really like seeing what I can do on my own. I don’t really ever seeing myself getting to the point where a coach becomes necessary…

    And man, in high school track, I always weaseled out of coach workouts. 20x400s? Please please please just 12!? Thanks!

  28. I had two female assistant coaches in high school and college (one each). In the case of college, she definitely outranked the main coach and should have had his job. But I digress….suffice to say Coach Amanda and Coach Kerrie were AWESOME!

    I don’t have a coach myself – I pretty much just have my dad who’s also big into running so he’s the one who I get all my ‘coaching’ advice from when I need it. I think if you’ve done XC or track in school – a coach isn’t necessary. That coaching experience from school gives people a great jumping off point as to how to train for and attain their goal. If you’re looking to become an elite or attain a specific and tough goal….possibly (definitely yes for the elite).

    I’m training to qualify for Boston and while I don’t have a coach (Dad excluded), I did pay for a personalized training routine/schedule from a USA Track & Field certified coach (even though I could do a good schedule on my own and probably attain my goal). The schedule that was personalized for me addresses my IT issues and weak ankles and also fixes the fact that I will overtrain on my own without guidance (hence the IT issues).

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