Leadership in Running Fitness Course Review

I’d been thinking about how I could get into run coaching for a while. I think it was the first time I picked up the Jack Daniels Running Formula book that I thought “this is really interesting!”

I love the science and numbers side of improving running fitness. Admittedly I’m very analytical. But I wondered how I could get into coaching with absolutely no background in running other than a year or two experimenting with training techniques on myself!

A bit of research on the England Athletics website showed that it’s quite a process to get into coaching. I found the myriad of courses a little bit confusing and it put me off for a while. Fast forward to summer 2014 and I still had something in the back of my mind whispering that I was interested in getting started on the road to coaching.

Anyway, I ended up booking onto the Leadership in Running Fitness Course here in Newcastle earlier this month. The course is a mixture of classroom sessions and out door practical sessions.

The course cost me personally £150 but it’s possible to pay a reduced fee of £130 with a club affiliation. Another common option is for running clubs to send members on the course for free.

I didn’t pursue either of the cheaper routes as it was a bit of a spur of the moment decision for me to take the plunge and I didn’t have time to speak to my club. I also just wanted to go into it “eyes wide open” with no real idea whether I’d do anything with it.

From a selfish point of view I thought I might learn a lot I could use with my own personal training!

The aim of the course is to give the student a good base of learning and understanding so that you are in a position to confidently lead a running session.

The subjects covered are as follows –

• Barriers to participation in running
• Session planning
• Pre session safety, warm up, group organisation and management
• Stretching and mobility
• Fitness factors, energy systems, different sessions
• Delivering a session
• Goal setting – SMARTER
• Injuries and footwear
• Role of the leader

The course involves one full day and there is no assessment. Overall I found the course to be interesting and useful but perhaps a little crammed into the time allotted.

For me personally the Practical sessions were the most important as these really put me out of my comfort zone as I have no background in teaching at all. I have a lot of experience public speaking in a business environment so the necessity to be confident in front of a group was not really an issue.

The issue which caused my nervousness is that I’m not an authority in this area…although maybe I do myself a disservice.

During the Warm Up practical I struggled a little as I didn’t have a variety of warm up techniques in mind to keep the session flowing. I’m not the best thinking on the fly and prefer to plan everything in detail in advance. Also, I have to hold my hand up and say that I am the runner who warms up by jogging for 5 minutes and that’s it! From this point of view I got a lot from the training in terms of takeaways I can use myself!

Same goes for stretching, I just don’t do it – at least not enough. So it was good to cover again the importance of stretching post session.

Being most interested in fitness factors, energy systems and different sessions I thought the training was light in this area and I came away thinking that the course is predominantly aimed at training leaders who will mainly lead Beginners groups. This is not really what I want to do, being more interested in coaching runners 1 on 1 and setting goal specific training plans. I guess it confirmed that I do know quite a bit already in this area simply by having read books alone. Maybe I just need to put some of it into practice and give it a go.

In the afternoon we did the “Delivering a Session” practical and this pulled together pretty much everything we learned on the course. I did really enjoy this and I did feel confident that this is something I am capable of doing so definitely food for thought.

I am aware that I need to put into use the skills I learned on this course before I can realistically think about progressing to the Coach in Running Fitness course which is much more involved – 2 days with assessments on a third day.

A big plus point was the chance to meet a lot of other runners on the course. Everybody had their own background and reason for being there and it was nice to meet some new faces to talk to about running and bounce ideas off.

It made me realise that I exist in my own little bubble in the north east running scene – I train alone and pop up at races every now and again. But I don’t really get involved at the club and I’d like to get myself “out there” more in future.

But to be completely honest I am still not 100% sure what I will do with the course.

The next step is to get my Disclosure and Barring Service check complete and obtain my license and take it from there.

The great thing is that the following benefits are given to all registered Run England group leaders (registration is free) –

• Public liability insurance cover for the group
• Services for group members
• Marketing tools to assist you in setting up your group and attracting new members
• Help and support as needed
• Discounts

So once I’m registered I may take the plunge and try to set up a running group!

Watch this space.

If you are interested in reading my deeper thoughts on running and specifically how to improve over the 5km distance please take a look at my new website blog at http://www.run5kfaster.com and subscribe to the Newsletter!


My new blog website launched!

Just a quick one to confirm that my new website has been launched and there’s a welcome blog posted!

The blog is called Run 5k Faster and I’ll be writing advice and tips taking from my experience over the last few years. I’ll not go into detail here as the welcome post explains all with a vlog as well!

Check it out on http://www.run5kfaster.com and join the mailing list for regular updates and much more!

I’d love to know what you think!


My new running blog is live!

Week 6 training diary

A strange week last week so really keen to get back to some progressive training. The ankle issue is all but gone and I’m feeling like the cold has cleared apart from a lingering throat. So plan is to get back in, suck it and see…

Week 6 diary

Plan – 35mins Easy

Just kept it easy on the usual Kenton Dene. Nothing untoward following downtime last week and did 4.3 miles in the allotted time, slowing down in the last 5 minutes to enjoy the sun set…


The sunsets can be amazing on Kenton Dene...

Plan – rest, cycle to work

Had an all day meeting at work and evening meal to attend so no point forcing something into what was a tiring day. Cycled instead the approximate 4 miles to and from the meeting. Got the benefit of this view cycling over the Tyne Bridge…


View from the Tyne Bridge heading to Gateshead side...

Plan – 20min threshold

Was debating cancelling this session as I’d cycled to work again and the sore throat still wasn’t completely gone. In the end I did it deciding on the Kenton Dene loop on pavements. Felt ok and averaged 6m 2s miling / HR 181bpm. All in all fitness still there. Just hope to see the back of this throat and feel 100% and like I’m not doing more harm than good. Or maybe I’m just back to a “glass half full” mentality!

Plan – rest

Plan – 35mins Easy

Feeling much better but wanted to keep this well in my recovery zone so I went for pace and around 8min 33s miles. Cut the run to 30mins and probably averaged a bit quicker and av. HR <150. Got what I wanted as felt energised after the run ready for a harder XC session in the morning.

Plan – 30min threshold (XC session)

Planned a session starting with a hard first mile settling into an easier tempo run (av. HR ~173) and looking to mimic 3/4 of a XC race but slightly below full race intensity.

Got the first hard mile in but finished it dreading another 24mins! My HR was 180-185 so slowed the pace down to around 6.30 miling hoping to settle down. Was a tough session all in all but I managed to keep focused and finish off strongly.

It would be easy to be concerned that the XC races proper will be another 5 – 10 minutes of pain but I prefer to leave an element of unknown in my racing, a chance to run with the heart and see what I’m made of when it gets really tough.

Had a nice afternoon out on the bike.

Plan – rest

Got out on the bike again, nothing too strenuous. Loving my new drop bars and brakes fitted by my mate Karl down Cycle Hub!


Running ~18 miles
Cycling ~30 miles

An ok week, around 18 miles and pleasingly the sore throat has gone and finished the week strongly. Looking forward to an even stronger week next week before final preparations for the first XC fixture at Cramlington the week after.

If you haven’t already, please check out my new running blog http://www.run5kfaster.com. I’ll be posting weekly about my thoughts on Running and training to improve!

Week 5 training diary

I’ve had a great few weeks with a new 5k pb and also knocking 20 seconds from my previous best at the Farringdon XC Relays. Unfortunately the latter came at a cost as I damaged my left ankle jumping the stream. Luckily it didn’t affect the race but it did flare up a few hours later. Need to take precautions this week, I don’t want to do anything stupid since I have a good few weeks before the opening North East Harrier League fixture at Cramlington.

Week 5 diary

Plan – 35mins easy

Needed to change plan here as the ankle still didn’t feel right so I took the opportunity to get back in the gym after what seems like 6 months away. I decided to do 45mins cardio total. I got on the rowing machine for 15 minutes first up. I really enjoy this piece of kit and I’d love one in the house. That’ll not happen! The only thing that stops me is saddle sore. I monitored my heart rate and noticed its a perfect “easy” session in terms of intensity but really works the legs and upper body. Then I moved onto the exercise bike and did 30mins at ~150bpm. I sweated buckets and overall felt great afterwards.

Plan – 22mins lactate threshold run

Again decided to change plans. I felt ready to give the ankle a go but decided to get back on the pavements to avoid too much twisting and turning. Felt absolutely great cardio wise and was running 7.36 – 7.50 miles in my easy zone. Only noticed ankle now and again. Nothing major but will continue to be careful. Thinking maybe do a threshold on the treadmill to ensure no chance of going over the ankle.

Plan – 35 mins easy

Woke up with a dodgy throat and not feeling great. Cycled home from work and left it at that. This week is turning into an easy recovery week as the ankle and now the throat are conspiring against me and I have no reason to do anything other than not worry and play it by ear.

Thursday – rest

Friday – rest

Leadership in Running Fitness course

Sunday – rest


Running ~3.5 miles
Cycling ~4 miles
Gym 45mins

As far as training goes a write off really and will reassess training plan to get back into it next week. Hoping to feel 100% again and get back to where I left off with no real issues. As it stands I still feel run down and can only be patient and rest. Unfortunately the lingering sore throat, ear ache and runny nose prevails at present.

The importance of patience

Admittedly I’m one of the least patient people I know. That said I learnt a lot about the importance of patience when it comes to running and improving as a runner earlier this year when I had to take a month out due to ill health.

I really missed running during that month out. But because I was forced out and had no other option but to rest it taught me a lesson in patience. There was no other way…

This month I got the 5k pb and sub 18 I was looking for and followed that up with a good performance at the Farringdon relays. Unfortunately I jarred my ankle jumping the stream at Farringdon and I’ve now come down with a throaty cold.

This is a much better test of whether I’m a more patient runner than before because I could still go out and run if I really wanted to. I could risk the ankle and persuade myself that feeling slightly run down is par for the course.

I’m not going to do that though, because I’ve learnt the importance of patience. I’d much rather have a rest recovery week now and get back fresh than push on and risk weeks or longer on the sidelines.

I get the impression that there is a general paranoia in the running community generally about missing sessions etc and a gross overestimation about how much fitness is lost. I think this is a state of mind (i.e. paranoia) and is linked to fear.

I am of the mind to think that a balance is key. I prefer to look at this from the angle of wondering how much more successful Dave Bedford and Ron Hill could have been if they had not overtrained and battled on through illness time and again. Tim Noakes discusses this in detail in Lore of Running if you are interested in this area.

Now where’s the Vitamin C?

Farringdon XC Relays – race report

Coming down the first hill, round the corner into the slightly wooded bit. Nobody in front (close), couldn’t hear anybody behind. It’s getting tough already. But a smile inside. This is what I want to do!

Our first two runners Matt Nicholson and Michael Hedley had done an amazing job. I’d been a bit nervous because I knew they would. Meaning I’d be in the lions den, trying to defend an exciting position against top runners. We have a bit of a joke in the club that nobody knows who we are. As Michael came over the brow of the hill with 2 other runners the official thought it was 3 Sunderland Harriers. I think he was 5th.

“It’s Jesmond” I shouted over and took my position.

I’d deliberately left the Garmin at home again. No need for it for 1.8 miles and I wanted to employ the “just keep pushing” tactics again. I started pretty strongly, being taken over by one Sunderland Harrier but overtaking another. I didn’t see anybody else until after the stream.

Last time I was here I ran through the stream. This time I had already decided I was going to clear it. Clear it I did but not without a jarring landing which I felt in the left ankle. I was congratulated by a spectator on the technique but couldn’t help think it was sarcastic. Maybe that was just my negativity at having nearly put myself out of the race. On I went.

At this point I was overtaken by at least two. One was the recent winner of the ten miler and a Morpeth Harrier. I didn’t consider trying to follow, I was in survival mode, knowing the sting in the tail was to come.

I was thinking I wasn’t going much faster than 2012. It gave me the nudge I needed to get it over with. I don’t think I did too badly up the hills. I wasn’t so impressed with how I came down them. Heaving for air was slowing the stride and making it somewhat inefficient.

I’m always grateful for any support. The marshalls were great, as always going above and beyond with the encouragement. It was great also to have the final shout from our skipper Michael to finish off with a bit of a flourish.

I haven’t got a clue how I’ve done. To be honest I’m not too fussed. I’m just really happy to be competing at the business end of a race! This is what I want to be doing more often!

Well done to Chris Heaps who brought the team home despite still recovering from injury.

Time to ice this ankle…


Good to be back at Farringdon XC relays

Thoughts on Farringdon XC Relays

I last ran the Farringdon XC Relays in 2012. It was pretty much my first competitive run for Jesmond. It was like being at school again! The nerves, the excitement…

I surprised myself that day. I felt like I went off like a rocket. I was running scared. I felt like I was being chased by an axe murderer. Not really knowing the course I just went as hard as I could.

I didn’t worry about the stream. I wasn’t thinking ahead to the final hill at the end. Just going as hard as I could.

I’ll never forget when I did get to the final climb I was praying for the finish line. But I was shouting and swearing at myself all the way up. There was only one spectator in ear shot who must have been a bit miffed.


Final push to the end with support from M. Hedley, Farringdon 2012

After crossing the finishing line I was spent. Lungs burning, cramping up. But I felt great, I’d given my all.

10 minutes 36 seconds was my finishing time…

I’ll be going all out to beat that tomorrow!

Week 4 training diary

It’s a great feeling ticking off the first of my targets with the sub 18min 5k and now I turn my attention to my next goal of qualifying for the medium pack in the North East Harrier League. This has been a goal of mine since I first pulled on my racing vest and ran my first NEHL fixture at Cramlington in 2012. The criteria for medium pack was formerly Top 30 in the 12/13 season but it then moved to Top 40 last season. It’s changing again this season to Top 10% I believe which will mean field size becomes a factor. Anyway, I’ve learned with experience to focus on the controllable and that is my own performance. I believe if I can develop my abilities across the country over the next few weeks I’ll be in shape to seriously tackle this goal. With that in mind I’ll be moving almost exclusively to training offroad over the coming weeks starting this one. That’s important for the cost of running is higher off-road and you need to get completely accustomed to that. I also need to plan some hill sessions as strength on the hills is the icing on the cake in XC.


New running target!

Week 4 diary

Plan – 35min easy (grass)

My main training ground is Kenton Dene (see short video below). I’m pretty happy to have this on my door step. In an ideal world it would be a little bigger and have more undulations but overall lucky to have it a stone’s throw from my front door. Nothing much to report other than I received my new Garmin HRM so was able to control the session to my “easy” zone. Logged just over 4 miles in 35 mins and fairly standard.

Plan – 20min threshold (grass)

This will be my “bread and butter” threshold session. I’m happy with 20mins and looking to average ~180-185bpm for the session. I was able to get my HR up fairly quickly but struggled a little to maintain it. Third mile felt a bit testing. I ran about 3.3 miles for the session. First 3 mile splits were ~5.52, 6.04, 6.09. Really pleased with the pace and if I can keep this a consistent session, and maybe one that starts to feel easier, it bodes well.

Plan – 30min recovery (grass)

Just took it really easy on Kenton Dene. Ran just over 4 miles in 35mins. Nice and easy. Spent the run thinking about the Farringdon XC Relays and how much I’m looking forward to running there again.
Plan – rest, cycle to work

Friday – rest

Farringdon XC Relays

Leg 3, 10mins 10s, joint 50th in senior men results.

See race report.


Running ~15 miles
Cycling ~10 miles

Pretty quiet week ended with a good result at Farringdon relays but unfortunately I’ve jarred my left ankle so I’ll need to rest a few days and get out on the bike to tick over in the meantime.

In other news I have been working on a new blog website run5kfaster.com which I hope to properly get going in the next couple of weeks. I will be writing about my experiences and ideas on how to run faster over the 5k distance. Check it out!

If you have any comments or questions please let me know.

Week 3 training diary

Still only the 3rd week back after holidays and straight into races which isn’t ideal but need to see it as a good chance to increase fitness. I missed the Jesmond Joggers Club Championships in 2013 so was looking forward to competing with the lads from the club but no real plan to push 100% as the ‘A’ race for the week was the Great North 5k where the goal was to forget about the Garmin and give it my all for a sub 18 minute 5k.

Week 3 diary

Plan – Jesmond Joggers Club Champs

Notes – the original plan for this was to run it as a Lactate Threshold session. The HRM is out of action so I ditched that idea and thought I’d try for 6 minute miles or 24 mins for the 4 mile course. However, I had one eye on the 5k on Saturday. So I did some sums and worked out that something like 5.52 miling for 4 miles would be equivalent to a 17.59 5k. I decided that’s what I wanted to aim for.

It was a good turnout and was good to get out with the club as I never go to training. With the XC season getting closer that’s something I plan to change. Also, I prefer training with the club in winter. Anyway, the race started and I let the first two go as I had no intention of going hard, certainly not early. Even so I was running 5.40 pace through the first half mile and felt comfy (as you do). Already I was on my own in third and got mentally prepped for a solo run.

Conditions were great on the moor. Even so I never enjoy running up Grandstand Road. But I do love running back onto the moor and it’s a nice flat section. I was still feeling good through two miles. The 3rd mile coincided with getting back onto the gravel track and so less than ideal footing. I was still keeping a decent pace but maybe slipping back to 6min miling. This was definitely the case on Grandstand Road for the second time. I dug in and got back on the moor and set about picking up the pace again. I knew I had 3rd place in the bag and I just wanted to prove I could run 5k race pace to finish off. That I did, averaging 5.40 for the last 0.8 miles. The course was well short of 4 miles and I ran 3.8 in just over 22 minutes.

Very pleased with the run and can take confidence out of it. Congrats to Michael Hedley on the win and Spencer Lees on the second place. Great running from those two.

Tuesday – rest, cycle to work

Notes – shins very sore after yesterday!

Wednesday – rest

Notes – shins still a bit sore.

Thursday – 35mins Easy

Notes – still didn’t feel great in the lower legs but did 35mins easy on grass. Legs felt better as the run went on and in terms of cardio feel very strong. Haven’t been using the HRM lately as mine has broken and waiting for new one to be delivered. Few little strides towards the end. Ready for Saturday. Wish legs felt stronger but I’m used to this now. This is why I’ll never be high road mileage and will strive to get faster on minimal mileage and total body fitness (i.e. a lot of cross training, I’ll write a blog about this at some point)

Friday – complete rest

Notes – shins felt sore but tried to put it to the back of my mind. Stretched the calves and foam rollered which helped somewhat. Used some anti inflammatory gel which I prefer not to use but needs must. Went to bed a bit nervy which is fine.

Saturday – Great North 5k pb attempt

Notes – PB of 17.53! See race report!


Notes – Rest and watch the Great North run


Run ~14 miles
Bike ~28 miles

Still very low running mileage but that was due to racing and shin issues. Attention now turns to cross country and in particular the Farringdon relays which I can’t wait for.

BUPA Great North 5k – race report

I’d put myself under quite a lot of pressure for this one. I’d ran an 18.05 in July and I was happy but a little disappointed I’d missed the opportunity to post the sub 18 5k which was planned for May. I’ll not dwell again on the reasons for missing that target, suffice it to say the BUPA Great North 5k was selected to get it done. The only problem was I had a fortnight away on holiday leaving only 2-3 weeks to get tuned back up.

In terms of this week I had a great run out at the Jesmond Joggers Anniversary Champs (see Week 3 training diary) and it was a great over distance effort for a timely confidence boost. I felt in shape. Problem was I had a nasty reaction in my shins and had to have Tuesday and Wednesday off. On Thursday, still feeling a little discomfort, I put in an easy 35mins. The legs felt better as the run went on but on Friday were really sore again! Not to worry, a bit of foam rollering would loosen off the calves and relieve some of the tension.

Even so it was fueling some doubts. Have I done enough training? Do I feel fit enough? How should I pace it? Should I go off hard? What if I blow up etc? What can I say, I’m an over thinker. I made the decision to leave the Garmin at home and promised myself to just run with the mantra “keep pushing, keep pushing, keep pushing”.

Alarm was set for 7.30. I was lying awake at 6.30 which is when I get up for work. Felt ok, very nervous. Nerves make you feel bad but you have to tell yourself it’s good. Your ready to try, to really make an effort.

As is my new preferred routine I had a small glass of water, a few sips of beetroot juice and a few bites of a nectarine. This is key! You do not need a proper breakfast for an early 5k. You want to feel pretty empty on the stomach. You will burn yesterdays energy. I made sure to eat very well in the week leading up to the race. That said I still felt a bit sick on the way down. I cycled the 4 miles from home. Again, this is a new routine. It is my preference to the other options which would be jog down (waste of energy in my opinion) or bus (would only fuel the nerves).

As I cycled down I thought to myself what would I do when it gets tough (all 5ks will get tough, to try to not accept or ignore that is to not face up to the challenge of giving your all). Tell yourself “keep pushing, keep pushing, keep pushing” I thought.

It was quite busy, more busy than I imagined. I deliberately avoided the mass warm up. Its just not my thing. It is the opposite of what I need to get in the mood. I found a quiet side street and jogged backwards and forwards. The sickly feeling subsided which I was somewhat relieved about.

I got on the start line about 3 or 4 rows from the front. I noticed a few people ahead who looked a bit far forward. Politely asked a lady what sort of time she expected. Getting a quizzical look in return I decided a polite excuse me was better and I squeezed past.

The gun went off and I quickly decided on a 100m spurt to get in good position. I quickly found myself next to Danielle Hodgkinson who I knew was capable of sub 17. I had no intention of trying to get anywhere near that sort of time but I decided to go with it, no need to deliberately slow down, just relax. Actually I was running ahead of her at least until 2k, at which point she showed me what strong, controlled running is all about and showed me a clean pair of heels. She went on to win the ladies race.

The great thing about not wearing the Garmin was no distractions. No “oh no, I’m going to fast” or “oh no I’m going to slow”. I was fairly settled. There wasn’t streams of people passing, I was holding my own. The course was a little undulating with a few full turn arounds which disrupt your rhythm.

As always I started feeling it around 3k. I could hear maybe 3 runners on my heels. A Gateshead Harrier past on my right just before a small incline. I took the decision to put in an effort right to the top of that incline. I probably stole 5 metres or so but couldn’t maintain the effort at the top. I was running on grit now and was aware my foot falls were getting heavy, slower and inefficient. The 4k sign was a welcome sight. I got over the section of running track and turned onto the millennium bridge for one last push. At this point the Gateshead Harrier went past me. Coming onto the Newcastle side I gritted my teeth for one last flourish. It wasn’t enough to reel the Harrier in and my focus turned to the ticking clock. I could see 17.32 in the distance. I kept closing my eyes then opening them again. I knew the sub 18 was on, just needed to finish the job.

I had it in my mind throughout this week that I was in shape for a 17.52 or 17.53. Sure enough 17.53 was my time. Who needs a Garmin!

I was pretty spent and not really aware of my position. It wasn’t about that for me. I’d researched the race and knew it wouldn’t be highly competitive as the region’s best runners will be in the HM. But still I’m very happy with 13th place and I can now focus on the cross country.

Thanks for reading! Good luck to those running the “proper race” tomorrow!


Milestone achieved! Onto the next!