Is now the time for you to get a running coach?

Expert support can be key to reaching targets especially if progress has stalled

What are your running ambitions for the next few years? Most runners I know have a few goals on their wishlist. Maybe you would love to run a marathon, complete a faster 5km or try mountain running? Whatever your grand plan might be, the starting point often comes down to making a decision to start and downloading a training plan to see what is involved.

Are training plans enough?

Some runners thrive on a good training plan. They love an Excel spreadsheet that they can tick off the training sessions and colour code their progress. The plan keeps them accountable and motivated. If this sounds like you, keep doing what you are doing. Use that enthusiasm to help you reach your next goal and experiment with different types of training plans out there. If, however, most training plans you have attempted to follow feel daunting and a little overwhelming, you might benefit from a more personalised approach to training.

The personal touch

Having a person rather than a spreadsheet to communicate with might be the difference between setting a target and actually seeing it through. Working with a running coach means that your training can be tailor-made for you. A coach will take into account your fitness level, your time commitments and your desired goal.

The coach becomes your sounding board, your accountability buddy and, most importantly, a trusted voice. You delegate the responsibility, time and effort that goes into planning and second guessing your training to someone who has the experience to point you in the right direction. You can focus on the actual running rather than wondering if you are doing too much or enough.


Why get a coach?

I have often heard people say they are not a good enough runner to get a coach. But a running coach is not just for elite athletes. In fact, even running coaches have their own coaches. We can all learn more. Think about all the other hobbies you might have taken part in over the years – from GAA to piano lessons. Coaches and teachers are the people who help us learn, improve and build our passion for our chosen hobby. They challenge us when we need a push and support us when we need a lift.

The world of coaching

If you picture a running coach shouting at you from the side of a running track with a whistle and stopwatch, you might be pleasantly surprised to find out that running coaches are more likely to be on the end of a WhatsApp message or a Zoom call. Indeed, you may choose to work with a local running coach who meets you in person and maybe even runs with you. You could decide to be coached as part of a group to train for a specific event and benefit from the social side of running as well as the experience of the coach.

But today you are not restricted to work with coaches who live in your area. Like so many other industries, coaches from all over the world are more accessible than ever as they diverted their businesses online during the pandemic.

How to find a coach

It is so important you feel comfortable with the coach and be willing to trust them by being open and honest. So do a little research in advance to work out what style of coach will work for you. You may already know who you would like to work with having followed them on social media or having heard reviews. But if not, word of mouth is always the best starting point. Ask your running buddies for their recommendations. Your local running shop or athletics club should also be able to point you in the right direction. But you can to look further afield to websites like, which allows you to access coaches virtually from all over the world.

But do remember that just because a coach comes highly recommended, not every runner clicks with the same coach, much like how we are when selecting running shoes. There is no best one. It’s finding the right one to suit you.

Invest in your future

It may seem like an extravagance to invest in a coach when there are so many free options online these days but consider your current running expenses. From the latest gadgets to race entries, physio bills to new clothes and shoes, we spend money all the time on items that are to designed to help us run better. A coach in no different. We need to invest in expertise if we wish to see the results that we have struggled to attain training solo. For the price of a pair of running shoes you can get valuable guidance and support to help you avoid the pitfalls and guide you towards your goals.

The long-term plan

There is no doubt it can be scary to make the big step to committing to a coach. But you never know what you might achieve by making this initial move. Often, we set barriers in our own heads that prevent us from even considering certain goals or challenges. Working with a coach to help you overcome these barriers and set a future path can be fresh and exciting, especially if your running progress has stagnated. You can work with a running coach to improve your speed, endurance, motivation or even mindset. The options are endless.

Finding the right fit

Once you find the right coach for you, you work as a team to get closer to those lofty goals on your running wishlist. So remember, there are two people in the coaching relationship. The coach can’t do it alone. You too have to be willing to put the work in if you want the coach to be able to do their best for you. A good coach will go beyond the basics of a training plan and will empathise with your challenges and setbacks, and share the joy of your great training days. They might even turn up at the finish line of your next big event. Even the most perfect Excel spreadsheet won’t do that for you.

Sign up for one of The Irish Times' Get Running programmes (it is free!). 
First, pick the eight-week programme that suits you.
- Beginner Course: A course to take you from inactivity to running for 30 minutes.
- Stay On Track: For those who can squeeze in a run a few times a week.
- 10km Course: Designed for those who want to move up to the 10km mark.
Best of luck!