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Meet the coach - Peter Haynes

I really wanted to interview some running coaches for the blog, particularly those working at grassroots. Their relentless work and dedication often go unnoticed. These coaches are at training sessions week in, week out in rain, snow and hail. They turn up for races countrywide to stand in the freezing cold and shout encouragement.

Peter Haynes was one of the first coaches I contacted for this blog. Peter has been coaching junior and senior athletes for twenty years from 800m to the marathon. He’s a qualified steeplechase coach and has coached a number of multi-sport athletes. I’ve moved on from Southampton AC due to work commitments, but he still always takes the time to say hello and ask about my training. Peter looks after some very talented athletes individually and advises many, many more on training, injuries and racing. He is one of the most respected endurance coaches around.


I started running in 1990 aged 40. I have always played sport, mainly football, until I was around 26. Frustratingly, no professional club came in for me. Then it was golf, badminton, volleyball, cricket, tennis and many more just because I enjoyed playing sport. I wanted to raise money for the children in Romania and saw BBC and Team Solent were organizing training for the first Great South Run in Southampton in 1990. So instead of running by myself to keep fit, I joined a group for my first session. That session changed my life. The performance that I am most proud of as a runner would be the 1999 World Vets Championship in Gateshead. I had always been a veteran athlete and had competed on the track in events from 400m to 5000m, including the steeplechase. I ran in the 3000m steeplechase V50 final. I finished 10th and 4th GB athlete in a personal best time. I was happy for days after that race!

I have been coaching for over 20 years. Around 1999-2000 three of our endurance coaches at Team Solent left for different reasons. That meant there was a group of around 35 male and female senior athletes with no coaches. I volunteered to start my coaching pathway, yet another day that changed my life.

It wasn’t exactly an organic progression to coaching. I was enjoying my own training and racing at the time. Looking back, my dad was a teacher in Bristol, and my job involved me looking after 8 staff members so I think I naturally enjoy helping others to reach their goals.

My coaching philosophy is a difficult one to answer. I suppose it is "Always gain more knowledge about what I am trying to coach, and try to pass it on to my athletes."

That philosophy has changed over time. As sports science changes over the years you have to change, but it’s important to get a sense of if that new knowledge feels correct.

Many things motivate me as a coach. Seeing athletes turn up for sessions no matter what the British weather throws at us. They work so hard to follow my sessions.  Whether it be someone clipping a couple of seconds off their PB or gaining a county, regional, or international vest. You then see that big smile and a thirst to continue to improve.

Peter Coe, Seb Coe’s father and coach was the biggest influence on my coaching.  I was a big fan of Seb so I wanted to know how he trained. The BMC (British Miler’s Club), printed an excellent magazine and one day Peter told us about Seb’s training. From that day on I tried to find out more and incorporate it into my training sessions. Needless to say, my favourite book is Seb Coe’s Running My Life.

I have lost my running and coaching mojo at times. As a coach I could not always join in with the sessions I has set due to injury or loss of form. That also affected my running. You become aware of the input of parents, club politics and other coaches. That can be hard. As an athlete I had to understand that I could not train as I used to. It’s a fact of life that my body is losing its efficiency. Although I am putting in as much effort as I did back in the 90's I have to look at my age category and not so much at the overall times. With coaching I at one point left one group and set up another and that got my mojo back.

The most common query I get asked about would be regarding injuries or what sessions to do if athletes can’t make training. When you are coaching young athletes you just don't turn up on training nights and set a session. You have to tell them about warmups, drills, races to enter, kit, targets, hydration and many more other things. Sometimes you can’t be with them on race day so they need to be prepared for the race for themselves.

Take cross country as an example: what shoes to wear, what size spikes, clothing, pre-race warm up, pre-race meal, tactics, after-race warm down and food and drink. You need to teach them to think about their performance and analyse what went well and what didn’t.

One cold winter’s day at a major championship in London, about 20 minutes before the start of the race, an athlete could not find their spikes. They were an essential bit of kit as it was very muddy. We then realized they had left them in the minibus, parked a good 10 minutes away. By this time I was trying to bite my tongue, stay cool and find a solution. With about 8 minutes to go they managed to borrow another athlete’s spikes they had used at a previous race that day. As with most young athletes they never undo or re-tie their laces. My athlete just rammed the shoes on. I tried to re-tie the shoes as best I could. They then jogged down to the start where around 500 athletes and a number of officials kindly waited for them. Not exactly the pre-race build-up I had planned and talked to them about! Of course, they ran a brilliant race and finished 2nd. What was I worrying about?!

The person I would most like to coach would be either a male or female U17, 20 or 23. Someone who would seriously want to be a top steeplechase athlete. They would need real endurance talent and a four-year commitment to the project. If I could find that person, I believe that together we could achieve that target.


You can find Peter @haynes0067 on Instagram.

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