Happy New Year! I really hope you enjoyed Part One of the Nick's interview. I think my favourite bit is about common mistakes runners make! Nick started coaching me at the end of 2022, when I was at a point where I needed a coach who would see me regularly at training and who would dig a bit deeper when I said 'I'm fine' after a hectic on-call weekend. I think most runners are their own worst enemies and I'm no different. There's loads of great insight in Part Two that will help runners of all distances and standards- enjoy!
I would be lying if I didn’t say I would love to coach an Olympic medallist or an Olympic finalist. But it’s not the reason I jump out of bed and am excited about coaching. I genuinely enjoy seeing athletes progress at all levels and want them to enjoy that journey. It’s really rewarding. I coach juniors, seniors, people that are new to the sport, and people that are very experienced and are looking for marginal gains. I want to coach performance athletes – people who want to be a better tomorrow than they are today. They don’t have to be elite, they just want to be moving forwards and improving. That for me is the journey.
There have been many coaches who have influenced me, but Bud Baldaro has to be top of my list. He took me under his wing in the late 90s, when I was a young coach and saw how keen I was and what I wanted to achieve. I can never thank him enough for the time and patience he’s given me, and for the opportunities he gave me to learn, look and listen. Alan Storey is one of the greatest minds in athletics endurance coaching in the UK. You’ve only got to look at the athletes he’s coached and helped to understand that. He’s been a mentor for me, and it’s been really useful to be able to ask questions and seek his counsel. He can be blunt, but that’s not a bad thing, and he does swear. My own coach in my 20s was a guy called Neville Taylor. He coached Wendy Sly who became an Olympic silver medallist, a world junior champion and many other great British athletes. I learnt a lot about planning and sessions and how to put things together from Neville. He’s still really engaged in the sport even though he’s in his 80s.
In terms of athletes, the whole running scene in the 80s was really inspiring. The Coe, Ovett and Cram era, and reading about Steve Jones and Arturo Barrios racing out in the states. I loved it. She’ll kill me for saying it, but my wife Tamsin in recent years too. I’ve really enjoyed running and training with her up until the last year. Spending time running together and helping her has been great.
Best books on coaching? This is super hard to narrow down. If you want to learn about the technical side, then Jack Daniels is great. I’ve enjoyed reading his work. There are lots of great books about physiology and sports science by Noakes and Costill and Levine. I always go on about Bill Adcock’s book, The Road to Athens, which is about the simplicity of training in the 60s. My favourite book though is ‘Eleven Rings’, all about Phil Jackson, the basketball coach. I read a lot about a lot of other sports and coaching in other sports. Phil Jackson’s ability to manage the Chicago Bulls when they had Scotty Pippin, Michael Jordan and Dennis Rodman. How he managed those people, their personalities and the team that won the NBA for 6 years is fascinating and how he ran the team, his advisors and what he did with the LA Lakers was just phenomenal. A super interesting read. He was a really holistic coach that looked after his players individually to get the best out of them. A super interesting read.
The most common mistake I see runners make is a lack of patience. They want success now or too soon and train too hard for it. Too much, too soon, too far, too often. That’s the big one and perhaps in today’s society we all lack patience. Your physiology can only adapt at a certain speed, and you can’t fast track that. The other one is not resting properly or regularly enough. I don’t mean having a rest day during the week or a week off after a marathon. I mean rest periods in a year or in an 18-month period, maybe two weeks of coming down from the mountain of training and having a fallow period to allow recovery. Are athletes really sleeping enough and having high enough quality sleep? Athletes are really good at focusing on marginal gains like carbon plates etc but if they slept for half an hour longer, they’d probably run faster. Not treating rest seriously enough is a common mistake, and not building phases of rest into your overall cycles of training and taking real time out to recharge.
I believe in marginal gains, but I think we’ve gone too far, and I really believe we need to get back to focusing on the basics. We’re not good at resting as I’ve already mentioned, a balanced diet is key with treats to keep the enjoyment, and getting a balance with training and life in general. The right kind of mentality and desire to want to perform, alongside getting the basics right most of the time is really important. Charlie Spedding’s book is a brilliant book which I’ve recently re-read. His level of desire to make changes to his own running and to become someone who was going to think positively, and someone who was going to focus on his goals and what he wanted to achieve. It really stands out in his book. There’s a great chapter called the beer drinkers guide to sports psychology which is absolute dynamite, and every runner should read it. It’s about him taking ownership of his journey and the things he’s going to put in place.
I’m sure as coaches that we would all love the next Paula, Mo, Kipchoge, or Keeley to suddenly turn up at our training group. The reality is that most of us are already working with athletes that good, who could do the same if that’s what they wanted to achieve. Most of the time I’m really happy with who I am coaching, and I hope they’re getting the progression and gains that they want. Andy and I have fantastic juniors in our training group, and also fantastic and fun seniors. Long may that those squads continue to grow and develop.
There are lots of great female coaches but there aren’t enough and they haven’t been given the opportunities historically. Thankfully that’s changing and I’d love to see more female coaches going forward, and to see coaches from different backgrounds come into the sport.
We’ve recently launched a new running club in Winchester called Winchester Running Club. There are lots of people who love the sport involved in that, and I’m excited to see the club blossom. I’d love to see Running With Us continue to work different charities and organisations in the sport alongside the other coaches who are involved. I’m 53 now and if I can still be coaching like Geoff Watkins, Bud Baldaro, Neville Taylor or Alan Storey in years to come that would be wonderful.