How Coaching Helps Take Runners To The Next Level

Do you have running goals?

Maybe you’re looking to tackle the marathon for the first time, or qualify to run the NYC Marathon. Maybe you’d just like to be able to run a little bit faster.

Whatever your goal is, one of the best things you can do to reach it is get a coach.

Luckily for runners, today there are a wealth of different coaching options out there.  You can sign up for a structured group training program like those offered by the Running Room, sign up with a coach for individualized training, or, subscribe to an online coaching service to add more structure and planning to your workouts.

To help you decide what would work best for you, we talked to coaches about the differences between in-person and online coaching, and how they can help you reach your running goals.

Coaching Face-To-Face

When you sign up with an in-person coach for individual training, you’ll get a coaching plan that is specifically made for you, a great source of personal accountability, as well as a big dose of encouragement.

That’s according to David Harding, the founder of DEKK coaching, an athlete and coach who’s been training endurance athletes in multiple sports for close to 10 years.

As someone who’s been a competitive runner and athlete for most of his life, becoming a coach was a natural transition.

“Initially I was interested in passing on some knowledge of what I had learned as an athlete,” he said. “And then I found that helping people reach their goals was something I really enjoyed doing.”

As a coach, Harding works with athletes individually through DEKK, while also running a series of group training programs through the Ottawa Running Club.

Athletes that come to Harding looking for individual training usually fall into two categories: those who are looking to tackle a longer distance (ex: Ironman triathlons), or those who have a specific performance goal in mind (ex: qualifying for the Boston Marathon).

“People who sign up for group coaching are usually either very intrinsically motivated and they want to improve in general, or they see us out there running and having fun every Sunday and they want to be a part of it,” Harding said.

The camaraderie that comes with being part of a group coaching program can be crucial, especially when it means you have other people to commiserate with during those Sunday morning long runs.

But whether he’s working with individuals or groups, Harding said that what he gets out of it is the same.

“I think my favourite part of being a coach is helping other people feed their passion,” he said.

The rise of online coaching

One of the largest developments in the coaching world over the past decade has been growth of coaching services that are delivered online and through mobile apps.

One of the big players in that space is Runcoach, a coaching service that aims to bring the benefits of coaching to new and experienced runners at a low cost.

“We meet you in your own time, through the website or the app, and try to make it easier to fit into a person’s lifestyle,” said Hiruni Wijayaratne, the Business Development Lead at Runcoach.

In addition to her role at Runchoach, Wijayaratne is also a coach and competitive athlete. After a career running for the University of Kentucky Wildcats in college, she’s competed twice at the Marathon World Championships representing Sri Lanka and finished 8th at the Houston Marathon earlier this year with a time of 2:36:35.

Runcoach was started by athlete and coach Tom McGlynn in 2002 as an in-person coaching service and transitioned to an online resource in 2008. Since then, it’s helped thousands of runners build easy-to-follow training plans to help meet their running goals.

“With Runcoach, the spectrum of people using it is so wide,” she said. “We get people who want to walk 100 miles in a year, all the way up to qualifying for Boston.”

One of main features of Runcoach is how it builds a highly customized training plan based on an algorithm. After you chose your goal race and enter your information, including recent running times and mileage, Runcoach builds a personalised training plan, including speed workouts, threshold runs, and cross-training.

Perhaps the best part of the service is that as you complete your workouts and log your runs, it continually adapts your training plan. So, say you’re training for a marathon and missed your weekly long run, Runcoach will take that into account and adjust next week’s mileage to make up for it.

Another big change for Runcoach is that it’s recently shifted its business model to a free version and a paid version for $19.95/month CAD.

The free service gives you access to most of Runcoach’s program, including algorithmically-generated training plans.

If you upgrade to the paid version, you can get one-on-one messaging with coaches like Wijayaratne, who can answer your specific questions about progress, injuries and goals. And what’s more, you’ll get the chance to earn rewards from companies such as Garmin.

But whichever option you choose to go with, Wijayaratne said that Runcoach’s purpose stays the same.

“At the end of the day, our mission to help people and get better and reach their goals,” she said.

With registration opening on September 1 for the 2019 Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend, it’s a great time to think about your own goals for the coming months and year, and how coaching—whether online or in-person—can help you achieve them.

Right now, everyone who registers for the Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend can receive a discount on Runcoach. Just look for the Runcoach area during registration.

Or to talk about in-person coaching, you can reach David Harding through his website at