Neil Featherby: The art of finding the right coach for you

Chris Mickleburgh Marriotts Way

Chris Mickleburgh on his way to victory at the Marriott's Way Half Marathon earlier this year. - Credit: Scott Walford

Earlier this week I was approached by someone asking for advice saying that I was apparently the best person to ask with regards to helping with their training and racing progression. 

I replied saying that I was most certainly not the best person to ask, but whether it be me or anyone else, when looking for a coach it really is so very important to be sure that this is what they want and if so to understand the realities of following a programme whilst being fully committed to it. 

I did also say, if they did want to go ahead with me then I also expect them to not go asking a dozen other people for the same advice as that can usually end up creating confusion and in truth a waste of everyone’s time. 

We all want to learn more and asking people their views can most certainly add to one’s knowledge, but at the end of the day when there are set goals to aim for, it really does all come down to structure and planning, along with a commitment to stay the course. 

I have usually found that those who do look for a coach and then go asking lots of other people for their thoughts are just looking for an easier way to go about things especially when the training load is upped. However, I for one certainly do not know any short cuts. 

Following a well-planned programme is like putting a large jigsaw puzzle together where each part has its own place. However, it can also be like throwing all the pieces up in the air and then not knowing where to start when looking at the jumbled mess all over the floor particularly when going back and forth constantly asking the same questions due to not really having listened to the advice given in the first place. 

Chris Mickleburgh who works for us at Sportlink is a person who I know likes things to be precise. As an athlete he has put his faith in Johnny Mellor for some time now whereby not only is Johnny a brilliant athlete himself over a huge range of distances right up to the marathon (PB 2:10:38), but an excellent coach too. 

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“Working with Johnny gives me realistic paces to hit with reps and indeed all of my training,” he said. “He is very much all about stacking consistent weeks on top of each other and we are currently working on my weaknesses which is the long tempo runs where he summed it up perfectly when saying that the long stuff should be my bread and butter to build the rest of my training on.” 

Needless to say, flexibility and even amendments have to be made at times, but for those who do have some real goals and aims for 2022, coach or no coach, structured consistency without getting sidetracked, should hopefully see lots of challenges, goals and PBs being achieved. 

I have mentioned the Norfolk County Cross Country Championships in both of my last two columns. Once again, I would like to bring it to everyone’s attention when saying that marshals are still very much sought after for the day’s races. If there are any volunteers out there who would like to help meet this need, please do contact -  Rob Machin or Peter Mahoney    . 

Finally, a mention to Eva Barton who once again produced the goods when taking silver in the under 15 girls 600 metres at the South Yorkshire Indoor Association GP last Sunday at the Sheffield Arena. This was her first time competing in this age category too. 

Here’s looking forward to a weekend of running in the seasonal weather. I really do love it, albeit not quite as much as my huskies do.