Neil Featherby: Not even the best coaches have got a magic wand...
Having recently written an article about Paul Evans and his role as a coach, I have been asked several times what makes for a good coach and would someone who has run at Paul’s level make for an even better coaching advisor.
With this I just smiled and said firstly, Paul was an absolutely brilliant athlete and had a huge range right from being an excellent middle distance runner through to being world class at 10,000 metres and the marathon.
However, when it comes to coaching, whilst having his experience as a great athlete will most certainly help, and indeed he is an awesome coach too, this still does not mean that he has a magic wand which immediately gives him some kind of transferable powers into also making others great at the touch of a button.
There are so many components which go into coaching for which I do not have enough space here in my column to go through them all, but what is important is that it will always come down to the athlete to do the work which is put in front of them.
As the saying goes, you can lead the horse to water, but you can't make it drink.
I was never in Paul's league when it came to running, but I have been helping others for more years than I care to remember and just like Paul, I do very often get people asking me if I can help them to improve.
Needless to say I find out everything I can about them be it their current level of running and training, lifestyle, background, aspirations, etc and then do my best to explain to them exactly what I think it will take for them to realistically achieve their goals.
Sometimes, you can see immediately by the look on their faces that they are shocked by not only how long I have said it might take, but also the level of commitment which they will also require to meet their ambitions.
At the end of the day, it is very highly unlikely that you are going to run a sub 2:20 marathon off just three or four training sessions a week. Certainly not for those of us who come under the heading of being just a reasonable runner.
I found an old British Marathon Runners Club magazine the other day whereby they did a feature on me and what it took for an old scrubber (term used for a decent club runner) to over achieve.
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In a nutshell it all pointed out to one thing and that was sheer hard work and commitment, week in and week out for several years.
Paul is currently setting up a new coaching practice for which I really do recommend anyone who is looking for a long term coach to not only take advantage of all his amazing experience as a high profile athlete, but at the same time take advantage of all his super knowledge as a coach too.
He really does know his stuff and most importantly, the passion he had as a runner, he now puts into his coaching. If you have the will, then he will do his very best to show you the way, that's for sure.
Talking of coaching, congratulations to Brenda and Dave Hutcheon along with of course one of their athletes Scott Walford who last Sunday finished third in the Salford 10K (33:21) and has now qualified to run for England at age V45 level.
Scott, who was a very promising junior and indeed senior athlete, disappeared from the sport when into his very early thirties due to continued niggles and work commitments.
However, and after a few years as a racing cyclist, having turned 45, he decided to give his first love of running another try.
Now 49, Scott, epitomises what hard work and belief can achieve for which he has to be such an inspiration to so many other runners out there. Ironically, he will turn 50, just three days before his England debut.
I would also like to take this opportunity to mention three lovely people who we have lost from the Norfolk running community during the last three months. Most recently Laurie Dove who was not only a former Duke Street Runner, but a true gentleman too. Then prior to this for which I really should have given mentions too before now, but to Norwich Road Runner, Lynda Moore and Trevor Emery from the North Norfolk Beach Runners.
All three of them were so very popular and will be greatly missed not just by their fellow club mates, but by all who came into contact with them.
My thoughts are and have been very much with them, their friends and family.
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