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Sarah’s park run: a different view of coaching

A couple of months ago I moved house, moved area, and  took the opportunity to join a ‘parkrun’ event; part of my fresh approach to being more active. Initially I was daunted by how fit and healthy the majority of runners looked, many of whom were sporting either running club t-shirts or tops celebrating their 50th or 100th  ‘parkruns’. But I was not to be put off, and before the start of the run found my way towards the back of the pack, along with many other people who I judged to be more my running level.

Parkrun selfieI was quite happy, tucked away towards the back in my Asda-George gilet and tracksuit bottoms that had a bit of paint on them.

I hadn’t run for about 6 months before my first run in October, so was proud  to have finished my first 5k without throwing up. I was probably in the last 10 but I didn’t care; what a personal achievement for someone who doesn’t rush to get up for a 5k run at 9am on a Saturday morning – go me.

The next few weeks my finishing time dropped from just over 38 minutes to 37minutes and 20seconds, but then my time stagnated and I grew frustrated. I wanted to get down to 35 minutes, so I formulated a plan: I needed a pacesetter. At the start of the next parkrun I selected a couple of middle-aged women who always seemed to run near me at the beginning but generally finished a fair time ahead of me come the end –  unwittingly they became my in-race coaches.

I put my headphones in, to save me from listening to my own gasping breaths, and cracked on. I kept on their heels and found that I hadn’t been lapped until well after my first lap, and I didn’t stop for a walk until halfway around lap two – two massive achievements for me. To top it off I also finished the run in just over 35 minutes and was absolutely elated.

I am no ex-professional athlete, I am a middle aged single mum and lapsed netball player (GK, hence my lack of stamina). I am an ordinary, everyday woman who just wants to get fit and have a sense of self-satisfaction on a Saturday morning – long before people have eaten their bacon sandwiches.

After my run I went up to speak to Julie and Sarah – my pace-setters. They had no idea that  I had used them to guide and influence my race but  were really thrilled they could help.

They then said: “Why don’t you run with us next time and we will get you round even quicker?”

I consider that coaching. What do you think?

Sarah Milner, Diversity & Inclusion Lead, Sports Coach UK

This blog was originally written for Reach, our sister brand, which focusses on supporting more women into coaching.