Sometimes, something unexpected happens that reminds you why you love what you do and reinforces the value of what you do. My latest 0-5k in 5 Weeks program has just finished and I can easily say it’s one of the most memorable I have ever done. Every block is memorable in some way but this one was different. The transformation of the runners in a relative short space of time has been the best I’ve ever seen.

I set up my 0-5k program a few years ago as a reincarnation of previous coaching groups I had but was done in response to various comments I’d had from people who told me they weren’t fast enough to join and that they didn’t want to hold everyone back even though the groups were aimed at all levels. I thought I would create a group that would start everyone from scratch so it didn’t matter if people weren’t quick enough and that nobody could hold anyone back if everyone was at the same level.

How It Feels

It was also set up out of confusion as to how the Couch to 5k program takes so long to complete (9 weeks). It’s a great program to have to encourage more people to get into running but for me, it misses the one thing that underpins my program – how the pace feels. For me, why do you need to stop and walk for a few minutes if you feel you could keep on running?

Every group is different from the one before. Sometimes there can be 12 or more, other times there can be just a few but the numbers aren’t important, it’s the quality of training we do and the coaching I’m able to give people is important. The structure of the program remains the same but if there’s a small group then I’ll adapt the sessions around the people who are there. In this group there were 3 people – Fiona, who had done the Perth 10k the Sunday before the first session, Donna and Ruth who regularly do Parkrun and had asked me about the group after one of the runs a week or two previously. I regularly get people who are already running come along and thought this would be an easy group to work with as it would just be a case of solving the problems they’d been having and in Donna and Ruth’s case, I felt the intensity they were running at was too high for them and they might find it easier to slow down so that they could finish stronger. I didn’t expect quite the difference they made though. I’ve seen many people improve as they grow in confidence but with this group, it was more the difference in their physiology as they progressed.

Becoming A Different Person

In the first session, Fiona told me she felt sick after every drill we did. I discovered this to be an anxiety issue, something that is very common in runners. I set Donna and Ruth some drills while I tried something different with Fiona. I asked her to show me how she would run if it meant she didn’t feel sick after it and then asked her to show me to run to demonstrate what running did for her. In the space of these two drills, over the course of a few minutes, Fiona became a completely different person. She was now more relaxed and looked very confident when she ran. This was underlined when I saw her a few days later when I saw her ahead of me on the same path while I was out for a run. I observed the way she was running for the few minutes until I caught up and passed her. I said hello and told her that she was running well but from what I had seen, she was running in a very rhythmic fashion that I rarely see, even from experienced runners.

With each session, she blossomed although I didn’t have to give her too many instructions as I knew she was running really well and only the second person I’ve seen who could’ve run the 5k in week 2 such was the difference in the way she ran. Donna and Ruth needed a bit more coaching but that was ok and I knew they would both become better with each session. They were doing well but it was actually at Parkrun that I saw the difference.

Feeling A Difference

The week after doing Loch Ness, I volunteered as a barcode scanner. I hadn’t seen Donna and Ruth before the start of the run but I saw them both after they finished and were getting their barcodes scanned. Donna told me they had purposely started at the back, she hadn’t worn her watch and that she really enjoyed the run. It was the look on her face when she told me though and it was a look that suggested this run was different. Ruth told me that she had really enjoyed the run and hadn’t stopped (she used to stop at least a couple of times every run) and again the look on her face was that of someone who was very relaxed and looked better than after the drills we had done in the sessions.

Sometimes people tell me what they want me to hear but with all three, I could see a difference not only in they way they spoke but also in the way they looked after each run. Before the start of each session, I would ask them how they got on in their own runs and Fiona would tell me about hers, and each one sounded better than the one before. For someone who was really nervous about hills when I introduced them to running on hills with a gentle slope in Week 2, she was now telling me how she was running up and down hills in her own runs and feeling pretty comfortable with them.

Fiona sent me this message on Friday after the end of the program:

“Hi Steve, thankyou so much for your 0-5k coaching over the last 5 weeks. I thought I would come along and get some hints and tips to help me get a little faster but got that plus so much more. I went from being incredibly self-conscious and anxious about running to having the confidence to get out there and really genuinely enjoy running, in fact literally can’t wait ’til I can get out for my next run and am tackling runs I never would have thought possible. Best £25 I have EVER spent!!”

Do you get reminders of why you love what you do?