If you love running, why not become a running coach and turn your passion into a rewarding career? From helping a beginner finish their first 5k, to training a seasoned marathon runner to set a personal record, you can help anyone achieve their goals!
In this article, we will cover:
- What is a Running Coach?
- Types of Running Coaches
- Qualifications Needed to Become a Running Coach
- Other Important Qualifications to Become a Running Coach
- Where Do Running Coaches Work?
- Running Coach Salary Expectations
- Do I Need Insurance to be a Running Coach?
- Frequently Asked Questions
Written by Professional S & C Coaches
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Written by Professional S & C Coaches
What is a Running Coach?
Simply put, running coaches do the thinking and planning so the athlete can focus on the training.
Successful running coaches provide tailored workouts to clients, as well as advice on structure, balance, and strategy. They help runners meet their personal goals, develop skills, and protect their bodies from injury.
Running coaches can offer services to individuals or large running groups. This can range from helping ordinary people prepare for marathons, to training Olympic athletes as a personal running coach.
With the rise of technology, many people also benefit from using online running coaches and services. Running apps are a great way for aspiring athletes to begin their fitness journeys, and offer a convenient way to pursue your fitness passions.
Requirements to become a running coach in the UK vary but usually include some athletic experience and relevant qualifications in athletic coaching, nutrition, and personal training or strength and conditioning.
To give you an idea of the requirements, here’s a running coach advertisement from We Run Ltd for a nationwide part-time contract:
Immediately, you can see that this role requires you to have a formal qualification in running coaching, as well as a comprehensive knowledge of the "technical elements of running". We'll explore exactly how you can achieve a running coach qualification in our next section.
Types of Running Coaches
For those wondering how to become a running coach, there are a number of different answers. But first, you must also ask yourself - do I want to be a marathon running coach? Or am I better suited to be a trail running coach?
Whatever your preference, you should decide what type of running you want to be a coach for. You’ll then be able to opt for the right running coach training for you. There are two types of running you can coach - on track or off track.
On track running includes:
- Sprints (100m, 200m, 400m)
- Middle distance (Between 800m and 3000m)
- Long distance (3000m Steeplechase, 5000m, 10,000m)
- Hurdles (110m/100m, 400m)
- Relays (4x100m, 4x400m, mixed 4x400m)
Off track running may involve:
- Cross country
- Fell running (also referred to as hill running)
- Trail running
- Road running
- Marathon training
While all competitive in nature, on track running is a lot more competitive. These kinds of events are the ones seasoned athletes train for, and they'll usually have a greater focus on speed. Should you decide to coach on-track running, you'll need to be familiar with how best to train high-level athletes, using tailored programmes that challenge their muscles, as well as incorporate elements of strength and conditioning.
Off track running, as the name suggests, takes place on harder terrain and is usually over a longer distance. This type of running is focused on endurance - running longer, not necessarily faster. Here, you'll be focused on strength and muscular endurance, meaning you should understand the fundamentals of hypertrophy, as well as using low weight-high rep exercises to build stamina.
Qualifications Needed to Become a Running Coach
Everybody’s journey to becoming a running coach is different. However, to become a running coach in the UK, there are a few things you will need to do.
Some people who eventually become running technique coaches may have a relevant degree in sports science, such as anatomy and physiology, or physical education. However, this isn’t a necessity if you want to become a running coach. Whether you have a degree or not, the first thing you should do is get qualified!
UK Athletics (UKA), outwardly rebranded as British Athletics in 2013, is the National Governing Body for athletics in the United Kingdom. This backing is an absolute necessity for all running coach qualifications.
It has four member organisations for countries in the UK, which include:
England Athletics is the largest of the UK Athletic organisations and, from the numbers below, you can see why!
If you want to become a running coach in the UK, especially a trusted one, it’s important to become certified by undertaking UKA-accredited running coach training.
Not only will this increase your credibility by developing your coaching knowledge, it should be necessary if your goal is to coach young athletes or children.
Anyone working with children under the age of 18, either employed or as a volunteer, must obtain an Enhanced Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check. This certificate allows employers to see whether an individual is suitable for the role and young people will be safe in their care.
United Kingdom Athletics offer various running coach courses to become a certified running coach, both for on and off track running. You’ll also be pleased to know these courses don’t take long at all to complete, with completion times as low as 3 hours!
While there are many qualifications on the England Athletics website for both track and field events, for this article we’ll focus solely on running qualifications. You can read more about what else they offer here.
Format: 2 x 1.5 hour online workshops
Now launched as an online course, the Leading Athletics workshop is a good starting point for individuals who are interested in acquiring the skills needed to lead athletic activities for young athletes.
This workshop is ideal for athletes who would like to support younger members in their clubs or parents looking to begin their journey of volunteering and leading activities. Those who complete the course will also be able to support Coaching Assistants and Athletics Coaches.
While this isn’t a formal qualification, it’s a great introduction to developing leadership skills, creating fun and informative athletics sessions, and understanding the roles and responsibilities of a leader.
Although the focus of this workshop isn’t just on running but athletics as a whole, it’s still a great way to gain an understanding of what is required from a good coach.
This information provides you with a starting point to develop your knowledge before progressing onto more specialised training such as learning to coach groups of runners or individual athletes.
Those who complete this course also benefit from lifetime access to the Leading Athletics interactive app. This provides you with ideas for leading activities and course support resources exploring the key principles of running, jumping, and throwing.
As the Leading Athletics practical workshop has now been launched as an online course, it is presented as a two-part webinar-based series. This course consists of two 1.5 hour online sessions.
It is open to anyone aged 14 years old and above - great for young people considering a career in athletics coaching.
Format: 4 Day face-to-face course
Designed for those who want to coach runners over the age of 12, the Coach in Running Fitness (CiRF) is the foundation for off-track running, and is an ideal option for those who want to get involved in non-track based activities.
These activities involve road running, fell running, cross country, and multi-terrain events, and are for anyone who wants to improve their general fitness.
This course is based on the application of endurance running away from the track, rather than track events or distances. It’s not suitable for coaches who want to work with runners engaging in track events such as steeplechase or races between 800m to 10k, taking place on tracks.
Those working towards this qualification must participate in activities during this coaching course and display improvement following any conversations with course staff. Once qualified, you will be able to coach without being supervised.
This course consists of four face-to-face contact days, over which an assessment of technical knowledge, coaching practice, and planning will take place. The course will cover the following areas:
What to Coach Runners On:
- Warm up and Skill Development
- Fundamental Running Skills
- Importance of Physical Preparation
- Testing and Monitoring (And Their Purpose)
How to Coach:
- Reinforcement of the coaching HOW-2 skills (Safety/Organisation/Instruction & Explanation/Demonstration)
- Introduction and development of HOW-2 skills (Observation & Analysis/Feedback & Questioning)
Other General Content:
- Roles and Responsibilities of a Coach in Running Fitness
- Athlete Profiling and Short to Medium Term Planning
- Common Cause of Injury and Planning to Prevent Injury
- Factors Affecting Performance, Principles of Training, and Fitness Components
- Warm ups, cool down, and flexibility training
- Physical preparation
- Fundamental running skills, including: endurance running, running at speed, running uphill and downhill, running over obstacles.
Format: Four online, self-guided learning modules, remote feedback from a tutor of a supervised session, and a 90 minute virtual classroom session.
Cost: £170 (£140 for affiliated clubs/registered members)
The updated Leadership in Running Fitness qualification meets learners’ needs by utilising modern technology. If you’re wondering how to become a running coach, this course prepares you to provide a safe and enjoyable experience for any runner over the age of 12.
This course teaches you how to lead interesting running sessions for groups of runners with varying abilities, as well as covering warm-ups/cool downs and risk assessments. As a result of attending the course, the student will become a licensed ‘Leader’.
- Module 1 - Individual Centered Leading and the Role of the Leader
- Module 2 - Running Fitness Session Content
- Module 3 - Performance Factors, Energy Systems, and their application
- Module 4 - The Role of the Leader in Injury Avoidance
Remote Practical Activity
Complying with UK Athletics safeguarding requirements, candidates will be required to film and deliver two short activities where they lead a small group of mixed ability.
Once uploaded to an online learning platform, these activities will be reviewed by a tutor who will offer feedback, including how to improve in certain areas.
One crucial thing to note is that a UKA-qualified Run Leader or a UKA-qualified coach will need to supervise this remote practical activity.
If you’re unable to find anyone to supervise your activity as you aren’t part of a club or group, contact your nearest RunTogether Group or an affiliated England Athletics club to seek support from a qualified coach/leader for this part of the course.
Virtual Classroom Session
Run by an experienced coach, this session allows the student to reflect on the content covered in the four online modules. This gives the learner an opportunity to discuss the feedback from their leading practice in a comfortable and supportive environment.
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Format: Online learning and single integration day
This course is designed to provide licensed athletic coaches with a deeper understanding and awareness of issues involved in coaching athletes at the Event Group Development stage of the athlete development model.
Those who undertake this course will deepen their technical knowledge across the individual events that make up event areas. These include: Sprints and Hurdles, Jumps, Throws, and Endurance.
However, this particular programme focuses on Sprints & Hurdles.
Online Learning & Single Integration Day
The online learning aspect of the Event Group Coach Award aspiring coaches to go through it at their own pace. To be successful on this programme, an in-depth understanding of the material is essential.
To ensure all material is understood, candidates are required to take a short multiple-choice test at the end of each module.
There are roughly around 25 modules in total, although the total number varies among event groups. Online learning is expected to take around 25-30 hours or 4-5 days of study time to complete.
- Training Organisation and Decision-Making
- Event Group Specific Content
- Physical Preparation
- Fundamental Underpinning Science
Once the online content has been completed, only then can the single integration day be booked.
The main focus of the day is:
- A technical analysis of specific events
- Training organisation and planning considerations
The day is made easier by providing the opportunity to discuss and debate observations and ideas. This allows you to meet with other like-minded people and ask specific questions about training.
Throughout the course, a successful candidate will engage in activities and demonstrate improvement following any feedback from staff.
Finding this article useful so far? Here’s a few more we think will help you:
- How to Become an Online Fitness Coach
- How to Train for a Marathon: The Complete Beginners Guide
- What Makes a Good Personal Trainer?
Other Important Qualifications to Become a Running Coach
Still wondering how to become a running coach in the UK? While becoming licensed with UK Athletics is ideal, there are other qualifications an aspiring or seasoned running coach can gain to further develop their knowledge and expertise, as well as earn more money. These are also ideal if you're applying for running coach roles, as they'll help you stand out from the crowd.
Sports Massage Qualification
Preventing injury is important for any athlete, especially runners. Becoming qualified in Level 3 Sports Massage Therapy is a great way to understand what treatment is best for runners after training, especially if it’s intense.
This course teaches you everything you need to know about post-run massages, muscle-soreness, managing injury, and rehabilitation. If you're looking to put some of those principles into practice now, check out our article on the best hamstring stretches for back pain and tight muscles.
Studied via a blended learning method of compulsory weekend workshops and online learning, you’ll be a qualified sports massage therapist in as little as 8 weeks, and be able to work in paid roles or set your own rates and earn more as a freelancer.
Gaining this qualification enables you to know exactly what is wrong with your client if they injure themselves during training and help them recover accordingly. By conducting post-run massages, you can also target problem areas and prevent injury, and earn more revenue from one client.
Not only that, but you'll also be able to refer any sports massage clients with an interest in running to your coaching programmes, effectively combining the services you offer, and allowing you to maximise your income.
Combining your running coach qualification with a Level 3 Sports Massage certification also means you’ll be able to recognise the signs of injury, and offer both rehabilitation and training for the future.
One way to significantly supplement your career, as well as help you to improve your coaching and leadership skills, is to become a qualified personal trainer. Working as a PT is a much more stable form of employment, and offers you the safety to continue with your coaching.
Compared to running coaching, there are significantly more permanent jobs in personal training. For this reason, new running coaches can benefit from pursuing a part-time PT job alongside their freelance running career. This would allow new coaches to build up their client base whilst still having a fixed income from their PT job.
Working in any capacity (in a gym, freelance or self-employed) as a personal trainer is a great way to develop your craft and understand individual client needs.
While personal training covers a wider range of fitness aspects, the skills learnt during your training will positively impact your role as a running technique coach. You'll learn:
- How to develop programmes and build routines for a gym environment
- Tailor exercises and sessions to your individual client's needs
- Applying nutritional principles to exercise
- Monitoring progress to achieve clearly defined goals
- Working alongside clients with periodised gym sessions
Of course, these aren't the only things you'll be expected to do. You can find out more about a personal trainer job description here.
For those not qualified as a gym instructor, the most popular route is to complete a personal training diploma.
This diploma combines the Level 2 Gym Instructing Course and the Level 3 Personal Training Course, allowing you to jump straight into becoming a qualified personal trainer. You’ll also save money by doing this, as you don’t have to pay separately to gain both qualifications.
Strength & Conditioning
A strength and conditioning coach functions similarly to a personal trainer, but predominantly focuses on those at the very peak of their physical fitness. They often work with athletes and sportspeople, rather than ordinary gym goers simply looking to get fit.
In order to expand your client base and increase your potential earnings, it may be worth achieving a qualification in strength and conditioning. With this certificiation, you'll be able to create tailored, periodised plans to push clients towards their goals.
As strength and conditioning coaches are more specialised, they often end up working with athletes and clients whose passion for fitness isn’t just a passing interest.
Some of the benefits of strength training for runners include the ability to strengthen muscles and joints, reduce the risk of injury, and even improve race times. It also has the potential to correct muscle imbalances and improve muscle activation.
Becoming a strength and conditioning coach shows runners how serious you are about coaching them, as you'll be able to use specialised expertise to help them get the most out of their training and become the best athlete they can be.
If you want to develop your knowledge further to help your athletes improve as much as they can, a Level 4 Sports Nutrition Course can be a great thing to expand your skill set.
By gaining this qualification, you’ll be able to advertise yourself as a qualified nutritionist and can advise individual runners on what foods are required to fuel their bodies.
It’s also a good way to set yourself apart from other running technique coaches in your area. Having an advantage by becoming a sports nutritionist is a great way to expand the number of athletes you coach.
Clients are more likely to trust instructors with extra qualifications and expertise, knowing they will receive a great service from a knowledgeable coach.
A nutrition course, like the one offered by OriGym, can be completed entirely online with no entry requirements. You can also be assured you’ll be receiving a qualification that meets industry standards as all of them are regulated by Ofqual and endorsed by CIMSPA.
Where Do Running Coaches Work?
Now that we’ve established exactly how you can get qualified as a running coach, it’s understandable you’d want to know where you can work. Unfortunately, as we’ve already touched upon, there’s very limited scope for full-time employment as a running coach.
There’s a few reasons for this. Running coaching is a very specialised service, and often only available to those who are really passionate about the sport. They’re unlikely to be in-demand at most gyms, and therefore, running coaches usually work on a freelance basis.
However, freelance doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll struggle to find employment. Services like We-Run and Let’s Run Coaching offer a reliable way to pass your details over to those who are looking to be coached.
These sites will help to pair you with people who are actively seeking coaches to help them with their running, as well as tailoring these clients to your specific coaching background. For instance, if you’ve completed a CiRF qualification, your details will be passed over to coachees who are looking to augment their off-track running experience.
If reading about the limited full time employment opportunities has worried you, though, there is a solution.
By combining your running coaching with an additional qualification (like personal training or sports massage), you'll be able to find stable employment much easier, while still being able to indulge your passion for coaching. We’ll explore these career options in more detail shortly, but this could be the ideal solution if you're concerned.
Running Coach Salary Expectations
While there's limited data for a running coach's salary, it often falls under the holistic term of "sports coach". According to Reed, the average salary of a UK Sports Coach is £22,360. Similarly, Glassdoor states the average salary of a Sports Coach in the UK is £22,360.
These salaries are likely based on working a 40 hour week which is unlikely to be done as a running coach, especially if you're coaching young people. The majority of sports coaches in the UK are volunteers, it’s unlikely you’ll be employed full time solely as a running coach.
Doing this would help develop your leadership experience even further and allows you to deepen your knowledge of coaching clients.
According to Totaljobs, the salary of a personal trainer in the UK is £27,000. In London, it's as high as £32,500. A personal trainer is a popular career path for many who join the fitness industry, being rewarding both financially and in job satisfaction.
Gaining a Level 3 qualification means you can progress onto more specialised Level 4 courses, further expanding your knowledge and expertise into other areas of health & fitness.
For example, the Level 4 qualification in Lower Back Pain Management is great for offering tailored recovery ideas and suggestions for people to help them get better so they can continue training.
If you’d like to become a personal trainer but are struggling to market yourself, you can increase your employability prospects by taking a look at our ultimate guide on how to write a personal trainer CV.
Do I Need Insurance To Be A Running Coach?
If you’re currently wondering how to become a running coach in the UK, one of the first things you should think about is becoming insured. As a running technique coach, it’s your job to provide clients with advice and tips, as well as push them to their limit so they achieve their goals.
However, a scenario may arise where a client injures themselves after following your instruction or advice and seeks legal action. If this occurs, it’s vital you have insurance to protect yourself.
While injuries are a natural part of any sport, they may occur more frequently when coaching runners, especially if you’re a trail running coach or specialise in cross country. You may also injure yourself during coaching and this could make you unable to work.
We strongly advise anyone in the fitness industry to invest in insurance, not just running coaches. This will give you peace of mind as even though serious injuries aren’t very common, you will be protected if they do occur.
Insure4Sport is one of the UK’s most recognisable and leading sports insurance brands, providing specialist insurance to those in the industry, including coaches.
With 4.8 stars on Trustpilot from over 3,000 reviews, Insure4Sport is guaranteed to protect you if any unfortunate situations occur.
Depending on the type of running technique coach you decide to become, Insure4Sport offers different insurance to cover coaches:
- Running (Indoor Cross Country Path Road) Coaches & Instructors Insurance
- Marathon Running Coaches & Instructors Insurance
- Athletics Coaches & Instructors Insurance
Depending on the insurance you go for, it can protect you from claims of professional negligence and harassment. While you hopefully won’t need to use your insurance, it’s a requirement if you want to become a running coach.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Makes A Good Running Coach?
The ideal running coach will have experience both in coaching and from being coached themselves, all of which is experience that can be applied to current and future sessions with their coachees.
This means they will have the ability to understand exactly what every athlete’s goals and objectives are. They can tailor each plan to help their client achieve these aims, such as effectively utilising their time around their work and family life.
A good running coach will know what kind of training is best for a particular athlete. They will make training consistent, ensuring the athlete is steadily improving as they follow the plan created for them.
Rather than changing training plans during every coaching session, it’s important to keep it consistent by finding out what works for each athlete.
Whether you’re a marathon running coach or trail running coach, it’s vital you communicate clearly and provide feedback to clients as well as listen to it.
This means training can be altered and planned to suit an athlete's needs, and they will likely improve much quicker if they understand what isn’t working for them. While positive feedback is important, it’s vital an athlete knows where exactly they may be going wrong.
Supportive and Motivated
There’s more to being a running technique coach than just providing clients with information.
A good personal running coach must have a unique relationship with an athlete and be able to recognise when they may be under stress or not pushing themselves hard enough. The coach can then act accordingly by reading the signs and deciding what action is best.
What Are The Roles & Responsibilities Of A Running Coach?
There are many different things a running technique coach must do, which may include:
- Creating long term and short term training plans.
- Setting SMART Fitness Goals
- Provide athletes with technical and practical knowledge in all aspects of training.
- Inspire and motivate athletes when they may not be pushing themselves hard enough.
- Act as both a guide and a friend to the athlete.
- Initially act as a tutor, and allow athletes to suggest new ideas.
Each client you train will have different requirements, and being able to react to those needs, and create sessions and plans that cater for them is key to being successful as a running coach.
Are Running Coach Apps Effective?
Technology has largely changed the health and fitness industry. People no longer need to venture to gyms or meet their trainers face to face to receive an effective workout session. They can simply use treadmill workout apps and train right in their living room!
However, while online running coaches and running coach apps can be great for beginners or those who have an interest in health and fitness, they’re unlikely to be effective in the long term.
If you’re passionate enough about running to be looking for a qualified coach, then a running coach app or online running coach is unlikely to help you achieve your goals if you’re serious about becoming an athlete.
Athletes who meet with a personal running coach are more likely to achieve their goals. A running personal trainer can tailor plans to individuals and inspect problem areas, preventing injury and helping runners continually improve.
While running coach apps may allow you to set goals and can help build the foundation of your fitness career, a real-life running coach is important for building a unique relationship and pushing you towards your endgame when you need it the most.
Before You Go!
Helping aspiring athletes of all ages and abilities achieve their running goals is a rewarding experience. Now you know what you need to do to become a running coach in the UK, it’s time to begin your exciting new career!
If you feel you’re ready to coach clients and increase your level of expertise, check out our Level 3 Personal Trainer qualification and start your journey today!
Otherwise, take a look at our comprehensive online prospectus to see the range of courses we have on offer at OriGym!
Written by Professional S & C Coaches
Download Your FREE 16 Week Half Marathon Training Programme
Written by Professional S & C Coaches