Be sure to check out my other interview of Carrie Lane of Peak Performance Therapy right HERE.
Note from Dad- I met Pete Magill through my good friend Bill Leppert. I know Bill from both work and play. Well, kayaking at least, Bill runs too fast for me. He was always talking about his running coach and the help Pete was giving him on becoming an elite masters runner. Bill put me in touch, and Pete was super awesome to give my little dude an interview. I hope you enjoy it, and be sure to buy Pete’s new book Born Again Runner if you’re like me and need to lace up the sneakers more.
I hope you enjoy this interview, because here it is…
What education do I need to be a running coach?
If you want to make coaching your vocation, I’d suggest getting a college double major in a subject you’d love to teach (for example, English or Science or Business) and Exercise Science. You’ll need a degree to teach at a public institution and most private ones, and educating yourself in the most up-to-date scientific studies on running will keep you one step ahead of the coaching competition.
That said, the most important part of your education will come from running yourself. By performing all the various types of training and by paying attention to how various workouts and workout schedules affect you and those around you, you’ll begin to develop your own philosophy on proper training. That’s the foundation for your future coaching: personal experience.
What personality do I need to be a running coach?
Patience and perseverance are key traits for both good athletes and good coaches. No athlete is guided from out-of-shape to top performance in a day, a week, a month, or even a year. The path from the start of an athlete’s running program to peak performance is a long one, and it will be filled with setbacks, disappointments, long-term commitment, and, of course, success and the joy and satisfaction that accompanies achieving one’s goals. But it’s a coach’s job to both keep the athlete motivated—especially when things aren’t going well—and to expertly guide the athlete on the path to goal accomplishment.
You’ll also need to be confident and decisive. Some good coaches encourage their athletes in an extroverted way, offering lots of positive reinforcement. Others are more introspective, providing an understated, steady hand. But ALL coaches are confident in their decisions and decisive it their advice and prescribed workouts; if a coach isn’t confident in himself or herself, the athletes won’t be confident, either.
What character qualities do I need to be a running coach?
You need to be honest. You need to be upfront with your athletes about their potential and about the work it will take to achieve that potential.
You need to have empathy. You need to be able to put yourself in your athlete’s shoes, so that you can better understand his or her motivations and obstacles.
You need to have respect for both your athletes and their competition. You’re not just teaching your athletes to be better runners; you’re teaching them to love the sport, to value their competitors, and to use the discipline and experience of running to become better people.
How did you become a running coach?
I ran myself. And I trained under a few coaches. And I listened to what other runners were doing—and noted the results. And I read books. And read articles. And stayed up to date on all the recent advances in exercise science and training methods.
And then, when I was twenty-five, I applied for my first coaching job—as the head track and field coach for a local high school, one that hadn’t won a meet in eight years. And when I got the job, I did this: I only taught what I knew—only taught the things I was certain would improve the performance of my athletes, whether they were sprinters or distance runners or field event performers. And that very first year my team won league for Boys varsity and took runner-up for Girls varsity.
To this day, I only teach my athletes what I know, although what I know has grown quite a bit since that first coaching job 30 years ago!
Does doing this for work take away from your love of running?
Coaching adds to your love of running. Instead of focusing on only your own performance, you become a part of numerous athletes’ ambitions, programs, and, ultimately, successes and failures. The relationships a coach forms with his athletes are some of the strongest you’ll experience—outside of family—in this life. In fact, the model on the cover of my next book, The Born Again Runner, which will be published this coming August 23, is a man who, 28 years ago, won a high school varsity league title in the 800 for me. We’ve been friends for, well, 28 years!
What can I do right now as an 9yo?
You can keep running. You can have patience. Don’t look at the years between now and when you’ll begin coaching as an obstacle. See them as an opportunity. Soak up every single thing you can about running over the next decade-plus. Read books about it. Read articles about it. Ask other runners what they do. Ask coaches about training. Keep an open mind, and file away everything you learn in your memory (and some of it in actual, hard-copy files!). By the time you’re ready to coach, you’ll have a wealth of knowledge and experience.
How do I go from a runner to a running coach?
You learn everything you can as a runner, until you become confident that you’ve developed enough knowledge and experience to guide other runners. And then you begin sharing what you know. You become an assistant coach at a local school. Or help out with a local running club. You find that when runners ask questions about the sport, you can answer them—then you do answer them … and the more you answer them, the more likely you are to have runners ask you, “Hey, would you consider coaching me?”
Is there any more advice that you could offer?
Be a cheerleader for your running peers and your running competition. The more you cheer for people in the sport, the more the sport will embrace you in return. Seriously, this is one of the most engaging and welcoming communities there is. Everything you give to this sport, you’ll get back double.
PETE MAGILL BIO:
PETE MAGILL is a 55-year-old masters runner, coach, and writer. He is the lead author of the book Build Your Running Body (2014) and author of The Born Again Runner (2016), former senior writer and columnist for Running Times magazine, and former editor for Double Runner magazine. In his 30s, Magill was a screenwriter, with script sales to New Line Cinema and Disney. Magill has coached at the youth, high school, open, and masters levels. Over the past decade, he’s led his Southern California clubs to 19 masters national championships in cross country and road racing. He’s a five-time USA Masters Cross Country Runner of the Year, the fastest-ever American distance runner over age 50 in the 5K (15:01) and 10K (31:11), and holds multiple American and world age-group records. Magill lives in South Pasadena, California, and competes for the Cal Coast Track Club.