"It is good for you to grow and learn as a runner, but also as a leader” – Celebrating UK Coaching Week with MadRunners

This week marks UK Coaching Week and to celebrate, we are showcasing the fantastic England Athletics coaching community.

We recently caught up with RunTogether and England Athletics coaches, Debbie and Mark who manage one of the founding RunTogether groups turned affiliated club, MadRunners, based in St Helens.

Debbie and Mark from MadRunners

Starting out on the coaching pathway

Born in 2012, MadRunners originally started with one leader, Mark delivering sessions for staff at the St Helen’s rugby stadium.

“I wanted to get into coaching and did some volunteering. When the Leadership in Running Fitness (LiRF) course became available in 2012, I signed up. I attended the day and left there thinking what is next? I started up the group and there were 6 people running together at St Helen’s stadium originally to help the staff to get fit and from there it got bigger and bigger.”

“I never thought having completed the LiRF course in 2012 and stepping into the big wide world I would have set up a group and taken it to where it is now with how much it has grown. We are still within our protective bubble and growing healthily supporting more people to get into running.”


Expanding the club and growing a team of fantastic leaders

After joining forces with RunTogether in 2016, Mark’s appetite was growing for more, and he began his Coach in Running Fitness (CiRF) qualification. Naturally growing as a group and with the lockdown looming, Mark recruited his wife and new runner, Debbie to join forces on the coaching team!

“We have gone from having me as one leader to having a team of five,” mentioned Mark. “Debbie took over the admin of the group and even stepped up to complete her CiRF during lockdown.”

“10 years ago, I wasn’t even a runner,” explained Debbie. “I started my running journey and never believed I would become a LiRF or CiRF. Funding became available from England Athletics and at the time we didn’t have a female leader, so it was perfect to fill the gap.

“If I can do it, anyone can,” said Debbie. “If you love to run and want to share that passion with other people, consider being a Run Leader. It is good for you to grow and learn as a runner, but also a leader. LiRF gave me the confidence to believe I could become a coach and be able to inspire people. I’m not the fastest runner in the world, and that is why it is good for me to be a Run Leader as I know what they new runners are going through. I know they can achieve what they put their minds to with a little guidance from us as Run Leaders.”

Debbie and Mark of MadRunners

What is next?

Mark and Debbie are certainly putting their coaching qualifications to good use and have grown to deliver a four sessions per week from their ‘Minis’ group and teenage group right through to the seniors. Along with their fantastic leaders Hannah, Phil and Kieron, the club welcomes 50 runners across the week.

From focusing solely on adult runners, Debbie and Mark noticed a gap especially where youngsters under 12 were not able to join in RunTogether and also for the teenagers who were showing an interest in the sport. To combat this, they have taken multi-skills qualifications to coach the children and are supporting their own teenager to undertake the LiRF qualification later this year.

“We are trying to get the next generation to love running and we have got to know the families of some of our adult RunTogether members. It is great to have the children inspired by the parents and now give a session for the children to be involved in. It is also important for the teen members that they have someone their own age to train with, look up to and be inspired by. We currently have a mixture of older female and male leaders, so the addition of a younger LiRF will be great for the club.”

UK Coaching Week

Like this story and want to hear from more coaches in the community? Check out our National Coaching Week page.

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