Firing The Coach

BY Hal Higdon

Hal explains that young runners will improve often despite what their coaches offer in the way of training advice. And that it's not always a good idea for parents to get involved.

Got a question about running? You’re in the right place. Every Tuesday, world-renowned coach, author and athlete Hal Higdon posts and answers athlete questions here. You can submit your question by joining the discussions on Hal Higdon’s Virtual Training Bulletin Boards.


My son is a sophomore and has just finished his second cross country season. I haven’t been real happy with his coach and that coach’s philosophy. Runners on the team basically are just told to go run so many miles for the day. There is very little to no speedwork. Even though his season is over, he will still remain after school to run with his teammates. They basically decide what they will run each day. Which of your programs would you suggest he follow? He obviously wants to increase his speed.


I don’t want to trump the coach, because he may have a vision that we have not yet figured out. But you might check my Winter Training Program for at least some guidance on what to do between seasons. And mainly that is to run. Put in the miles. When inspiration hits and the weather is good, some of those miles can be run at a faster pace. I include a Tempo Run once a week in my winter program, but there is no reason the team can’t do some up-tempo running one or two other days—when the weather permits. Once the track season begins, whether or not the coach has them do speedwork, there will be plenty of opportunity to run fast in races.

Young runners will improve often despite what their coaches offer in the way of training advice. And it’s not always a good idea for parents to get involved, except at times of the year when the coach is not working with his runners on a regular basis. One cannot have two masters, and certainly not three. Hopefully with your encouragement, your son and teammates will continue to improve.

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About Hal Higdon

Hal Higdon is a Contributing Editor for ‘Runner’s World‘ and author of 34 books, including the best-selling ‘Marathon: The Ultimate Training Guide’. He ran eight times in the Olympic Trials and won four world masters championships. Higdon estimates that over a quarter of a million runners have finished marathons using his training programs, and he also offers additional interactive programs at all distances through TrainingPeaks. Hal uses TrainingPeaks to power his interactive marathon and half marathon training plans — check out more of Hal Higdon’s training plans on his website.