I qualified as an Assistant Club Coach for Sprints and Middle Distance in 1974 and am now a UKA Level 3 Coach specialising in Middle Distance, Marathon and Ultra running.

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I got my inspiration from my own coach, Brian Olive, and felt I had to put something back into the sport. I was also a qualified field judge. I worked for 41 years and retired as a “Field Referee”.

When I first qualified as a coach back in the 1970’s the assessment was verbal and practical and was done by area Staff Coaches. Written exams were only taken to get to the higher levels. There were no fees involved.

Most of my learning was done by listening to and working alongside more experienced coaches. I did attend numerous National Marathon Squad weekends, with world class athletes and coaches holding practical sessions and seminars.

As an athlete I had complete confidence in my coach. It is incredibly rewarding to think that my athletes actually listen to what I say and continue to achieve.

I have been asked, “What is your proudest moment as a coach?” I find that hard to answer. I am proud of all of “my” athletes when they achieve a goal and we move onto new ones.

High on the “proudest moments” list are two of Sue Harrison’s performances. I have coached Sue for over 30 years. The first was in 2010 when she ran for England in her first ever Ultra Event, the World 50,km final in Ireland. Sue won gold setting a new British Record and a World Masters record. The time she ran still ranks her 11th on the World All-time list. The second memory is, when in only her second 100km race, this time for Great Britain, Sue won individual bronze in the European 100km Championships in France. I was fortunate to be there for both of them and still smile when I recall those precious moments. Then more recently, Kelly Edwards and Jenny Jeeves won England vests for the Masters 10km. The warm glow you get from that makes it all worthwhile. That glow also comes whenever I see an athlete perform to the best of their ability.

So why do we do it? Athletics has enabled me to meet some incredible people. I have greeted youngsters on their first day at the club and I have worked with Olympic medalists and senior technical officials and administrators at all levels. Our sport has taken me to over a dozen countries on three continents. I can think of no other way I could have experienced all that.

Health-wise, I have experienced some “dark” times in my life and each time the draw of returning to coaching and “my athletes” has been one of my goals to see me through.

Finally, I have been asked “what words of advice would you offer to anyone thinking about coaching?” The answer to that is twofold. Firstly it must be fun, and secondly, remember, “It’s not about you it’s about the athlete”. If neither of those is your priority, then there are lots of other things you can do in our sport, but perhaps not coaching.

So my final byline is “🏃🏃+ 😁🚌

(Which for those not in the know, translates as “Run tall and smile…coach”)

Les Barnett
Coach
Life Member. Leamington C & AC

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