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4 things I learnt leading my first Couch to 5k running group


In 2019, I was lucky enough to be given the opportunity to lead my first Couch to 5k running group.

Leading a run group has been a dream of mine for a few years now, so I thought it was about time I mustered the courage to start a local running group.

I love to share my passion and enthusiasm for running because of the positive impact it has had on my own physical and mental health.

Running has changed my life so many ways for the better, so what better way to share this with others.

In August 2018, I completed my Leadership in Running Fitness (LiRF) course which was super helpful in providing me with the basics of run leading.

In the following year I was then presented with the opportunity to lead a local ladies running group through Let’s Run Girls.

I’d like to share some of these learnings with the view of inspiring any budding run leaders to start their run leader journey. It’s not all scary and if I can do it, you can do it too!

Related: How to become a run leader and inspire others to run

first couch to 5k

4 things I learnt leading my first Couch to 5k running group

Don’t overthink it, simplicity is key

When I think back to the first session, I was so incredibly nervous! Self-doubt raced through my head.

I had spent hours planning the session in the days leading up to the course to include running drills and group exercises – some of which I had learnt on the one-day Leadership in Running Fitness (LiRF) course.

At the time, I thought this would be the best plan, but when it actually came to delivering these activities on the day, I felt was cramming too much into the 45 minute session and my delivery felt ‘scatty’.

In hindsight, I wish I had stuck to my original plan – 10 x 1 minute runs with 1 minute walking breaks in between.

Simplicity is key. For the second session, I stuck with my original plan and I felt the session went a lot smoother and came away a lot more confident.

Related: Couch to 5k training plan: 7 essential things you need to know

first couch to 5k

Be prepared to put yourself in the shoes of a beginner runner

This sounds really obvious, but it’s actually a lot harder than it sounds! The biggest challenge for me by far was putting myself in the shoes of a beginner runner.

Before I started the programme, I didn’t give this enough appreciation. There are so many things like posture, breathing, pacing, speed and recovery that are second nature to me now.

I found myself explaining in the sessions as they are somewhat alien to beginner runners, especially when it is your first Couch to 5k. This was a huge learning experience for me, and it stressed the importance of knowing your stuff when it comes to running.

I’m by no means a running expert, but the fact that I was able to answer some of these questions gave me a great confidence boost. I now feel more empowered to share more tips and advice on becoming a better runner.

Related: How to run properly: Running technique for beginners

first couch to 5k

You have to love it

Being a run leader involves weeks and months of training and getting out there, regardless of the weather, your schedule, or anything else that might be going on.

If you’re going to stick with it, you have to love it. It’s just too hard to be a good runner and run leader if you don’t genuinely love it.

You can’t just be in it for the ends, you have to love the process. With love comes motivation and drive, with motivation and drive comes results.

Your run group look to you to provide support, motivation and accountability week in, week out – both inside and outside of the running sessions.

I actually found this process really empowering, and enjoyed motivating people on the programme.

Related: Love to run: How to run your first 5k

first couch to 5k

Small goals are what get things done

The Couch to 5k plan has weekly goals and other milestones along the way, which is great when it is your first Couch to 5k.

The goal of the programme is to run 5k by the end of it. Whether you run it in 25 minutes or 45 minutes, it doesn’t matter. That’s why the programme is so great for beginners as it sets tangible and realistic goals.

There’s no point in just setting one huge performance goal at the beginning of the programme and then expecting miracles.

There must be a sense of achievement and progress along the way. As a run leader, it was my responsibility to identify these goals and motivate the people on the programme to achieve them.

You can choose to do either a 6-week, 10-week or 12-week Couch to 5k plan.

I suggest you choose one based on the experience and ability levels of your runners, then adapt this if needed.

Related: 5 important things to remember when setting effective running goals

Caroline Geoghegan