I started my run leading journey back in November 2018 – around about the same time I started this blog. I have been a runner for over ten years now so it only felt right to share my passion for running with others. In this blog I’d like to share some tips on how to become a run leader and inspire others to run.
First I’d like to explain what a run leader actually is. On the face of it, it sounds pretty self-explanatory, but being a run leader is much more complex than just leading a group of runners on their run.
There are lots of things to think about: from planning the session and assessing risks to supporting runners and leading a group.
As a run leader, you could be managing a diverse group of runners. Every run group is different in terms of the fitness level, running motivation, running experience and the age and gender of each runner.
Managing a group with diverse needs can be challenging, but there are huge rewards in being able to see people develop and benefit from their running. To this day, this is one of the main reasons I still love run leading!
Here are my top tips on how to become a run leader and inspire others to run.
How to become a run leader and inspire others to run
Assess your ‘why’
Before you even consider starting a run group or booking yourself onto a training course, assess why you want to become a run leader in the first place.
Being a runner and being a run leader have their similarities, but they also have some key differences. As a runner, you only really have to worry about yourself, and your own running goals are what motivate you to continue running and become a better runner.
If you’ve been running for a few years now, you’ve probably got used to your own running routine, including distance, pace and running routes. You know exactly what ticks your boxes as a runner, and you know when to push yourself and when to hit the brakes.
Being a run leader is much more about putting other runners first and assessing their needs. After all, you are there to help develop and support them on their journey to becoming a better runner, so this means what works for you may not necessarily work for them.
A good run leader will know when to put their preferences and likes/dislikes on the backburner. This also means leaving egos and stories of personal bests at home. If you’re going to be working with a group of beginner runners who have never run a 5k before, they may feel intimidated if you brag about that time you ran a 1hr 35min half marathon.
Your runners’ development and needs should be centre stage. Try and tap into what they need from you as a run leader, whether that be support, motivation, encouragement or simply someone to talk to.
Empathise with them and think about where they are in their running journey. Remember how it felt when you first started running? The more you can put yourself in their shoes, the easier you will find it to plan sessions appropriately and form a bond with them.
Perform a skills audit
As a run leader, you’ll develop all of the necessary skills that a good run leader needs to possess without realising. Being a clear and effective communicator is an essential skill to have when leading a group of runners.
You will also use your skills to motivate, mentor and encourage runners in your group, whether that be working with someone who is completely new to running, or helping someone conquer their first 5k race.
Patience and empathy are also good skills to have as a run leader. There will be times when someone needs that extra support to complete a run or push through a crisis of confidence.
Don’t worry if you don’t think you have all the required skills to become a run leader. I truly believe that everyone has the ability within them to lead a run group, even if you might not realise it yet. All it takes is practice and the willingness to get better at it.
Book onto a Leadership in Running Fitness (LiRF) course
In the UK, UK Athletics is the national governing body for the sport of athletics in Great Britain and Northern Ireland. They share a passion for athletics and are instrumental in ensuring that athletics remains popular. They also offer training and support and coaching qualifications for anyone looking to become a run leader or run coach.
I highly suggest you complete the Leadership in Running Fitness (LiRF) qualification if you are serious about becoming a run leader. It will not only give you the credibility to go on and lead running groups, but it will be a welcome confidence boost as you’ll learn lots of valuable skills and information on the course.
The Leadership in Running Fitness (LiRF) qualification is designed to prepare you to provide a safe and enjoyable running experience for runners of any ability, size or shape.
The course itself lasts one day (9am-5pm) and covers things like risk assessment, warm ups, cool downs and how to lead fun running sessions for a mixed ability group of runners.
The day consists of a mixture of classroom and practical based sessions. You’ll get to practice leading a warm up, main session and cool down on the day itself with your fellow classmates, which is actually quite fun!
You’ll also receive feedback from the course instructors and fellow runners on the day which is really valuable.
You’ll need to complete and submit a DBS form and complete the UK Athletics Safeguarding training module after the course in order to receive your run leader license.
Hold your first running session
Holding your first running session can be incredibly daunting, especially if it is your first time run leading or doing any kind of sports fitness instruction.
You may choose to go out on your own and start your own running group, or you may opt to join a local running group or athletics club and offer support there. Below are the pros and cons of each option.
Start your own running group
- You can choose where and when to hold the sessions.
- You can choose who you aim the sessions at. For example, if you want to work with female runners only.
- You can decide the content for each session. For example, a steady 5k run or an interval training session.
- You can monetise each session and make a little side hustle for yourself.
- It’ll take longer to establish your sessions in the local community as people build trust in what you are offering.
- You don’t have a support network of other run leaders and run coaches.
- You’ll have to lead each session yourself until you find other run leaders to support the sessions.
- You’ll have to market and advertise the running group to build local interest, and ensure people book on.
Join an already established running group or athletics club
- The groups are already scheduled, you just need to turn up and lead the session.
- You’ll have a support network of other run leaders and run coaches which is great for confidence building, social networking and your own personal development.
- You’ll have a pool of runners ready to work with.
- You won’t have to worry about marketing the sessions and getting people booked on.
- You cannot choose where and when to hold the sessions.
- You cannot choose who to aim the sessions at, unless you join a running group that already caters for your target market.
- You cannot monetise each session.
- You’ll have less freedom to decide session content.
Whatever you decide to do, make sure it aligns with your own goals and motivations as a run leader.
Continue your personal development journey
Once you’ve become a run leader and you’ve started leading sessions, you may wish to continue your personal development journey and find more ways to improve your run leader skills.
UK Athletics offer a wide range of training and support for its run leaders and run coaches, including face to face and online training.
If you’re interested in taking your development one step further, then you may want to look into completing the Coach in Running Fitness (CiRF) qualification. This course is designed for those who want to get involved in coaching runners in road running, trail running, cross country and multi-terrain events.
I completed my CiRF in 2019 and I highly recommend completing this course if you want a deeper understanding of the knowledge and skills relating to running.
You must have completed the LiRF course before starting the CiRF, and it is recommended that you have three months’ practical experience of leading and/or coaching before commencing the CiRF programme.
Here are some other useful websites and resources to help you with your personal development:
- Brian Mac Sports Coach – A website that provides information for athletes, fitness enthusiasts and coaches on the many topics relating to athletic development, exercise physiology and successful coaching. Brian Mac is a Level 4 Performance Coach with British Athletics and has over forty years experience as an endurance athlete.
- Lazy Girl Running – Lazy Girl Running is run by Laura Fountain who is a UK Athletics Run Leader, Run Coach and more recently a LiRF and CiRF instructor. She provides useful tips and advice on her blog on running, run leading and run coaching.
- RunTogether – RunTogether is part of England Athletics and provides fun, friendly, supportive and inclusive running opportunities for everyone. They also provide lots of resources for run leaders, including session plans, workshops and training plans.