Sub 3 hour marathon training diary – Week 14: The importance of having a Coach

Week 14

When I trained for my first 10k years back, I couldn’t run a quarter mile without stopping repeatedly, wheezing out of breath. This week I hit two landmark achievements:

  1. I hit my first 90 mile week;
  2. I ran a 81:45 minute Half Marathon PB in training.

This wouldn’t had been possible without structured training from my Coach John.

Before I elaborate about the importance of coaching, I want to try and convey what last week was like. I don’t even think the word “hard” does it enough justice.

For my midweek workout I ran 1.5 mile warmup and the workout was 4 x 4 miles with 0.5 mile mile Stazza “recoveries”. The recoveries were to be run slightly slower than target marathon pace.

I wish I could say during the run that everything flowed and clicked, that I was one with the track blah blah… but running fast comes at a cost.

The first two reps I ran too hard, as I knew I was on for a half marathon PB, but the pain kicked in for the third rep. For the final rep I was hanging on, mentally I argued with my legs to shut up for each step for the last 4 miles.

I achieved a PB on a quiet track. It was an achievement but an anticlimax, because I had to get back to work, then back to family duties, and try to recover before the 8 mile run the next day.

Being so deep into the process I never really celebrated the half marathon time. As the day progressed I focused on mentally preparing on recovery and for my 23 mile run on Sunday.

The cost of this sub 3 goal is the cumulative fatigue, which is both physical and mental.

It’s months/years of being broken down to come back stronger, for one second of glory or heart ache at the finish line.

When I ran on Sunday I had to run 20 miles at around 7 min/mile pace. I did it averaging 7’10 min/mile. The first miles flowed I was running 6’40’s then the weeks fatigue caught up with me. I was running over 7 minute miles, each leg stride took effort and I was hanging on. The weather for the last few weeks has been shocking and I didn’t think or even blame the strong headwinds, as it’s been a regular feature of my long runs.

Not everyone hits their workout goal in a training cycle. But as long as you give your best effort on the day that’s what matters.

The feeling of wanting to stop was real, at points this week it was strong, but I thought of where I started. And what I could achieve if I just tried my best.

I’ve been listening to the David Goggins audiobook Can’t Hurt Me, and when training was tough I remembered the Navy Seal quote he mentioned:

“Under pressure, you don’t rise to the occasion, you sink to the level of your training.”


Prior to working with Coach John, I ran a number of marathons, read lots of different books and tried to fit into standardised programmes. My results never really improved as I tried to do it all myself but I never really came close to my potential. 

A coach helps you take a long term approach, and works with you in different training blocks. A big issue was I’d take a generic training plan but not consider the other weeks outside of training. To run fast there’s no way around it, you have to be consistent.

A question that I get from neighbours etc that see me running is “Are you training for something?”

I reply that I’m always training. Sometimes they shoot back with a smile that recoils a perceived arrogance they attach to me. Or they just think I’ve lost my mind. But I know, to be good at anything you have to work at it, and most of the time you may not want to! But race results are built from the consistent miles you do over the years, not the tempo runs you do for a 16 week training programme.

When I started working with John, the first thing that struck me was despite his running knowledge, he was always keen to learn more. Next was that he genuinely cared about everyone he trained. Whilst I’ve always believed in myself, having his belief has given me so much more confidence. And I know when he gives a compliment, that I’ve earned it.

It’s a misconception that you need to be an elite runner to have a coach. As I’m not! If you want to learn an instrument, martial art, or a skill you get someone to teach you.

Whilst I’ve run a lot previously, I wasn’t training properly until I started working with John.

I stayed true to his tailored training programme for me, and I learned about the importance of training blocks. I learned that after consistent training you’d have dips, but a breakthrough would soon follow. And with his training I’ve achieved PB’s, which I struggled to hit before.

From running a 2:15+ half marathon. I achieved a sub 81min half marathon with his training. I’ve also gone on to run sub 20min 5ks and a sub 40min 10k. Now my target is to BQ and I believe that will happen working with John.

One of the things he said to me when we first started working together was that I would be competitive in local races. I thought it was just the stuff he said to everyone. But last year he proved me right, I got a podium in a 5k race and won the 15 mile Urban Rush race by charity shelter.

However running isn’t all about finish times, and John is helping me on my journey to be the best runner that I can be. In my training I’m learning more about nutrition, strength and conditioning, mental training for racing etc.

Each week he gives me feedback on my training and there’s many opportunities to talk to him during the month as required.

He coaches a range of people, from elites going for the Olympic’s to weekend runners. I’ve become a better runner because of his training. Fact. If you want to get in touch with John about coaching, let him know I put you in touch, you can email him at:


  • Coaching is €450 for 12 months: 10 months + 2 months free.

Stazza’s Stable High Altitude Training Camps in Iten, Kenya

For the last two weeks of January 2020 I will be joining John at his training camp in Kenya as I train for a big race in 2020, which I’ll be announcing later this year.

If you’d like to join us we have 8 places available.

What’s included:

  • One-to-one chats with Coach John about their training;
  • Group activities on strength and conditioning, stretching, mobility, and stability;
  • Meet and greets with questions with top runners. Due to the time of year you will see elite runners training there;
  • Daily runs with Stazza’s Stable Elite Squad (guides and pacers);
  • Visit to Iten market and visit to the vibrant city of Eldoret.

Trips to:

  • Moiben Road for Tempo (the most famous road in running: it’s full of world record holders and Olympic Champions on Saturday morning);
  • Tambach track & Chepkoilel track;
  • St Patrick’s School (the famous school with the running museum).


It’s located a few minutes walk away from the heart of Iten town, the secure accommodation, comprises of two compounds, located right beside each other, one compound holds three houses (suitable for families, couples, or individuals staying alone) and the other compound holds two houses suitable for larger groups.

All accommodation units are secure, comfortable, double rooms, fully furnished, and equipped with all the essentials (sit-down toilets, hot showers, fridges, cooking facilities, etc).


Two vehicles (5 seater and 8 seater) at your disposal for airport transfers, safaris, training needs (trips to Tambach track, Chepkoilel track, Moiben road etc), and shopping/day trips.


A mixture of western dishes and Kenyan dishes. (rice, beans, pulses, chapati, pasta, eggs, chicken, vegetables, fruit, etc) Vegetarian food is no problem at all. 


Including breakfast lunch and dinner, accommodation, airport transfers, all trips, and all activities) 12 nights: £420.

However depending on the length of your stay the price, trips required etc it can be adapted as required.


If you’d like to join us, or go at another time of the year please email John at:

Or view his website.


  1. Hi Marcus.

    This has really got me interested. If you don’t mind my asking, what is a ball park figure for the coaching you receive?
    I do the right things, I just don’t do enough of them. Also I need accountability.




  2. Hi Marcus

    This post has got me very interested in coaching. I lack structure and accountability.
    If you don’t mind me asking. What is a ball park figure cost to receive this type of coaching?




    1. Hi Marcus

      Thanks a lot for finding this out.




  3. I couldn’t agree more Marcus. Just knocked 35 minutes off my marathon time with the help of a coach. David Chalfen. I’m so grateful. Well done at your Manchester time. Look how far you’re come. It’s amazing.

    Liked by 1 person

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