Coaching service

Runner Profile

The usual starting point is asking you to complete thoroughly the Runner Questionnaire. This gives a holistic picture of where you are as a runner. It is valuable to spend this time at the outset, so that the programme starts off from a fully informed position.

Induction and Goal Setting

Ideally the induction will include a thorough face to face meeting and a chance to actually watch you running, if that is practical. This usually lasts about 80-90 minutes and is backed up by a through personalised email debrief shortly afterwards. I was canny enough to be the first in the niche world of UK running coaching to use '1to1' but not canny enough to stop others from copying it.

It helps the planning process if you can identify an event at least 12 weeks later, and ideally around 26 weeks, as a personal goal, and we'll consider, whatever your level of fitness, a realistic target for that event. We will also discuss suitable milestone events en route to the target race and will suggest suitable options if you wish. This provides the framework for each monthly programme.

Ongoing Communication
There is a choice of feedback and contact options, mainly by email and phone, and unlike many, there are no 'gold/silver/bronze' type packages. Experienced thorough coaching is experienced thorough coaching, not determined by how much a runner is paying for a good service. I do my best for you. The details will vary as individuals vary; and indeed may well vary for the same individual over time.

Each athlete is an experiment of one. In the real world runners will occasionally be injured or ill; they change jobs, have children and life can be unpredictable. Experience suggests that this is often when a coach is most helpful, advising, strictly in the context of any relevant medical advice that the runner receives and shares, a suitable cross training programme so that the fitness built up through running can largely be maintained by alternative training methods.

Prices are as follows:

Induction - a thorough holistic meeting, face to face, including , feedback from questionnaire, analysis of running movement and backed up by detailed email debrief  - £110 (payable in cash at the end of the induction meeting)

Monthly training schedules and ongoing advice £76 pcm by monthly standing order. Fee is pro rata'd if there is a specific target date eg a start date of 1 December for the London marathon in April would be charged accordingly. The first month's training programme is usually sent as an addition to the debrief.

A one off consultation comprising induction meeting including analysis of running movement; thorough individualised debrief and training recommendations  is £130 (payable at the end of the meeting).
Can be used as a birthday or Christmas present.



    Other testimonials

    Dr Sarah Rowell, Chair of UK Athletics and former UK Marathon record holder (2.28) and Technical Consultant to the English Institute of Sport
    David has shown tremendous intuition and drive to establish himself within the world of endurance running, not just as a respected coach but also helping athletes with races and training trips abroad. In wanting to help athletes he has actively sought information and advice from the best, not just in the UK but world-wide. He is now in a position where he can use this knowledge to help his growing band of athletes achieve their potential

    Bud Baldaro. Former UK Athletics Marathon coach and personal coach to Hannah England, World Championships Silver medallist in 2011 and to many British international runners
    As a coach for many years at club, student and area/international level David knows his stuff. Having known David for many years, I never fail to be impressed by his thirst for knowledge of the sport.

    A student of the sport for numerous years; he is a true aficionado of the road scene. Passionate and inspired by runners of all ability levels he brings to the table a life long  love of the sport combined with a depth of knowledge and the ability to develop his points in a rational, accessible and comprehensible manner.   He possesses a genuine insight into the both the needs of runners and their patient progression plus of course the very specific demands of the event

    Jonathan Solly, Commonwealth Games 10,000 metres Gold Medallist 1986 and 2.12 marathon runner

    In the time I have known David... I  have been hugely impressed with his enthusiasm, contacts and depth of knowledge for the sport. He clearly knows his stuff, is great at translating this into meaningful coaching sessions and if I was still running more than 3 times a week, would be delighted for him to have some input into my training   

     Jason Henderson, editor of globally renowned magazine Athletics Weekly, of the book on Improving Marathon and Half Marathon Running

    Thanks Gawd, a book on endurance running written by someone who has some real endurance running experience and credentials

    Martin Rush, UK and England Athletics Head of Endurance and 1992 Olympic athlete, said of the book

    it is a highly readable publication which squeezes a huge amount of information and ideas into a manageable sized book.  Written with a tone and wit that is often lacking in guidance books, it definitely belongs in your road running library.

    Dan Robinson, four times Olympic and World Championship marathoner and 2006 Commonwealth Games medallist
    David has a huge passion and knowledge of distance running. Having known him for several years, there are few people in British endurance with his dynamism,expertise, commitment and positivity. His willingness to go the extra mile stands out.

    Kevin Hickey MBE, former National Coaching Foundation Coach of the Year and former Head of Operations, British Olympic Association
    David Chalfen is one of the most committed and passionate coaches I have met. Accepted coaching dogmas are challenged and his thirst for new approaches is ongoing. This couples with a sensitivity for the individual athlete's needs in terms of training/competition and lifestyle. In my opinion, he will undoubtedly be a coaching asset in the UK for the emerging generation of endurance athletes 

    Coaches from the Kent Athletics Network at a Flying Coach Seminar/Q+A

    We felt very privileged to hear David talk. I think he was by far the best Coaching Development speaker we’ve seen. I loved his down-to-earth approach – he is confident and experienced enough not to feel the need to blind us with science or fancy sports terminology. He used real examples of pacing that I could really relate to over a wide range of abilities and I felt totally connected to what he was saying. We really appreciate the chance to hear someone with his level of experience talk. It’s inspiring stuff.

    David Turner, Principal Lecturer in Sports Coaching, University of Hertfordshire

    David Chalfen is a highly reflective sports coach who thinks deeply about his coaching practice, and skilfully employs continuing professional development, and extensive professional networking, in order to promote his ongoing coach development and learning. David artfully balances well informed coaching interventions with respecting and encouraging athlete self reliance, in helping to make performance improvements happen. David demonstrates heightened self awareness in terms of his own coaching strengths, responds positively to coaching challenges, and in particular uses writing as a productive means of reflecting upon coaching issues. His coaching expertise has resulted in a natural progression into coach education and mentoring, where he continues to make a positive difference in the life of others.

    Matt Norminton, in Canada, in preparation for the Ottawa Marathon, in which he improved his PB from 2.25 to 2.20.52.  Matt states "Having had David look over my own training several times I can attest that he always has good suggestions and practical ideas to improve things. Sometimes this can be as simple as asking me to reevaluate why I am doing something or if I could do things slightly differently. Thanks for all of your help David and I look forward to having you look things over for me as I get ready for my next marathon"


    Preface to my Book

    I have set out below the preface from my book as it shows more about what I am like. Perhaps deludedly, I still think I can promote myself with a bit of modesty.

    I was sitting in an internet café in the hills in Andalucia when I received the email equivalent of a cold call from Crowood inviting me to write this book. My first reaction was one of suspicion akin to receiving an email from a West African ‘bank’ enquiring after my mother’s maiden name and asking to verify my internet banking password. But it was bona fide and many thanks to Crowood editor Hannah Shakespeare for her faith in adding my name to the endurance writing publications list.

     At the risk of self-aggrandisement, or perhaps just showing that I’m an embarrassingly slow learner, the knowledge and experience that has gone into the book has been almost forty years in the making. The first seeds were sown in 1972 when as a very shy eight year old I watched the 1972 Olympics from Munich. Amidst the British highlights and the deadly intrusion of the terrorist attacks on the Israeli team, it was the long distance races that stuck in my mind. Finnish legend Lasse Viren achieving the 5000m and 10,000m double on the track, and the wiry USA runner Frank Shorter coming home for a dominant marathon win which had a key role in triggering the growth of long distance running in the Western world.  I thought it looked very exciting and I wanted to be part of it. And so started my fascination with long distance running. 

     By a mixture of luck and design, this brought me into some hotbeds of endurance running. My very first tentative track sessions at Shaftesbury Harriers in North West London were done with one lane kept aside whilst the then world record holder for 10,000 metres, Dave Bedford, went through sessions trying to recapture his 1973 glory days. I progressed and was able to wear the Barnet Schools vest with some pride but little competence.

     Through my later teens I persisted with a stable level of mediocrity. The typical scenario was that if I beat another Under 17 or Under 20 athlete they would see retirement from the sport – and in a couple of extreme cases emigrating to South America with an entirely new identity -  as the only logical option to preserve some vestiges of self-respect. At University I could just about describe future World Cup Marathon Champion and 2.08 marathon performer Richard Nerurkar as a training partner on those days when his recovery run and my threshold effort happened to coincide. 

     To show how the marathon world has changed, I ran my first marathon just before turning 18. In an event which wasn’t even classified as an official competitive event, I placed 42nd in a time of 2 hours 42 minutes. Thirty years on, there is no race in Britain outside the mighty London Marathon where this sort of time would place so relatively far down the field.   

     Typical of many coaches, it was only after stopping my own competitive running (well, as competitive as my short stumpy legs and overzealous engagement with Mr Kipling’s exceedingly good cakes could manage) that I acquired the objectivity to drill down into the details of how to really optimise one’s endurance running ability, whatever level that ability is. It’s a cliché that is only partly true, but distance running is in many ways the easiest sport to do – just put on your kit, head out the door and run, sometimes hard and sometimes easy and if you do this very regularly you will improve considerably. However, it’s also just as easy to become a regularly injured runner or an underachieving runner. Indeed most experienced runners will at different stages encounter both situations and the goal – which I hope this book will contribute to – is to ensure that the large majority of one’s running years are spent achieving the best results that are achievable for each individual’s ability and training commitment.       

    My time so far in coaching has been supported by people who contribute to the immense enjoyment we gain from the fulfilling yet existentially futile attempts to help people run a long way a little bit quicker than the last time they tried it.

     In particular, Bud Baldaro and Geoff Williams, great motivators and special people who have such a lasting and positive influence on so many. And they also help them to run faster. Outside the running world, Kevin Hickey MBE has been a tremendously wise and supportive mentor and adviser on the broader aspects of sports coaching.


    'Who Does He Coach?'

    Some of you may wonder ‘ Is this coach for me?’ so to add to the information shown on the website of what I am and what I am not, here is a snapshot of the diversity of who and what I coach.  Some of these reflect the nature of who actually does running, some of them no doubt reflect how I present myself. Don't forget when looking at the breakdown that it can only add up to 100%!


    ·         70% male/30% female

    ·         75% are primarily marathoners (including  a handful of ultra types)/ 25% focusing on shorter endurance events. Please note –   the IAAF, the sport’s world governing body consider 5000 metres as where long distance running starts and so do I.


    ·   live or work in Greater London or South East England/25% in the rest of the UK/5% overseas

    ·         Age profile is 5% younger than 25/ 35% 25 to 35/34% between 36 and 45/26% 45 plus



     Sub 2.32 – 16%

    ·         2.34 to 2.49 – 8%

    ·         2.50 to 3.10 – 32%

    ·         3.11 to 3.40  28%

    ·         3.40+ 16%   

    The median finishing time in the London Marathon is now about 4 hours 40. I have only ever coached 2 runners who took more than 4.40 for a marathon but have coached several who I have gladly coached towards breaking 60 minutes for 10k before launching themselves towards the full 26.2 miles. At the other end of the performance spectrum, some of the very swiftest runners I coach have no marathon goals, and if you are trying to get a high national ranking at 3k or 5k, why would you?  So, there you have it. I do coach endurance running across all levels.

    New Marathoners

    A caveat here. If you are seeking marathon coaching for your debut over the distance, and there are less than five months to go before your marathon and you haven't yet run under 2 hours 5 mins for a half marathon, I won't be willing to coach you. I might be your future marathon coach or I could become your current 10k or half marathon coach but based on a vast volume of experience my view is that you should be deferring your marathon. Or you should seek a coach with a different approach. And good luck if you do so.

    What's In A Name?

    That’s ‘runcoach 1to1’ I mean, not my actual name (third generation Russian immigrant in case you wondered, my great grand-father never got round to Anglicising the surname) . I liked the name so much I bought a few domains with very similar names. It’s actually a very accurate description of what I do, and pretty much all I do in coaching. By that I mean, there are a load of things that running coaches can do that I choose not to do. So I don’t do corporates, I don’t do groups, I don’t do secondary sell, I don’t go running with anyone I coach, I don’t endorse products.  Things where I would worry that the effect on my coaching competence would be, at best, neutral. 

    I don't do any specific promotion - just this website and word of mouth.

    The key area of external partnership working I do is really about keeping runners healthy and helps my own CPD. So, the sports medic world is where I strive to seek the best people and to develop my own understanding. You can run very well without getting unduly involved with clothes, shoes, apps, or lab tests. You can’t run well if you are getting injured. Indeed, you might spend a while not being able to run at all. So that is the key field where as runcoach1to1 I am very keen to have something else in the mix when it is necessary.  

     I quite like writing although I seem to be about twenty years too late for the period when writing about running could be commercial. At least, writing about running the way I would want to.   When I was 22 I wrote one little column for Runners World. I think it was because Mike Gratton, then London Marathon champion, was away for his usual slot, so there was a gap to fill.  My article made a risqué reference to a G string.  I was paid £60 which at the time could cover a down payment on a small cottage in Wales and a Ford Cortina though that’s not what I actually spent it on. The theory was that this would lead to me swanning around the elite athletics circuit penning insightful articles for a Fleet Street ((Fleet Street!) broadsheet.   Clearly something changed and my career planning missed several journalistic boats as now I get periodically asked by the monthlies to write bland-sounding stuff for free. So I don’t. 

    The flip side of this is, and for which I am very appreciative, that the new world of digital technology, increased leisure time and affluence for many, and the recent growth of running as a sport, at varying degrees of intensity and commitment, has created a society in which professional running coaching is a valid and, for some, valued activity.

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