As part of the England Athletics Area Coach Mentor remit, hosting a coach development day focused on Female Endurance at Hertfordshire University. The morning sessions look at the specific medical issues. These are split between the bone density and osteoporosis issues, which are described by an excellent sports doctor who is also a serious triathlete, and then a detailed analysis from a PhD researcher at the recently opened National Centre for Eating Disorders in Sport, based in Loughborough. It’s fair to say that of all the inspiring and exciting things that can come with distance running and coaching, these elements are not what people want to be immersed in. But as any endurance coach will know, it is only a matter of time before you encounter athletes where these factors are relevant. It’s never easy but the sport is now more systematically enabling coaches on how to work with the medical experts to try to managee issues. The segue from the ED debate into a lunch which includes some egg and sausage sarnies offers a definite bad taste joke option, but we don’t go there.
In the afternoon we have a more informal discussion led by Jeremy Freeman who is best known for coaching the prodigious Essex teenager Jessica Judd to some amazing performances at 800, 1500 and 3k. There is nothing excessive or freaky in terms of volume; intensity; frequency or indeed coach or family pressure in Judd’s set up. For many it’s hard to accept that some rare people just have huge ability in a particular field – it could be distance running; maths or playing a violin. The relative ‘uncontrollable’ factor which people such as coaches and parents can influence but not govern, is how much these precocious talents actually wish to pursue their particular gifts to the limit of their potential, as opposed to everything else they may want to do with their lives. As coaches, runners and simply sports fans, we naturally want outstanding talents to stay in the sport, but objectively one can see why an 18 year old might think that running twelve times a week every week for the next decade might not be their chosen vocation, whatever fantastic genetic advantages they have been gifted with