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Fran Marcellin
Why did you decide to get a running coach?

When I started running in January 2019, I could barely run 3k and I had picked up a chronic illness six months before that was uncurable and unbearable to live with. At the end of 2018 I was at my lowest point as the cocktails of medicines the doctors had tried me on weren’t working. I was exhausted, depressed and unwell. I knew I couldn’t carry on like this. I needed to change my life. Before getting ill, I’d seen the start of a race in the Pyrenees – the Aneto Trail – and it had felt very exciting to me. I’d looked up trail running and feeling inspired I’d decided I would start running and try trail running for myself, but then I fell ill and so I didn’t act until six months later.

After being prescribed different medication in the new year (2019) I felt less fatigued. I changed my diet, becoming mostly plant based, which made a massive difference to the impact my chronic illness had on me, and decided to start running. At first I couldn’t run the 3k route by my house, it was hard to run, but I did feel so much brighter afterwards and it improved my self-confidence. Incredibly it also reduced the symptoms and the amount of meds I needed to take and so I became determined not to give up.

At first I used Runkeeper and downloaded various online training plans as I’d decided I wanted to do the Aneto Trail race myself in the Pyrenees that summer (the 10k version of the one I had seen, which was the start of a mountain ultra-running dream). I then planned to train for a marathon in the autumn. The problem was that the “one size fits all” print-off training plan approach didn’t work for me. What was the best way to train for a 10k mountain trail race followed by a 42k marathon? That kind of plan didn’t seem to exist. And how could I fit in training around my busy job, which involved regular travel (pre-Covid in 2019), and looking after three young children (3, 4 and 7 years old)? And should I just be running, or should there be other exercise involved too? These were just some of the questions I needed help finding answers to.

I needed a plan tailored to me that I could and would stick to, that would take my fitness levels and health situation into account, and that would train me for these specific events.

It honestly felt like a wild move to look for a coach. I had never undertaken any kind of physical training plan before in my life, although I have enjoyed running and going to the gym at various points. But it if I was going to do this, not waste my time and become the best I could be in the short timeline of a few months before that 10k I needed help, so I set about looking to find someone who could be a good match for me.

How long have you been coached?

I have been coached by Keith since April 2019.

What do you enjoy most about the coaching?

It takes away the stress and endless internet research trying to figure out what is best for me. I love knowing that an expert in coaching and running (I am so lucky to have found Keith!) is creating my training plan. All I have to do is show up – which at times is hard enough! – but it means I can just focus on getting the training done without worry. I love that he is there for me to talk to if I need advice or I am unsure of something and the mere fact that he took me on has really boosted my self-confidence and self-belief.

Finally, the fact that we are training at the right intensity for my fitness levels enables me to keep going, and the fact that we train by effort and not pace really works for me as I don’t become disheartened by not reaching pace goals (which I probably would).

What have you achieved?

A level of fitness I didn’t think was possible for “someone like me”. Having seen the results of the coaching so far I realise it’s all about mindset. I can be that someone, that ultra runner, I just need to believe that I can do it as Keith’s training plan takes care of the rest.

I completed the 10k (500m+ elevation) in the Pyrenees three months after signing up and ran my first marathon – Millau (also 500m+ elevation) Marathon – in September 2019. That’s 0k to 42k in 9 months, I could hardly believe it! The plan was to run my first ultra marathon (50k) 12 months later in the French Alps, however, I fell unexpectedly pregnant at the end of March 2020 and so that dream is on hold until 2021. I was able to run a half marathon at 28 weeks (even though I was really trying for 50k it wasn’t possible for me at that stage of pregnancy) and 27k at 4 months pregnant and they are both achievements I’ve been proud to accomplish as a pregnant runner.

What would you say to someone thinking about signing up?

I would say go for it, I can’t see that you’d regret it and if you did all you have to do is cancel so you’ve nothing to lose from trying. It’s one of the boldest and best decisions I’ve ever made. Finding Keith changed my life because he was the right coach for me, and has been able to bring out the best in me. Too pushy and I may have walked away; too intense and I might have decided it was too much – somehow he is able to provide a perfect balance which helps me to love my training and juggle it around my work and kids.

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