Runner’s MOT with We Run

I’ve been a passionate (yet unambitious) long-distance runner for as long as I can think. Until two years ago I went running 10km every day come hail or high water. Since then, mainly because I got older and lazier, but also because I do not want to over-exert myself, I usually run three to four times a week, and normally a distance of 6 to 8km, with only rarely a 10 or 12k thrown in for good measure. Four times a year Ms B & I take part in organised 10k’s and half-marathons.

Five years ago Ms B gave me one of the coolest birthday gifts to date: a 4.5h one-on-one barefoot running training session with a running coach. Long story short, I started barefoot running, then switched back and forth between barefoot running and regular running. When I saw the We Run advertisement for the Runner’s MOT (£90 for 90mins) I jumped at the opportunity to get my running technique checked again to see if everything was still okay, especially with me having switched between the two running styles. By the way, MOT, for those readers not based in the UK, stands for ministry of transport and is used as synonym for the ministry’s mandatory vehicle safety test, or, as here, in a metaphorical sense for any type of safety check.

We Run advertise themselves as the UK’s #1 Running Coach Service. Founded just over five years ago by John White, this network of running coaches is still growing strongly. John had identified a gap in the market: the ever-increasing group of amateur runners who were interested in improving their technique but somehow couldn’t get themselves to join a running club.

Booking yourself a 90-minute check-up session is very easy. You register on their website and provide a few bits of information such as what you aim for (performance improvement, injury prevention, etc.), how often and how far you run. A short while later one of the We Run running coaches near your location will contact you by email and arrange for an initial telephone conversation.

In my case, this running trainer happened to be Nicola Heron, a bubbly former civil servant turned personal trainer. The phone conversation felt like time well spent, because it’s much easier and quicker than in writing to exchange the important bits of information, including any health issues, preferences regarding technique and coaching session focus areas. We exchanged a few more emails.

Because of strong winds and heavy rain, we were forced to move our session to another day. Yesterday at 10:30am we met in Battersea Park. After a quick run-through about things to come and some warming-up we dived right into it. I was running back and forth again and again in front of Nicola while she filmed me and took notes.

We did the exercise twice, once with traditional technique and once with barefoot running technique. Then Nicola provided some initial feedback, areas of improvement she had spotted. My overall posture was deemed good, but my pelvis was wobbling around a bit, not static enough and there were plenty of other minor issues with core strength.

My coach also recommended that for my normal running technique, I should take slightly faster, shorter steps, raise my knees higher, and change the angles of my shins towards the ground, without increasing the speed. This would reduce the impact on my knees and spine. Quite to my surprise Nicola also informed me that I occasionally leaned slightly backwards, which needed to stop.

I did a few more runs, trying to incorporate the changes. It worked surprisingly well.

For the last 25 minutes or so we practiced a few exercises together that were aimed at improving core strength and counteract the issues she had spotted with my technique.

At the end of the session, Nicola reminded me that I’ll be receiving a written report within a week’s time that will outline all findings, suggestions for improvement, and exercises. 5 out of 5 in my book. Ms B already said that she’ll be booking herself a MOT session too.

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