Zoe Merchant

Zoe is the kind of runner who I love to coach, she likes to understand why she’s doing something and likes to ask interesting questions. A chatty run with Zoe very often has me back at my desk afterwards looking up the latest research to try and find good answers to her questions.

Zoe’s journey to the marathon finish line wasn’t completely smooth, but she adapted well to the metaphorical bumps in the road and had a really good experience on the day; here are her thoughts on the process.

“I’m a 40 year old female whom, until the start of the pandemic, only ran the occasional 5km – mostly at park runs.

I started running a bit more frequently during the pandemic & then after completing a half marathon in Feb 2021, agreed to enter the Manchester marathon the following year.

Alex offered to coach me & a few other of my teammates informally. We gladly took up the offer.

To begin with he analysed all our recent stats on Strava & worked out how much training we would need to do over a 6 month period to comfortably run the marathon, with a reduced risk of injury.

He shared this weekly plan on an excel spreadsheet – it was really easy to follow! But with some flexibility about the distance needed to run each week & what days to run it.

In addition to the plan, he also gave the group other advice as we started our training. This included advice about clothing, nutrition, psychology and other really helpful aspects.

Half way through the plan I got coronavirus & wasn’t able to run for 2 weeks. I then went skiing in Italy for a week. When I got back I messaged Alex in a panic….he looked at my Strava again & completely adjusted my training plan, taking into account the running I had missed but also the pattern of my running prior to that. For instance, I was finding it difficult to fit so many kms in during the working week so he adjusted for that in what he recommended I ran through the week vs. what I should run on the weekends.

As the long runs were getting longer (!) he often ran with me & the rest of the team, helping us to adjust our pace to be able to endure the longer distances. And also giving more advice about fuel required during the long runs to avoid the wall! His advice about eating something decent before hand & to have a gel at the start of the run was really helpful!

When it came to marathon day I felt totally prepared! I had managed to get to that day, after 6 months of training, injury-free. I felt great during the race, I went at a much slower pace than I previously had (on Alex’s advice) for the first half & this really helped. The second half of the marathon, whilst hard, was completely doable. I was able to sprint finish & I felt fabulous crossing the finish line.

I’m totally grateful to Alex for all his advice & support. He is a fantastic coach – never showing any judgement & always very patient. I would wholeheartedly recommend him to other people in a similar position to me – whether you are just starting out on your running journey or have a big running goal such as a marathon. His expertise is impressive & manner will put you completely at ease.”

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