Meet our Gold Coach Calum Neff

This Interview is with our Gold-Coach Calum Neff, World Record Holder for Fastest Half Marathon Pushing a Stroller (1:11:27) and Full Marathon (2:31:21). Read about his running background and get his advise.

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Calum’s explanations below the interview*

What reputation and importance does running have in the country that you live in? 

I’m currently in the USA but have lived in many countries, and no matter where I go the running community is always welcoming and like family. I think the general reputation of running in the USA is as a participation sport, its great to see so many new runners joining late in life. Because of this, a lot of them have never had formal instruction which is why we are seeing so many injuries and a general decline in the average marathon finishing times. As a coach and athlete I encourage everyone to run, but the right way- learn proper form and gradually build distance over time, don’t be in a rush for that Boston Qualifier! A gradual progression will keep you healthy and enjoying the sport, meaning you will continue running.
Tell us your personal running story.

I started running at the age of four years old, it was a kids 1km race while my dad was doing a local 10km. I still have my bib, tshirt and running from that first race in 1988! Growing up I was lucky to run in many places around the world and also experience a range of coaches, teams, and disciplines of the sport. Some of my earliest instruction at the age of 9 included the classic form drills we still see today. I also took part in lots of trail, cross country, track, and road racing. At 9 years old I first beat my dad when I ran a 40 minute 10km. At 14 I ran my longest race of 28km through the trails of Australia. Through high school and university I was dedicated to XC and track and now that I am post-collegiate have ventured into ultramarathons and road marathons.

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What has been your favourite running experience so far?

The stroller running has been such a joy, to share running with my kids (and have some company during those miles!) has been a lot of fun. During this latest marathon buildup I did quite a few of my key marathon workouts, including long runs, with my daughters. On weekends I like to drive out of town a little, find some hills and new scenery, so these little adventures were a great bonding experience for me and especially my eldest daughter, Aley, who is four. It’s a key part of her development too, she learns a lot during these runs, asking millions of questions, and enjoys being out in nature.

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What is your next goal? How do you prepare for that? 

Having run so well with a stroller in the Toronto Marathon I think that I am in new territory in my running career and would like to give the marathon (without a stroller) a really good shot. The Canadian (my nationality) standards for our team are extremely difficult to obtain but maybe in 3 years time I can bring my time down enough to meet the qualifying standard for a national team. With another baby on the way next year I will also have to find another stroller record to go after in addition to some goals I have in ultra running. With long term goals in mind I am going to be doing a phase of shorter distances (5k thru half marathon) before getting into a large base mileage phase again leading into another marathon preparation. It’s the same type of training my athletes receive on running.COACH, of course I adjust their paces!

What is your favourite type of training?

Long runs through the mountains in new places, high above tree-line, fast and light with minimal gear. These types of runs are great physically but more so mentally, the hours just fly by!

Which is your personal piece of training advice that you can share with us? 

Good training is all about good recovery, you have to listen to your body and communicate that with your coach. Doing a workout when you’re tired, sick, or stressed in other ways just because its on your calendar is bad training. Limiting your downtime due to injuries and other setbacks is key to being consistent over a long periods of time, and if you can do that then there is no way you wont improve.

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Do you have any ritual which you do before a competition? 

Before a race is the same routine I do before a workout, keeping the same warmup and no superstitions means my body and mind know what to get ready for but can also adapt as nothing goes exactly to plan.

Do you mind your nutrition?

I cycle my diet like a cycle my training, there are phases where I really watch what I eat and stick strictly to a certain diet and other times I take that mental break and relax. My standard plan is almost always to have protein immediately after finishing a workout. I like to keep it simple though- drink when thirsty, eat when hungry. This will help avoid too much or too little of anything and its sticks to my tip above, listen to your body.

What is your favourite running brand? 

I have been running in Altra Running shoes for the past three years and its been my healthiest and best performances in my career. I’ve also been training using Polar watches for over 16 years now which really assists in heart rate training and recovery.

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What was a special moment for you as a running coach/ Gold coach? 

Coaching gives me the same tingling feeling I get in a race when I have athletes out there racing themselves, multiplied by how many athletes I have running. Working with children always brings me the greatest joy as they really lay it all out there, especially cross country. My gold athletes have some big goals right now, two of them going after ultra marathons, I can’t wait to see their hard work pay off.

Why should a customer book you as a Gold coach?

I think a good coach is someone who recognizes the true potential of an athlete, more so than they see in themselves, and gives them the encouragement and tools to perform to their full capability. I haven’t met a single person yet that I don’t think can be much faster than they already or faster than they think they think they could be. I love to help people reach their goals through smart, individualized training, by adding my nearly 30 years of running and coaching experience.

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*Calum’s WARM-UP Explanations

Coffee or tea? I like both but normally drink coffee
Summer or winter? There’s no winter in Texas, I miss the Canadian winters but now I run year round.
Running training in the morning or in the evening? I love my sleep but there’s something special about finishing 20 miles before most people are out of bed.
Running training alone or in a group? I rarely get the chance to train with anyone else which is another reason I love racing so much, great to run with a group.
Running in the terrain or on asphalt? Concrete is fast but I do love my trails, best way to revitalize your running in my opinion.
Running with or without a GPS watch? Always a watch for me, I love the data. I should try without sometime.
Running statistics: yes or no? Excel spreadsheets galore, I’m a slave to the data, analysis, and statistics!
Pre-competition meal: pasta or rice? Pasta- Aglio Olio, spaghetti in olive oil with lots of garlic and cayenne.
Competition nutrition: gel or bar? Gel
Alternative training: swimming or biking/cycling? Cycling

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