The Pros and Cons of Working with An Online Running Coach

Working with an online running coach

A couple of years ago, I started noticing that downloading a plan from the internet to train for your half/full marathon seemed to be losing popularity, and instead, people were having bespoke (or semi-bespoke) plans written.

I possibly spend more than the average runner on…running because I’ve somehow turned this hobby of mine into a side hustle. But the truth is, coaching can be expensive.

And I have too much social anxiety (STILL, even after 6 years of running) to join a running club. I know, I know, they are friendly etc but I genuinely am too nervous to go to a session. I’ve tried so many times but I can’t bring myself to go.

So, a more affordable option for runners wanting a more personalised approach to training, that aren’t confident in their ability to write a plan for themselves, can turn to online running (and strength) coaching.

Working with an online running coach

The Pros 

they can be more affordable. Without the need for in person contact, (which is usually expensive) online coaching can be a really affordable way of getting a plan tailored to your fitness levels and race. You also have a lot more input in terms of days of the week, number of sessions and flexibility etc than you do with a plan you download from the internet.

-online plans. Most coaches use online plans to track their runner’s progress (we use it combined with Garmin data that syncs up to Training Peaks) so it doesn’t actually make much of a difference whether they are set in person or online. Unless of course you’re an elite with a coach with you for every session!

-course specific training. I’m working with Ash, who happens to have already raced the two BIG races I’m training for in 2019. Having that course specific knowledge is a big bonus to me, and she’ll be there in Phoenix too. I first started working with an online coach when I ran my second marathon, NYCM, because Gia was offering a great NYC marathon specific option and she knew that course like the back of her hand. And it helped me shave 45 minutes from my time!

Working with an online running coach

The Cons 

-it’s still expensive! When I was working with Mary at McKirdy trained, I was paying out about £100 a month, which for me, is pricey. When I wasn’t training for anything in particular, it was hard to justify this monthly outgoing, and they make you sign up for 12 months in advance for a discount, so even with no race, I was still getting coaching plans. I will say that they did let me pause it when I got injured which I’m grateful for!

– the time change. A lot of coaches that I know of are based in the USA, meaning that as you’re getting back from your run, they’re going to bed (or are fast asleep). This isn’t ideal if you want instant feedback on whether you should change/skip a run.

– less personable? If you can see your coach, have them watch you at the track, analyse your form and spend time with you on your long runs, I think there’s definitely an advantage to that. Doing everything online needs trust from the coach that the runners is really doing what they say they’re doing, and not pausing their watch etc. And from the runner to know that the coach really is giving a personalise programme!

-no group sessions. Local running coaches often have group sessions that you can attend as part of your training (or at a price on top of this), which can be a great way to get your speed workout or threshold/tempo session done whilst being pushed, or just to make running friends! Plus the face time with your coach can be invaluable.

Working with an online running coach

I absolutely love working with Ash and the sessions she sets are awesome, I can see my speed and strength improving week on week. But one thing I do sometimes miss (because of the time difference to California from London) is the instant feedback/communication. Working with Mary, I’d often have my run done before she went to bed so we would WhatsApp and then Skype chat regularly to see how I was progressing – but I would say that’s the more expensive end of online coaching.

The area that I don’t like just an online workout is when it comes to strength training, due to my own nervousness in the gym and wanting to ensure I’m doing the workout right. For me, a mix of inperson and online sessions works best when it comes to the weights workouts.

You can read a round up here of some of the best strength for runners online programs.

Online Running Coach Recommendations:

The above are coaching platforms or individuals that I know/have worked with or been recommended by a (fast) friend. If you’re looking for a spring marathon training plan or personalised coaching, these would be my go-to starting spots.


  1. 31st October 2018 / 7:24 am

    I had a training plan for a specific event (Manchester marathon) which worked out cheaper than paying a monthly fee (it was a one off cost). I found it worked really well- it made me more accountable for each session, and it definitely made the sessions more challenging and varied. My coach was uk based too, so when we had all that snow in the winter/ spring she was able to advise when I had to cut sessions short or swap them. I used Miles with Michelle if anyone is interested. And I hit my goal exactly, knocking 18 mins of my PB. I also got PBs at 5k, 10k and HM during training.

    • 1st November 2018 / 8:58 am

      Thank you so much for this recommendation – it turns out, Michelle is based really close to where I live and is exactly what I’ve been looking for!

      • 1st November 2018 / 1:01 pm

        I cannot recommend her highly enough! Good luck!

  2. 31st October 2018 / 1:06 pm

    I’ve been working with an online coach for two months now and I do find it helpful as a way of making me more accountable for my running. It’s definitely a much more affordable alternative to face-to-face coaching, and I like the personalised plan which is really helpful for me as I sometimes work shifts. I don’t think it can ever fully replace face-to-face coaching, but it’s a much more accessible alternative for everyday runners.

  3. 31st October 2018 / 4:47 pm

    Just a few days ago I watched this really great Ted Talk about getting a coach. Is an online running coach and someone who has been coached both in running and with my run coaching business, I’ve seriously come to value how helpful a coach can be for an outside POV, motivation, and accountability:

  4. Nicoletta
    31st October 2018 / 6:08 pm

    Great, thank you for your input! very much appreciated!

  5. The Newbie
    31st October 2018 / 7:20 pm

    Pausing your Garmin to trick your coach?! Do people do that? My coach is across the country from me. But lying to her? What’s the point of that?! I’m only cheating myself?

  6. 6th November 2018 / 4:24 am

    Just a few days ago I watched this really great Ted Talk about getting a coach. Is an online running coach and someone who has been coached both in running and with my run coaching business, I’ve seriously come to value how helpful a coach can be for an outside POV, motivation, and accountability:

  7. 18th November 2018 / 4:08 pm

    I like using a training plan, but to be honest spend a lot of time second guessing myself -maybe I’d benefit from a running coach!