Geoff Wightman

Blueprint for success

As runners we all like to think we’re super fit, ready for anything the world of endurance wishes to throw at us.

But Geoff Wightman*, a 2:13:17 marathon runner at his peak and now coach to his son Jake, the second fastest ever Briton at 1500m - quicker than a certain Coe, Ovett and Cram – had his eureka moment in an airport.

Yes, as runners we’re fit and strong, but there’s much more to be done to be call yourself truly athletic.

"I was watching the All Blacks rugby team waiting for their bags to arrive and all of them looked incredibly fit. They looked like they could do anything," he recalls.

Transferring that thought process to running, he decided that if you’re capable of completing a 400m hurdles, then you’re ready for any distance. Strong, supple, mobile and capable of sustained power and speed.

It’s been a recipe for success for Jake for sure. Geoff has watched as Jake has learned speed and movement in school playing all sorts of sports to slowly specialising in running. funetics wasn’t around then, but it most definitely is now: fun athletics sessions to help children learn, develop and practice running jumping and throwing. Click here to find out more about funetics.

"Running was his first love but we made sure he did everything – hockey, football and things like a long jump, 1500m double at sports day." says Geoff. Geoff bases his training philosophy on all sorts of things – experience; he was 8th representing England in the 1990 Commonwealth Games Marathon in Auckland and lots of research.

“When I started, I did loads of courses but of course I was a reasonable runner as well so that helped. Now, all I try to do is introduce something new each year." Looking at Jake’s training and progress – a perfect trajectory upwards – it’s fascinating to see what that now involves a few years down the line. As you’d expect, there’s plenty of classic running sessions – a longish run, killer hills in the winter, super speedy stuff on the track in the summer and loads of core work.

But there’s also yoga once a week and perhaps more interesting, a long walk on a Sunday to cap off his seven days. That sounds new and innovative, and thinking about it, a great way to flush your legs and relax mentally, but a bit of research tells you it was a popular addition to a top athlete’s week in the 1950s and earlier. A certain Roger Bannister benefited from the odd stroll!

Geoff definitely does his research. It's a careful, well-thought out approach that caters for his son’s individual needs.

"Coaching someone or yourself is about adapting and seeing what’s needed," says Geoff.

"We write the next week’s training on a Sunday after seeing what’s happened in the week. Even for Jake, boy wonder, real life gets in the way." he laughs. At this point you can’t help but wonder what a typical week looks like for a runner who can run inside 3min 30sec for 1500m, nothing short of astonishing. "A couple of runs on a Monday, say 8 and 3 miles, a hill session on a Tuesday, two runs on a Wednesday, one on a Friday, a harder session Saturday and a long run Sunday." says Geoff describing what looks like a pretty standard week for many of us, let alone one of the fatest runners in the world. But it’s all the extra work that makes it interesting. Two big sessions in the gym, that yoga class, a drill workout where he works on form and of course that walk complete the picture.

"It’s all about creating a linear progress." says Geoff.

*If Geoff’s name sounds familiar it’s because you will have heard him either live in a stadium, on Eurosport commentating or on major event loud-speakers, his voice booming out at everything and anything from road running to track or cross-country. Today, following a hugely successful club and international running career, Geoff is now truly the voice of the sport, adding expert insight for the Olympic crowd, or his last pre-lockdown job, in Armagh, reporting on England’s victory in the 5km race there back in February 2020.