Side Hustle Series: I’m a Running Coach

(Guest Post by Kim, as part of our Side Hustle Series)

After running professionally for a few years, I noticed that people started asking me for advice. So, I’d just hand it out for free. I was working full time and didn’t need the money. Plus, I liked helping others get fast.

Then, in 2008 I was laid off from my full time job.

Though running covered my living costs, I wanted some fun money on the side. I had a coach who was helping me for free but also made plenty of money from helping other runners. He insisted that I get started on charging people for my advice. So, after thinking about it for several weeks, I just went for it.

How I Got Started

I already had a strong reputation as a skilled runner around New England, so the start was simple. I just designed an ad and placed it in my local running club newsletter. I started getting calls and emails almost right after it came out. I then did the same thing on running boards – that’s all there was to it. It never required any certifications or education because I had a lifetime of knowledge and proven self coaching skills that could be applied to almost anybody.

How Much I Make

I charge $85/month and give each client a four week training plan. The plan is based on my own training since I know it works. It’s a lot different than other plans that I’ve heard of and it just seems to work on all types. Some coaches charge hundreds, but I based my price to beat others and to just earn some extra cash on top of my stipends. A lot of people will pay more for coaching and the work can get tedious will all the fussy phone calls and emails from addicted runners. So, I’d say, unless you really like helping needy athletes, keep costs low but charge enough for your sanity.

Pros And Cons

The pros are that I get to work from home, on my own schedule. I often don’t even have to see many of the people that I coach face to face. They just want a training plan and a second voice in their head when it comes to knowing they are doing the right type of training.

The cons are that runners are mostly very needy. They can be self involved and high maintenance, which is the way to be if you’re going to be successful. I make myself available 24/7 and yes, I have gotten calls at 3am the morning of a race from runners that think they’re going to suck or have the slightest little pain in their foot or something. You’re not only there for physical prep. You are there for mental prep and that can be tough for people that don’t want to deal with a lot of crap.

How You Can Become a Running Coach

kim running coachFirst, be a runner. Don’t be one of those fat lazy ex runners filled with regret and trying to live through the people you coach. You will be bitter if they succeed and you don’t get all the credit. It’s just something I saw in so many old, angry coaches. Take care of yourself and then you can help others. Also, while being a runner, you know what you are doing and what works. I would never listen to an ex runner that quit and I don’t expect people to listen to me if I decide to become a couch potato.

Next, if you don’t have the confidence to coach, just get some USATF certifications. They’re pretty meaningless but they’ll probably make you feel more professional and qualified.

And finally, just advertise your services at local running stores and with the local clubs. Fake it until you make it. If you’re a runner, you already know how to coach but you need to trust in yourself.

Helpful Resources/Tips/Links/Books?

I admittedly don’t read or research running. I learned everything on the job and that’s how I know what works. So many amateur runners spend a ton of money on books and gimmicks and they get nowhere. Running is no harder than stepping out the door and putting one foot in front of the other. You learn by being around other runners that are smart and have been doing if for a long time. I learned most of what I know from runners in my own club that were about 10 years older than me and they learned from people older than them.

One of My Success Stories

I coach a 55 year old guy that had never run a marathon or more than 25 miles in a week. Within 6 months, I had him up to 80-85 miles in a week and qualified for the Boston Marathon. He ran a PR at Boston that year. He’s still PRing at many distances and keeps improving. (Fyi – “PR” is “Personal Record”) Most people don’t know what they are capable of and go too easy on themselves out of fear. I like to be the one to tell them they can do stuff they think is crazy. Then they get results and come back with a “Thank You”. It’s great.

Kim is a nationally ranked marathon and 5K runner. Her marathon PR is 2:38:21 (Rocket City 2009) and her 5K PR is 16:32 (Central Mass Striders 5K 2009). She travels to races for free and often receive stipends, appearance fees, and prize money (that’s her in the bottom pic up there). Kim’s proudly sponsored by Brooks and Marathon Guide.

PS: If you liked this hustle, you might like a similar one we did on Becoming a USA Triathlon Official :)

(Top pic by through my eyes only, bottom one courtesy of Kim)

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  1. Lance @ Money Life and More August 30, 2012 at 7:16 AM

    It is always awesome when someone makes money doing what they love. There are a lot of things that you can charge for coaching with that most people never think of. Just make sure you know enough to not be inadvertently hurting someone. This poster definitely seems to know running but if you don’t know running don’t try to become a running coach.

  2. DC @ Young Adult Money August 30, 2012 at 7:23 AM

    That’s a cool side hustle, though I dislike the fact that you make yourself available 24/7 to clients. I would charge more than $85/month if I was going to take calls at 3am, though I do understand that it’s something you enjoy and you want to be available to clients (and hopefully get referred to more clients!).

  3. DebtKiller August 30, 2012 at 8:38 AM

    Brilliant idea! You took a hobby you love (and are obviously very good at) and turned it into a money making business. I run a little bit (done a few 5k’s, 10k’s and a 15k), but I never thought about hiring a running coach. I would most certainly pay someone $85/month for help and advice.

  4. Richie Goodman August 30, 2012 at 8:57 AM

    Really cool story! I love running but have a tendency to ebb and flow with my training… why I could definitely see the value in a coach and/or plan!

  5. J. Money August 30, 2012 at 9:06 AM

    Yeah, one of my favorite things about this series is learning how people fell into cool side gigs like these :) Just goes to show we might have one of our own around the corner that we’re not even aware of yet. And if we’re passionate about it, the money will usually follow!

  6. SavvyFinancialLatina August 30, 2012 at 10:52 AM

    That’s so cool! I run, but right now I am definitely not being a great runner :)

    I wonder what’s the average age of those who start hustling?

  7. Jenna, Adaptu Community Manager August 30, 2012 at 1:09 PM

    Wow! Congrats on your sponsorships!

  8. Kim August 30, 2012 at 1:29 PM

    Thanks for the feedback, folks! Coaching runners is often a criticized activity as some people think it to be a scam. There are bad coaches out there that only offer up online services and never actually talk to their clients. So, it can be tough to beat that bad reputation. I just figure, if I keep working hard on myself, others will trust that I know what I’m doing and love the sport!

  9. LB August 30, 2012 at 1:47 PM

    Wow Kim, that is awesome you took something you did in your personal life and made profit off of it. It is also cool you had a mentor in the beginning; isn’t that how a lot of people become great, because of mentors!

    I would hate doing what you are doing, just because I love running for me. I also haven’t found a reason to make myself go through the torture of a race like I thought I would have been able to. It was a goal, but I find running for myself and to keep my butt looking great enough reason to run. lol (tmi)

    I love your reasoning behind being a coach: “Don’t be one of those fat lazy ex runners filled with regret and trying to live through the people you coach”. Isn’t that something that can be used in all forms of life. Don’t be someone who is full of regrets or jealous because it will only cause you pain and never give you the satisfaction you are looking for. At least in my own personal experiences I have found that true.

  10. Jacob @ iheartbudgets August 30, 2012 at 1:59 PM

    This is pretty aweomse. Lol at all the “needy athletes” you have to deal with. I thought I was the only whiny runner around….mostly because I don’t run and whine about how I need to exercise ;)

  11. AverageJoe August 30, 2012 at 5:04 PM

    Cool gig! As a much slower runner, I think it’s a valuable service you provide. Lots of runners looking for some quality help.

  12. Mrs. Pop @ Planting Our Pennies August 30, 2012 at 6:52 PM

    I can only dream of a sub 3:00 PR… I am so impressed. I think it’s great that your side hustle didn’t require any credentials – other than your personal success at running. I’ve always dreamed of teaching yoga as a side gig, but the huge amount of training hours (not to mention) the cost to be certified to teach it in my state is definitely a big factor in that not happening anytime soon.

    Kim – do you have a website? I’m totally curious about the details of what services you offer!

  13. Cassi August 30, 2012 at 10:19 PM

    I recently started running and I fell in love with it. I could never see myself as a running coach, but it is cool to see that you can take your passion and turn it into a career!

    Also, who said runners were needy? :p

  14. kim August 31, 2012 at 9:10 AM

    Hi again… I’m aiming to get a website back up. I’ve been pretty busy getting my second degree (nursing) and working as a CNA…along with coaching a good amount of people right now and they still take up most of my time :P …some runners are not needy. Those are the ones that seem to make good coaches. However, many many runners are in need of that second voice in their head to confirm that they are doing the right thing, they are doing well, and to tell them when they are torturing themselves with bad thoughts that can be self destructive…the mental side of running is so much harder than the physical part, I swear!

  15. J. Money August 31, 2012 at 5:27 PM

    Thanks again for sharing your story with us Kim, always fun reading about other people’s hobbies turned money-makers :)

  16. kim August 31, 2012 at 6:47 PM

    No problem. And if anybody ever needs any help feel free to drop me an email
    – kimduclos {at} gmail {dot} com I’ll whip your body and your brain into shape ;)

  17. Kame Tooclose October 31, 2018 at 2:21 PM

    Hey, are you still coaching?