For the first of our Runners of SOAR series we caught up with elite distance runner and former European Cross Country Silver Medalist Richard Goodman.
Many will recognise Richard from our Designer's Notes on Film amongst other SOAR campaigns, whilst you will also have seen him at the sharp end of Cross Country Races throughout the UK.
We talked to Richard about his path to success, what he's up to now, how he balances running a business with training and racing, as well as his advice to runners on how to maximise their potential.
Hi Rich. What are you up to right now, what had been on your schedule this spring and summer and how have you adapted your training?
I am really enjoying my steady running at the moment and I am occasionally throwing in the odd interval and hill session here and there. I have definitely taken my foot off of the gas now the summer season is looking more and more unlikely, and have changed my training and racing plan accordingly.
You were one of the best junior runners in Europe, how did you get into running and what was the catalyst for this early success?
I was mad into football growing up and played every day in my garden and in the field behind my house. I remember spending hours practicing free kicks, dribbling and shooting with friends and dreamt of playing professionally.
I never really excelled at running and regularly finished 3rd or 4th in the 400m at our school sports day. It wasn’t until our school PE teacher entered the football team into the Harrow Borough schools cross-country that I realised my potential over the longer distances. I ran in my football boots and found myself at the front of the race early on and pushed on from there to win the race. A coach from Shaftesbury Barnet Harries was watching and suggested that I came down to train with the youth group at Barnet Copthall - now Allianz Park. I loved the atmosphere at the club and enjoyed making new friends and learning about all the different training modalities and what was appropriate running footwear and attire.
I quickly improved under the guidance of Geoff Williams and found early success after a year or two of training and things took off from there. Geoff’s training was intense but balanced and we had a fantastic relationship. We drove up and down the country together talking about training and racing and got on effortlessly. Together we won lots of domestic races ranging from the English Schools XC to a silver medal at the European XC champs in 2011. Geoff is an unsung hero of our sport and if it wasn’t for him and his methodological approach to my training I wouldn’t have won half the medals that I did.
Following the European silver medal you had a spell in the USA via a stint training in Kenya, which didn’t go quite to plan. Looking back on these experiences, how do you view this period– are there lessons to be learned from your experience?
Injury is every runner’s worst nightmare and unfortunately, I faced a spell of terrible injuries during my time at the University of Oregon in 2012. When I look back at this period of time I feel that I am incredibly fortunate to have experienced NCAA life and the Kenyan running culture. Unfortunately, my time was shadowed by injury, but I am generally happy that I had the opportunity. The main lesson that I take from that period of my life is to never take being injury free for granted, listen to your body and avoid nutritional deficiencies at all costs.
Then after your time in the USA you made a name for yourself in the UK as a senior, in particular as a cross-country specialist. How did your initial senior career back on home turf pan out?
On return to the UK from Oregon, I started an undergraduate degree at St Mary’s University and was introduced to Mick Woods. Mick took me by the scruff of the neck and put me through his brutal training regime and I quickly built a huge aerobic base and started to run confidentially again. I was very willing to train hard, I very rarely missed a session and ended up putting a series of quality races back-to-back that eventually cumulated in winning the senior UK Inter-Counties XC title.
What did a typical training week look like when you were arguably the best domestic cross-country runner on the circuit?
A typical training week looked similar to this;
M – Easy run / Easy run
T – Grass Interval session (30-35 minutes volume) / Easy run
W – Easy run / Easy run
Th – Tempo Session (20-35 minutes volume) / Easy run
Fr – Easy run or REST
Sa – Hills or intervals or race
Su – Long run
Did this change much in a race week? And what’s your pace like on easy days?
Yes, I would usually cut out the Thursday session and just do a steady run and strides or a light session such as 5 minutes + 5* 60 seconds all off 60 seconds recovery. I don’t wear a GPS watch (I have done in the past) but I rarely run under 7/7:30 minute miles on my easy days. I strongly believe a lot of athletes run too hard in between session days and don’t recover properly for the important sessions - just my opinion and I have been guilty of this in the past.
Did you include much S&C work, or stretching?
I have done in the past but at the moment I typically run up and down hills in Richmond Park to keep strong and I consciously avoid doing too much mileage on flat roads/ surfaces that don’t offer much resistance.
I do not stretch/ foam roll or anything like that.
You’ve often been seen as a pure cross-country specialist, do you think this is fair? Is it how you view yourself, do you think there’s any unfinished business on the road or track?
Yes, it is fair, I love cross country and find it much more fun than running on the track on roads. I still have unfinished business over cross-country, I haven’t won the national XC yet nor have I achieved a senior GB vest - my performances to date have been running for GB as a junior or U23.
The last few years you seem to have been a bit quieter on the racing front, what’s prompted this?
I am the director of a small company called AthleteMannies and we have become increasingly busier and the work has taken up a lot of my mental and physical energy.
Looking back on your career to date, what’s the performance you’re most proud of?
2nd place at the European Junior XC championships in 2011 and team gold. It was my last race working with Geoff Williams and it meant the world to us both.
And what is your favourite race, and why?
I really enjoy running the smaller domestic cross-country races like the Metropolitan League. The fields are really competitive and offer a fantastic training stimulus.
What are your long term running hopes now? How are you finding balancing the demands of running your own business, with training and racing?
As I mentioned previously, I still haven’t won the Senior National XC so naturally I would love to be in contention to win that race again one year. My business is continually expanding and in turn it is taking up more and more of my time and energy. Having said that, I love to run and always find an hour during the day to fit in a decent run or session to keep fit so that when times do quieten down, I am never too far away from being in good shape.
What advice would you give runners, young and old, as they pursue PBs whilst managing work, family and social commitments?
- Find a training group with people of similar ability and have fun
- Run to time and feel (listen to your body every day)
- Avoid injury at all costs
- Use hills regularly
- Stick to a training plan that is tailored to you and your life!
And lastly, our bell-lap questions:
Tempo run or long run?
Track session or hill reps?
Strava – yes or no?
Hoka One One - Clifton
And most crucially, what’s your favourite piece of SOAR kit (and why)?
Hot Weather T-shirt - It is super lightweight and comfortable.
Richard will be taking over our Instagram at 9am on Thursday 9th April, taking us through one of his favourite interval sessions, detailing his pre-session preparations, warm up, warm down and recovery schedule.
Learn from Richard and follow his Instagram story via @soar_running