Frank Horwill RIP

Monday, 2 January 2012

Frank Horwill, coaching legend, passes away

UK coaching legend Frank Horwill (Peter Thompson)

Monte-Carlo - The IAAF is deeply saddened by the news that Frank Horwill, the renowned UK middle distance coach, passed away on 1 January. He was 84.

Horwill, a senior level 4 coach, was the founder of the British Milers’ Club (BMC) and formulated the Five Pace Training Theory which is widely used for coaching middle distance runners throughout the world.

As a coach since 1961, Horwill coached 49 Great Britain and Northern Ireland international athletes (at Sep 2008) from 800m to the Marathon - from track to the road and Cross Country. Five of his athletes have run sub-4 minute miles – the fastest being Tim Hutchings, who ran 3:54:53 and placed fourth in the 5000m in the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games.

In 1963 Horwill co-founded the British Milers’ Club (BMC) with the aim of raising “British middle distance running to world supremacy”. Seventeen years after the BMC was formed, British male middle distance runners held all the middle distance World Records.

In 1970 Horwill invented the 5-pace/multi-tier system of training, used by Sebastian Coe to enormous success under his father and coach Peter Coe.

Many other prominent athletes also adopted the 5-pace system of training including Saïd Aouita of Morocco, who was the only man at the time capable of running 800m in sub 1:44, 1500m in sub 3:30, 3000m in sub 7:30, 5000m in sub 13:00, and 10,000m in sub 27:30. Noah Ngeny, the 2000 Sydney Olympic 1500m champion, also adopted the system.

Widely respected in athletics circles around the world, Horwill lectured and coached internationally, including in Canada, Ireland, Poland, Zimbabwe, Kenya, Bahrain, Portugal and South Africa.

A prolific writer, Horwill regularly produced articles for Athletics Weekly and other sporting publications. He was co-author of The Complete Middle Distance Runner (1972), along with Denis Watts and Harry Wilson. In 1991, Horwill published Obsession for Running, described by The Daily Telegraph as “The athletics book of the year”.

Horwill was appointed Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in the 2011 Birthday Honours for voluntary service to sport.

“Many years ago an octogenarian president of a London athletic club said: ‘The art of coaching is to know what to do when things go wrong.’ At the time the words did not mean very much. Now, many coaching years and painful experiences later, his words are a striking reality.”

So wrote Frank Horwill in The Complete Middle Distance Runner, which I regarded as one of the best text books, especially Frank’s chapter entitled When Things Go Wrong, with its helpful bullet points such as:

Related to stress
a. Too boring
b. Increase too sudden
c. Inadequate stamina work in summer (i.e. competition period)
d. Lack of variable speed work
e. Excessive speed work
f. Lack of easy relaxed running

RIP Frank. One of three men, international coaches who got me thinking about coaching.

He and the other two made me ask questions about what to do and not just follow the norm.

Subject: Butcher’s Blog - Troublemaker-in-Chief - Reminiscences of Frank Horwill