James Willis just ran 72km to mark his 72nd birthday and here is my interview with him.

James Willis in a past race. Photo from his Facebook Page

It is now the second month of my working with James Willis, coaching him under my online coaching programs

As a coach, one would often expect their runners to do slightly better than what they are doing at the moment. Rarely would they find them surpassing their expectations. But, here is one runner who definitely surpasses everyone’s expectations and who should be a great inspiration to many.
James Willis just ran 72 km as he turned 72 years old today (21st January 2021). Most runners would struggle to run 72km in a whole week. To run 72 km in a single day, for a 72-year-old, is just mind-boggling! And, as if that is not enough, he is preparing to run a 168km race in April!

Here is an interview I had with Willis, who is from London, UK, but now lives in Banting, Malaysia; a few days before his birthday run:

1. What inspires you to keep running at your age?

My inspiration to keep running at my age is purely so that I can and still be competitive to some degree. I love running and perhaps one day in the future, when I am no longer competitive, I will just run for pleasure only.

2. How does your life feel when you are running compared to when you had stopped running at some point?

I came to running quite late. I was an all-round sports child, but Rugby was my first love and the only running I did was while training for other sports.

It is quite a story how I first became a runner. Back in the day, it was compulsory for UK secondary schools [11 to 17 years] to hold a cross-country run each year as part of the physical education program.

Well, not being a runner during the first two years I never completed the three-mile event, I and many others would run to a thicket on the course, perhaps half a mile, and hide in there until many of the runners had passed us on their way back and then slip into the bunch for the return journey. Of course, we thought we were so clever.

In year three, now thirteen years old and an accomplished rugby player, things changed.

Mental preparation for race day among Kenyan runners

Wilson Kiprop, the 2010 world half-marathon champion,
versus Bedan Karoki at a local race in Kenya

An athlete may have done enough training to run well in a race, but without the right mentality going into the race, all the training might become useless.

They say that experience is the best teacher, and if there is one place that this applies more, it should definitely be with the mental preparation among Kenyan runners getting ready to run their dream races. Some learn about the best ways to deal mentally with their races through experience while others are taught by a coach or by fellow runners.

One of the runners that have impacted me more on how to be tough and courageous in a race is Wilson Kiprop, the 2010 world half marathon champion. He told me how determined he was to finish in a podium place at a local race before no one ever knew about him. He had never finished in the top ten positions at any big race before. But here, the race meant everything to him. He had no more food where he stayed away from home, no money, and no one to ask for help. He was in Nairobi and he wanted to win some money at the cross country race to enable him to travel back to Eldoret. The race was paying the top three finishers only.

A quick reflection of my online coaching in 2020

Some of the runners I coach training in Kaptagat Forest, Kenya.

2020 has been a year full of many challenges and hard times, but the determination and the results from the runners that I coach online did provide me with some moments to cherish out of what was arguably the worst year for many.

In a world where people are easily being fooled into buying well packaged but useless items, the past year taught me to always offer the best quality in whatever I do and to make sure that my clients get value for their money.

Even when there were no races to run for some, most of my clients nonetheless ran their personal best times in their training runs.

One of them is Terrence. He recently ran some personal best times in some of his training runs, and seeing the effects that my training program had done on him, decided to pay for up to six months of my online coaching in advance. I thought he wanted to do that to get some discount, but instead, he wrote, “Am extremely pleased with the results so far and I believe in value for money. So no further discount required.”

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Information on my marathon and long distance running online coaching programs

Kenyan Athlete with fans in Canada The happenings from 2016 to 2018 have inspired me tremendously to take up the job of helping others...