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Debating with your friends whoโ€™s the best running coach?

Arthur Lydiard, Bill Bowerman, or Joe Vigil?

Here is our list of the best Running coaches of all time.

Do you agree with our picks?

Best Running Coaches:

  1. Arthur Lydiard
  2. Bill Bowerman
  3. Joe Vigil
  4. Renato Canova
  5. Harry Wilson
  6. Jack Daniels
  7. Brad Hudson
  8. Percy Cerutty
  9. Frank Horwill
  10. Brother Colm O’Connell
  11. Joe Newton

#1 Arthur Lydiard

  • ๐Ÿ† Achievements: Pioneered modern distance running training techniques, coached Olympic medalists
  • ๐Ÿ“… Years Active: 1950sโ€“2000s
  • ๐Ÿ‘• Athletes Coached: Peter Snell, Murray Halberg, Barry Magee
  • ๐ŸŒ Nationality: New Zealander

Arthur Lydiard is renowned for revolutionizing distance running training methods, with a focus on endurance and periodization. His athletes attained international success, including Olympic medals and world records.

Lydiardโ€™s influence extends beyond his own athletes, as his training philosophies have been adopted and adapted by coaches worldwide. He advocated for high-mileage training with a strong aerobic base, which became known as “Lydiard training.”

His legacy lives on through the countless runners and coaches who continue to use his principles to achieve their running goals, ensuring he remains one of the most respected figures in the history of the sport.

#2 Bill Bowerman

  • ๐Ÿ† Achievements: Co-founder of Nike, Inc., coached Olympic medalists and American record holders
  • ๐Ÿ“… Years Active: 1948โ€“1972
  • ๐Ÿ‘• Athletes Coached: Steve Prefontaine, Kenny Moore, Phil Knight
  • ๐ŸŒ Nationality: American

Bill Bowerman’s coaching career at the University of Oregon is legendary, producing numerous track and field stars, including the iconic Steve Prefontaine. His coaching methods were revolutionary, combining training with innovation in running gear.

As a coach, Bowerman was dedicated to helping his athletes improve, famously experimenting with running shoe designs, which ultimately led to the creation of Nike, Inc. He was constantly seeking ways to give his runners an edge through technology and training techniques.

Bowermanโ€™s contributions to the sport extend beyond his achievements with individual athletes; his legacy is immortalized in the innovations that have shaped modern running, making him an indisputable icon in the running community.

#3 Joe Vigil

  • ๐Ÿ† Achievements: Coached Olympic medalists and numerous All-Americans
  • ๐Ÿ“… Years Active: 1960sโ€“Present
  • ๐Ÿ‘• Athletes Coached: Deena Kastor, Brenda Martinez
  • ๐ŸŒ Nationality: American

Joe Vigil’s reputation in the world of distance running is built upon his comprehensive coaching philosophy and his commitment to the personal development of his athletes.

His notable contributions include coaching Deena Kastor to an Olympic bronze medal and a strong collegiate coaching career where he developed elite runners and cross-country teams.

An author and educator, Dr. Joe Vigil has shared his extensive knowledge of endurance training with his peers and the next generation of coaches, making a lasting imprint on the sport.

#4 Renato Canova

  • ๐Ÿ† Achievements: Coached world-record holders, World Marathon Majors winners
  • ๐Ÿ“… Years Active: 1960sโ€“Present
  • ๐Ÿ‘• Athletes Coached: Abel Kirui, Wilson Kipsang, Florence Kiplagat
  • ๐ŸŒ Nationality: Italian

Renato Canova is recognized for his innovative approaches to distance running training, particularly for marathon runners. He has achieved global success by coaching some of the fastest marathon runners in the world to victories and records.

Canova’s training philosophies integrate high-altitude training with specific workouts designed to mimic racing conditions. His methodologies have been particularly effective for East African runners.

The success of his training approaches has made him a sought-after figure in the elite running community. Canova’s athletes continue to be dominant forces in international marathon competitions.

#5 Harry Wilson

  • ๐Ÿ† Achievements: Coached world-record holders and Commonwealth Games champions
  • ๐Ÿ“… Years Active: 1960sโ€“1990s
  • ๐Ÿ‘• Athletes Coached: Steve Ovett
  • ๐ŸŒ Nationality: British

Harry Wilson is celebrated for coaching one of Britain’s most successful middle-distance runners, Steve Ovett. His training methods were tailored to developing both the speed and endurance necessary for middle-distance success.

Wilson played a crucial role in the golden era of British middle-distance running, which saw fierce rivalries and record-breaking performances.

Despite a lower profile compared to some contemporaries, Wilson’s impact on the sport was significant, as he helped craft the careers of several international-level athletes.

#6 Jack Daniels

  • ๐Ÿ† Achievements: Renowned exercise physiologist, authored the highly influential “Daniels’ Running Formula”
  • ๐Ÿ“… Years Active: 1970sโ€“Present
  • ๐Ÿ‘• Athletes Coached: Jim Ryun, numerous NCAA All-Americans
  • ๐ŸŒ Nationality: American

Jack Daniels is best known as an authoritative figure in the field of exercise physiology and for his contributions to running through his book “Daniels’ Running Formula,” which has shaped training programs for runners of all levels.

Daniels’ research-based training methods emphasize VO2 max and lactate threshold as key elements for running performance, which has influenced coaching practices around the world.

His educational and scientific approach to coaching has earned him the nickname “The World’s Best Coach” by Runner’s World magazine.

#7 Brad Hudson

  • ๐Ÿ† Achievements: Coached Olympians and elite marathoners
  • ๐Ÿ“… Years Active: 1990sโ€“Present
  • ๐Ÿ‘• Athletes Coached: Dathan Ritzenhein, Fernando Cabada
  • ๐ŸŒ Nationality: American

Brad Hudson is a respected coach in the running community, known for his individualized approach to training and his โ€œadaptive runningโ€ concept, which tailors training to an athlete’s particular needs and responses.

His coaching philosophy also emphasizes the importance of strength and injury prevention, contributing to the development of well-rounded athletes.

Hudsonโ€™s contributions to the sport are further recognized in his co-authored book “Run Faster,” which offers insight into his training methodologies and philosophies.

#8 Percy Cerutty

  • ๐Ÿ† Achievements: Coached Olympic and Commonwealth Games champions
  • ๐Ÿ“… Years Active: 1940sโ€“1970s
  • ๐Ÿ‘• Athletes Coached: Herb Elliott, John Landy
  • ๐ŸŒ Nationality: Australian

Percy Cerutty was a maverick in the world of athletics, advocating for a holistic approach to training that included mental toughness, naturalistic training environments, and a focus on self-improvement.

His methods, often seen as radical during his time, included challenging athletes with sand dune running and other natural terrains. Ceruttyโ€™s training camp at Portsea became legendary for its grueling workouts.

Perhaps Ceruttyโ€™s most famous athlete, Herb Elliott, achieved Olympic gold and set world records under his guidance, underscoring the effectiveness of Cerutty’s training philosophy. However, Cerutty’s strong-willed personality and unconventional methods sometimes led to conflicts with his athletes, including Elliott. Despite these challenges, his innovative approach left a lasting impact on the sport and the athletes he coached.

#9 Frank Horwill

  • ๐Ÿ† Achievements: Founder of the British Milers’ Club, coached international middle-distance runners
  • ๐Ÿ“… Years Active: 1950sโ€“2000s
  • ๐Ÿ‘• Athletes Coached: Tim Hutchings, John Gladwin
  • ๐ŸŒ Nationality: British

Frank Horwill is recognized for his contributions to middle-distance running, particularly in the United Kingdom. He founded the British Milers’ Club with the aim of raising standards in the mile and other middle-distance events.

His training methodologies were underpinned by the principle of multi-paced training, which varied the speed of work to develop different energy systems. Horwill’s influence touched many British runners who went on to compete at the highest levels.

His devotion to the sport went beyond coaching, as he wrote extensively about running and was committed to educating a generation of athletes and coaches alike.

#10 Brother Colm O’Connell

  • ๐Ÿ† Achievements: Coached multiple Olympic and World Championship gold medalists
  • ๐Ÿ“… Years Active: 1970sโ€“Present
  • ๐Ÿ‘• Athletes Coached: David Rudisha, Faith Kipyegon, Wilson Kipketer
  • ๐ŸŒ Nationality: Irish

Brother Colm Oโ€™Connell, a member of the Patrician Brothers order, stumbled into coaching after being posted to St. Patrick’s High School in Iten, Kenya, a region famous for producing elite runners.

Despite no formal coaching education, his work at St. Patrick’s has produced countless successful athletes, including the 800m world-record holder, David Rudisha, among others.

O’Connell’s coaching philosophy is rooted in simplicity, focusing on fostering talent through gradual development and emphasizing the human element over rigorous scientific training approaches, earning him the unofficial title of “Godfather of Kenyan running.โ€

#11 Joe Newton

  • ๐Ÿ† Achievements: Legendary high school coach with 29 state championships and numerous national titles
  • ๐Ÿ“… Years Active: 1956โ€“2016
  • ๐Ÿ‘• Athletes Coached: York High School cross-country teams
  • ๐ŸŒ Nationality: American

Joe Newton is celebrated for his extraordinary career as the head coach of the York High School cross-country team in Elmhurst, Illinois. Over six decades, Newton built a dynasty, leading his teams to an unparalleled 29 state championships and multiple national titles.

Newton’s coaching philosophy extended beyond physical training; he emphasized discipline, teamwork, and personal growth, influencing the lives of thousands of young athletes. His innovative methods and motivational techniques became a model for high school coaches nationwide.

Author of several books on coaching and running, Newton’s wisdom and experience have inspired countless athletes and coaches. His commitment to excellence and character-building solidifies his legacy as one of the most impactful coaches in the history of the sport.


Who is the greatest running coach of all time?

Arthur Lydiard is often considered the greatest running coach ever, known for popularizing jogging and pioneering endurance training methods that revolutionized the sport.

Who was the most successful running coach?

Bill Bowerman was the most successful running coach, co-founding Nike and coaching at the University of Oregon, where his athletes set multiple records and won numerous titles.

Tanya is a running enthusiast who loves to run 5Ks and 10Ks. She self-trained and has completed marathons, competing in Illinois, Michigan, California, and Wisconsin. She advocates for staying healthy and strong in body, mind, and spirit. When she's not running or writing on her travel blog travelsandtreasures.com, you can usually find her managing IT projects at a global financial services company or discovering new places for family vacations.

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An old guy

Al-Sal was permanently suspended for abuse and providing his athletes with PEDs. Landy stopped training under Cerutty due to a personality conflict, which led him to break 4 minutes in the mile elsewhere. I believe Joe Vigil should rank higher, given his extraordinary success in college athletics. Additionally, Joe Newton, a remarkable high school coach, deserves recognition for his outstanding achievements with his athletes.

Rev Nisay

Thanks for your input! We’ve added a note about Percy Cerutty’s personality conflicts with athletes, including Herb Elliott. Joe Vigil has been moved up the list based on his incredible collegiate success. Plus, we’ve added Joe Newton, celebrating his fantastic achievements as a high school coach. We’ve also removed Alberto Salazar due to his ban and controversies. Appreciate the feedback!