It cannot be understated how important a coach is and the role they play in the development of an athlete throughout the years. Sadly on the 26th November Arthur Almond passed away, one of the country’s greatest coaches at bringing young athletes through to competing at the highest level as a senior. The most notable athlete he coached was Jason Lobo, who reached the World Championships final in the 800m in 1999. He’s also coached many junior athletes to AAA’s and English schools medals with Chris Hart, Matt Wood, Alison Leonard, Paul Bradshaw and Sarah Willimott to name a few.
The gravity Arthur’s influence and impact on my running career is beyond words, right from the very beginning in 1997 up until this year he has helped guide me and offered precious advice. We would often have meetings and discussions about racing plans and future targets. He was a brilliant coach at listening to his athletes and helping shape them to think for themselves, rather than just following orders and plans mindlessly. Arthur is responsible for a lot of my own ideas and influences on running.
He was very a philosophical man and at the start of each season he would give out motivational poems or articles he had on famous runners. I still have most of these today, including an article on Emil Zatopek, which had a massive impact on me, influencing the way I train and first got me interested in great athletes of that era. It was a measure of how well he knew his athletes by knowing what can inspire them and encourage them to try to achieve greater things. He always knew what to say before a race and I remember in 2001 being in a 5,000m race amongst guys with pb’s as fast as 14:30, and, with a 15:09 to my name I was rightly terrified! Arthur took me to one side and told me I was ready to make the next step and compete with the best U/20’s in the country, I went on to run 14:38 and ended that season ranked 3rd in the UK in the U/20 age group! On a quite amusing note, there was one occasion where Arthur’s golden touch deserted him; in my second cross-country season I was top of my age group and in the opening league meeting at Hyndburn he told me I was going to win my first race and I was the most improved athlete in his group. I felt on top of the world until the reality of the race kicked in and I got a good hammering off Russ Parrington!
There’s far too many memories and highlights from the years being coached by Arthur to mention. Right from the day I joined the club as a 15-year-old who never raced, or even ran on a track, Arthur got me to a level good enough to go on scholarship to America within five years and then go on to represent England in 2009.
Later this week, I’ll be at the Ribble Valley 10k and it will be the first time Arthur won’t be here to watch and support his athletes. It will be a sad day and strange not to have the classic “talk” before the race, but hopefully as a club we can put on a good show and dedicate it to our greatest coach.
In my view Arthur never got the credit he deserved, but he wasn’t the sort of person that craved attention or had much interest in winning awards. He’d much rather be at Witton Park coaching his athletes than being a VIP at UK Athletics gatherings. Throughout his life he put other people first before himself and in athletics those people were his athletes, which is why we all loved him so much.