SOAR X - The journey so far

SOAR X - The journey so far


Cross-country running. It has struck fear into British schoolchildren for decades, yet has helped develop the toughest, fastest and strongest runners from 800m to the Marathon for just as long. What doesn’t kill you, might just make you stronger. That’s certainly what the SOAR X hoped as they met for the first time at the London Olympic Park 4 weeks ago. 10 runners, ranging in age, experience, background and speed, but united in committing to 10 weeks of training under the guidance of SOAR elite coaches Matt Yates and Barry Elwell.

Matt and Barry’s pedigree as both runners and coaches puts them up with the very best. Matt (former world class 1500m runner and Olympian) and Barry (2:22 marathon runner), have combined to form a formidable coaching duo. Their elite group, ‘The Run Yard’, includes some of the UK’s brightest distance stars. The Yard is famed for its professionalism, dedication and pioneering approach to developing athletes and preparing them to race at the highest levels.  

But how could they apply the principles that have worked so well for elite athletes to 10 everyday runners, for whom this level of thoroughness and specificity was a whole new running world?

Sticklers for punctuality, discipline, commitment and professionalism, Matt and Barry were quick to lay down the ground rules. The group trains as one, supports one another, and nobody is left out. The process is educational and individualised. Everything has a purpose and a reason, form is as important as effort. The training approach is not simply to prepare the runners to race the two cross-country races in the programme, but help them develop the technique, mind-set and habits that yield long term running success.

What at first may seem a disciplinarian approach soon gives way to another side of the training.  Fun, newfound self-belief, teamwork, and togetherness all resonating amongst the group and creating the right conditions for runners to succeed and achieve their goals.   

With 4 weeks down the SOAR X have been put through their paces in a range of environments and tackled a variety of sessions. Mobility drills and thorough warm-ups are fast becoming habits. Whilst track sessions, hill-running masterclasses, technique guidance, cross-country circuits and multi-terrain intervals have all combined to equip the SOAR X with the specific fitness to tackle tough cross-country races.

It’s not been all about the running. Stretching, recovery, nutrition, hydration, sports psychology and, critically, the appropriate footwear and kit have all played a role in shaping the SOAR X’s progress.

Perhaps the clearest indicator of the SOAR X approach came on a bitterly cold night on Primrose Hill. “Not just another hill running session” and “not at all what I expected” were just some of the comments made during the warm down. The SOAR X programme has been as much about thinking about running as it has been about running itself. Why do we do things this way? How can I be more efficient? How can I give my body the best possible chance to run fast?  The devil is often in the detail. Performing to your best ability requires commitment, rigor and a preparedness to think, and do, differently.

Race day #1 is on Saturday, 2nd December. Mud, hills and a highly competitive field of serious club runners awaits the SOAR X on their cross-country journey.  

The SOAR X are – Alan, Jack, James, Jess, John, Jon, Josh, Lucy H, Lucy T, and Tim.


Follow the progress of the SOAR X on Instagram @soar_running and stay tuned on our Journal for news from Race 1 and an in-depth chat with coach Matt. 

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