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Running Coach Certification: Which Is Best For You?

Running is one of the most popular forms of exercise, and it’s no wonder why. It’s a great way to get in shape, improve your health, and have fun.

Eddie Lester

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But if you want to go beyond personal training and train others by becoming a running coach, you’ll need to get certified.

So which type of running coach certification should you choose? In this blog, we’ll compare the different running coach certifications available so you can make the most informed decision.

Here are the certifications we’ll cover:

If you are looking for an analysis on personal trainer certifications to add to your running coach certification, click the link. 

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What Does A Running Coach Do?

A running coach is responsible for helping others improve their running technique, performance, and overall health. They may work with beginner runners who are just starting out or experienced runners who are looking to improve their times.


Running coaches typically work one-on-one with clients, but they may also teach group classes or lead training programs.


Certifications can be earned through different running organizations, such as USA Track and Field (USATF) or the Road Runners Club of America (RRCA). Next, we’ll take a look at the different types of running coach certifications available through these organizations.

Best Running Coach Certifications

There are several different organizations that offer running coach certification, each with its own requirements and curriculum. But in general, most running coach certifications will require you to take a written exam and pass a practical skills test.

Here are some of the top running coach certifications for you to choose from.

ISSA Certified Running Coach

The International Sports Sciences Association (ISSA) is a well-renowned fitness certification provider. Its running coach certification is one of the most popular in the industry and our top choice for this particular education.

To become an ISSA-certified running coach, you must first meet the following requirements:

  • Be at least 18 years old
  • An active CPR certification
  • Possess a high school diploma or equivalent

The cost is around $400 but has some extra perks compared to most. Not only is the final exam open book and untimed, but you can also study at your own pace. It also includes all the topics other certifications may separate into different courses – making it a bit more of an “all-in-one” option. Additionally, ISSA provides unlimited support, even once you’re already certified.

The course covers topics such as running mechanics, training principles, human anatomy, programming, and injury prevention. Upon completion of the course, you’ll take a 100-question multiple-choice exam.

Register for the ISSA Certified Running Coach course here.

RRCA Running Coach Certification

The Road Runners Club of America (RRCA) offers two running coach certifications: Level 1 and Level 2. Level 1 has more of an adult distance running focus, while level 2 dives into more scientific and psychological components of coaching.

The prerequisites to getting your Level 1 certification include:

  • Experience in running
  • An introductory video module that must be viewed
  • Must be 18 years or older
  • Must have at least a high school diploma
  • CPR and First Aid certification within 60 days of certification.

The fee for the Level 1 course is $335 and is limited to 35 participants in each class.

In order to complete the Level 2 course, you must be Level 1 certified for at least 12 months (though you can start it earlier, but can’t be officially certified until you’re at 12 months). You’ll also need to provide proof of coaching experience.

The total cost to complete level 2 is around $650.

Register for the RCCA level 1 course here.

UESCA Running Coach Certification

The United Endurance Sports Coaching Academy (UESCA) has a high standard of coaching education. The running coach certification consists of 22 online training modules that rely on a scientific approach to running coach education. Topics range from Anatomy and Biomechanics to even shoe and apparel selection.

Like with ISSAs running coach certification, UESCA’s creates a comprehensive course that doesn’t require different levels.

To be eligible for the running coach certification, you must:

  • Be at least 18 years old

They have no education requirements – not even the expectation that you know anything about coaching yet.

The cost is $499 and includes lifetime access to the material, as well as business and marketing training. Because many of UESCA’s certified coaches train virtually, they do not require a CPR certification (but recommend one if you plan to coach in-person).

Register for the UESCA Running Coach Certification here.

McMillan Coaching Certification

The McMillan running coach certification is an online course focusing on the “art and science” of running. Topics include the role of a coach, the science and history of running, training philosophies, safety, and the business side of coaching.

The course is self-paced, so you can complete it at your own pace (though they recommend taking no longer than three months to complete it).

Like with the UESCA course, there are no prior prerequisites.

The cost for the course is $399 and includes access to the online course material, mentorship with a McMillan coach, monthly webinars, and lifetime access to the online course community.

Register for the McMillan running coach certification here.

USA Track and Field Running Coach Certifications

USA Track and Field (USATF) offers three levels of running coach certifications. The Level 1 course, which is also used for recertification, is certified by the National Council for Accreditation of Coaching Education (NCACE). This course teaches you the fundamentals of coaching, including safety and risk management.

Requirements to take the Level 1 course:

  • Must be 18 years of age or older
  • Must have a USATF membership

Registration for level 1 is a little over $200

Level 2 focuses more on the technical aspects of coaching and the ability to develop coaching plans and allow athletes to strive in a positive environment. In order to apply for level 2 coaching, you must already hold the Level 1 certification and have a minimum of 3 years of running coach experience.

Level 3, the highest of the USATF coaching programs, patterns with the World Athletics Academy and includes some of the best instruction focusing on specific events (like sprints/hurdles, throws, jumps, etc.). Level 3 requires Level 2, a minimum of 5 years of running coach experience and current active coaching status.

Register for the USATF Level 1 course here.

Which Running Coach Certification Is Right For Me?

Now that you know the different running coach certification programs available, which one is right for you?


The answer to this question depends on your previous experience, budget, and goals. If you’re starting from scratch with no coaching experience or education, a better option might be UESCA. While ISSA might be a great choice if you have at least a high school degree.


One thing to pay close attention to is the comprehensive courses vs courses that contain different levels. While having different levels as part of your future title may give you a competitive edge, it also requires additional coursework that a full program would not.


FAQs On Running Coach Certifications

There is no definitive answer to this question. While running co