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Coaching Testimonials

​Derrick is a highly experienced coach and runner. His stories always brought a smile to my face and his knowledge of the sport helped me achieve personal bests at every distance I’ve raced while being coached by him (from 1500m to 100k!). He always believed in me and my goals, no matter how crazy they seemed. Representing Canada at the World 100k Championships was a dream come true and thanks to him. It’s an experience I will never forget. Thank you Derrick!

Melanie Clement

Vancouver, BC

​This year has been amazing training with Lisa Leskien as my coach.  Lisa has officially delivered on the end goal we made earlier this year, for a sub 4hr marathon.  She created an individualized training plan that has led me to PB at every single race this year, including a Dion Snowshoe AG win, Phlox run AG win, AG bronze at the Run Waterloo Classics & AG Silver at the Run Waterloo Fall Classic.  I bested my time at the 8k Mill Race by over 6 minutes, earned 5 & 10k PBs, half marathon personal best almost 8 minutes, and my marathon personal best by a whopping 44 minutes. 


It wasn’t always easy, I struggled at times, but Lisa was positive and encouraging.  Instead of quitting I drove harder, instead of failing I communicated my health issues better, listened to my body more.  Adding rest days when everyone else was adding mileage made me nervous but Lisa believed in me, and I was doing the best I could. 


I missed the opportunity to race a half marathon earlier in year due to a severe iron deficiency, but in perhaps in my hardest effort to date, I fought to check the last box on my list of 2018 goals for a sub 1:50 half marathon. I spent the whole race focusing on the finish I deserved, reflecting back through an incredible year, knowing I had what it takes, knowing I wasn’t going to settle for anything less, knowing I could do it. I finished in 1:48:51. 

Thanks Coach!!

Kristy Goss

Cambridge, ON

​I worked with Derrick for my 2018 season. I have been running for 10 years and this is the first time I have worked with a coach. I loved the partnership. Derrick was very flexible and supportive of my busy schedule of working 12 hour shifts as a nurse and my frequent travel schedule. He has so much knowledge and experience and was able to prepare me for a 4 day stage race in Vietnam. I never felt overtrained and went in to the race strong and finished on the podium. He was able to adapt my training to help me go from being trained to for a self supported mountain stage race in Vietnam to be ready for my a flat road half marathon 2 months later. I hadn't trained for a half marathon or done speed work in years. Derrick had me ready and again not overtrained and I ran my fastest half marathon in 10 years. I then had one more race on my calendar, a 100 mile and over 30 000 feet of elevation stage race in British Colombia. Despite living in a relatively flat area and at sea level, I was again able to perform well at the race. I loved working with Derrick because I knew the training he was providing was designed specifically for me based on my schedule, abilities and goals. He communicates daily with me and would adapt my training plan as needed. I would recommend Derrick for any runner but especially ultra runners, I felt I trained smarter not harder and yielded results that I am very proud of.

Stephanie Bales

Barrie, Ontario

The coaching from Sara was so helpful. I have run 4 marathons and this was the first that I felt prepared and ran without pain. Sara provided workouts I hadn’t done before and provided prompt and useful feedback. The training was tailored to my time requirements and physical requirements that met perfectly for my goals while still being enjoyable. I would recommend Sara to anyone wanting to improve and also needing that right personal touch. 

Monique Sauve

Kingston, Ontario

After only a few months working with Derrick I am a stronger, happier, and more confident runner. As a new trail runner I hit some snags along the way as my body learned to respond to uneven terrain and changes in elevation. Derrick continued to remind me about important non-running elements of training and I diligently did as he recommended. Derrick is so knowledgeable in strategies to improve and maintain fitness that despite having to take time off for injury mid-season, I hit a 10k personal best and ran two strong mid-distance trail races. The results are there, which is rewarding and great to see, but it's not just the race days that matter - the day-to-day training is really enjoyable! Each workout requires me to push myself to that sweet spot right past where I thought I could go. I look back over a training week and am both surprised and proud of what I've accomplished and confident in tackling whatever is next. Derrick's enthusiasm and kindness make you feel like your happiness and running success are the most important things to him. He is a tireless cheerleader and source of encouragement, and is generous in sharing his seemingly endless wisdom. Couldn't be happier with a coach! 

Julia Wedeles

Toronto, Ontario

I've worked with Sara for two seasons; training for my first trail marathon, and improving my 5km speed this year. Both seasons exceeded expectations. I ran my marathon healthy and strong the first year, and ran multiple PBs in my 5kms this year. I've run faster this year than I ever thought possible.  Sara developed flexible and effective training plans that accounted for my life, injury risks, while pushing me to run faster - and it worked! 

Christie Harper

Whitehorse, Yukon

Training with Sara was such a joy. I had never run an ultra before, or a marathon for that matter and had certainly never trained for one. Sara was calm and certain from the start - always offering reassurance in a measured way. Her training plans were accessible and the flexibility around vacations and children made it attainable. She always ensured that I knew what to expect and built a training plan that instilled confidence and measurably added strength and fitness. Add to that her being a genuinely lovely person made the past 6 months of training with her an amazing treat! I can't recommend her highly enough if you are even just dabbling with the idea of finding a trainer. Without wanting to sound like a Nike advert - just do it!

Harriet Finn

Ottawa, Ontario

Sara is a fantastic coach and a genuinely caring person all around.  Each week Sara provides me an individualized training plan based around my schedule, my goal(s), how the previous week’s training went and any special training requests I might have.  Any questions or last minute changes I have, she is very prompt to responding or making modifications to the training plan that week.  After each run I love uploading the data to the Training Peaks software, reviewing it and providing comments on how I felt about the session. Sara always responds to my comments which is equally exciting to read.  There has been a couple times were I experienced some perceived setbacks in my performance but with Sara’s words of encouragement, I was able to quickly dust myself off and keep moving forward.  She is dedicated to her clients and demonstrated this when she came out to one of my “A” races to cheer me on (which I ended up placing 3rd in)!!  Sara has helped me develop the skills I need as an endurance athlete.  My successes over the last few months would not be possible without her coaching.  I am so thankful for all the time and support she has given me.

Laura Skoblenick

Kingston, Ontario

I sprained my ankle in November, I was unable to run for 4 weeks.  Instead of sitting idly and freaking out about not being able to train, Derrick had me cross train on a bike, rowing machine and an elliptical climber at my gym.  I may not have been running but I was still able to train for the mountains and sand dunes of the Sahara and yes, MDS is a mountainous event. When I got back into running after Christmas, it only took a week of running to get to my regular mileage! Derrick has been my coach since August and here are some things I’ve learned: (read remainder of blog)

Baldish T.

Whitby, Ontario

I started working with Derrick so that he could help me achieve my goal of completing a 50-mile ultra. From the begining, Derrick made every effort to understand my goals, get a sense for what other life obligations I had, and worked with me to exceed my wildest expectations. In the (relatively short) time Derrick has coached me, I have improved as a runner more then I thought was possible, and never has the training felt like a chore. Derrick’s love for running, especially on trails, is contagious.


Each workout assigned has a clear purpose, and Derrick always provides meaningful feedback and is happy to answer what can sometimes be a never-ending stream of questions.


I feel lucky to have Derrick as a coach, he pushes me while keeping running fun and I can’t imagine training for my next goal race without him!

Chris Wedeles

Toronto, Ontario

Hands down the best coach I’ve ever had supporting me in any of my life goals. Derrick is super-knowledgeable, experienced, down to earth and accessible. He has a rare ability to talk you through your fears, doubts and any self-limiting beliefs. He not only made me a better runner in my journey to running my first 50 mile race, he inspired me to be a better person. He’s wise. He’s real. And, as I told him after he led me through some really difficult spots, he’s simply an awesome human being!

Lori F.

Barrie, Ontario

Sara, I really can’t thank you enough for all your support to date it has been actually life changing for me. Running has created a whole new level of confidence for me in my body, in my life…. I am learning much more gratitude for my body! A gazillion thank you’s to you!!!”


“Yay!!! Thank you!!!! Very happy with how it went, thank you so much it would not have been possible without you!!

Catharine C

Brighton, Ontario

With Derrick’s excellent coaching and my commitment to training, I’ve made great strides and hit personal bests in every distance. (read more here)

Ben Y.

Whitehorse, Yukon

Derrick has guided me from an aspiring ultramarathoner to completing 50 miles faster than I ever thought possible.  He has made me a much stronger, smarter runner.  Derrick always has time to answer questions, respond to issues, and give input on ideas.  He’s a great supporter in addition to a coach. I have been truly lucky to work with him.

Jennifer M.

Toronto, Ontario

After knee surgery, I had a very difficult time training without over-training. Derrick gave me excellent, highly personal guidance based on his own experience with recovering from injury and carefully got me back into 24-hour adventure racing. He was able to tailor my training program to my unique personal needs, respecting my wishes to incorporate my commute by trail run or mountain bike, even when it was hard for him to work it in. Derrick is extremely quick to respond to any queries and makes me feel like I am his only client.

Richard Ehrlich

Palgrave, Ontario

High School coach and good friend Derrick Spafford kept me involved in running through high school by putting less emphasis on training hard and more on having fun. Derrick believes that is a necessity for long-term development of young runners, and that’s why I still enjoy running today.

Taylor Murphy

5,000m (14:32) & 10,000m (29:54) Canadian National Team Member

Your kind and caring style has inspired many people to take a much more proactive look at exercise, fitness and general well being. I personally know I would not have continued on to complete two half marathon and two marathons without your guidance and smiling personality meeting me each week or couple of weeks.

Catherin Ernst-Spindler

I’d like to take the time to thank you. I am one of the many people you helped to realize I can run. I took the Learn to Run program in the Spring of 2003, and ran my first 5K ever… The Wolfe Island Classic. Before that, I had never run, jogged, barely walked, for that matter! I still continue to run on a regular basis. I am proud of myself, and have you to thank.

Kimberly Fiset

Where does one start with describing someone of such incredible inspiration and knowledge regarding fitness. I have known Derrick since I was a small child watching him run down a long country road in front of my house. The whole time struck with childlike awe. Who would guess that Derrick would inspire me to run and more than a decade later coach me for 5 years in high school and then on in university. Derrick has been a coach, mentor, motivator, and inspiration. Derrick has always been number one on my list of people to seek advice from, with regard to any running/fitness questions.

Charley Murphy

I have known Derrick for over 10 years now, as a coach, a training partner, an employer, a colleague, and a good friend. I can honestly say that Derrick is one of the most dedicated, down-to-earth, and interesting people I know. His knowledge and passion of running and the great outdoors ignited a fire in me, back in highschool (when Derrick coached our cross-country and track teams). He has been a great source of enouragement and motivation for me, and continues to be a role-model in my life. I can’t thank him enough.

Joe Turner

Running on a trail somewhere in New Zealand – circa 2005

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