Spikes08 Feb 2018

Father and Son


Geoff and Jake Wightman ahead of the New Balance Boston Grand Prix (© Michelle Sammet)

By Jake Wightman

Both my parents were runners. They both ran the marathon. My mum – Susan Tooby was her maiden name – she went to the Seoul Olympics in the marathon, and dad – Geoff – competed at Commonwealth Games and Europeans, so I was literally brought up in the sport.

I started running at school when I was eight. My parents stopped my twin brother Sam and me from starting earlier because they didn’t want to push us too early, but they used to take us to athletics meets when we were kids and I’ve always loved it.

In primary school, when other kids would be saying “I want to be a footballer”, I always said I wanted to become a runner. The other children thought it was a bit weird but looking at it now, I am incredibly lucky to be doing what I wanted to do when I was that age.

My dad is my coach and he’s been my only coach this whole time. I think we’re quite unique. So many people just chop and change about whereas I’ve pretty much been his sole athlete this whole time.

Is it hard? I’ve known nothing else. I love it because he gives me so much attention.

I think when it’s your dad, they care that little bit more about you. And vice versa: there’s definitely more incentive for me to run well. I feel the amount of effort he puts in – he’s done so, so much for me – I have to give it back to him somehow.

Jake and Geoff Wightman ahead of the New Balance Indoor Grand Prix

Of course, it’s not always easy. Have we ever fallen out in training? Absolutely.

That is the one downside, sometimes, because he is my dad, I am not afraid to say exactly what I think. With another coach I probably wouldn’t answer back to them the way I do with my dad.

I remember there was one session, I was struggling so badly. It was a really hard hill session, about 15 reps. After ten I thought I had nothing left and he kept sending me down the hill. I used some pretty explicit language to tell him what I thought of his coaching style.

I did the whole session filled with rage and I actually finished it better than I thought I would. I had to apologise when I got my head back to it and realised what I’d said, but in those moments it’s sometimes hard to think rationally.

Because he’s also a stadium announcer, a lot of times when I am racing, he’ll be on the mic calling the race. It’s great because if I have a good run, he’s got the best seat in the house. He can see exactly what I’m doing and where I went wrong. It’s cool that he can be involved with my career on so many levels.

Sometimes when he’s busy announcing, I miss having him in the warm-up area before and after the race, but it does mean he is always around the event and that is something most athletes don’t have. I count myself very lucky to have that.

People have asked me in the past, would my dad let me go to be coached by somebody else if he thought it was right? To be honest, I don’t know. What I do know is he knows me better than I know myself. The training I do is so suited for me because that’s why he put it together. I actually think it is suited for a lot of people. Being biased, I honestly think he is a really, really good coach and I believe I will always be coached by my dad.