Bill Wheeler may self-describe as an ‘old fart who, for whatever reason, thinks he can motivate people to do what he was never able to do … learn to run and train for races,’ but anyone who’s ever met him (or been to one of his workouts) knows just how humble a statement that is. Wheeler, or ‘Coach Bill,’ to many, has not only learned to run and train for races, but has motivated many people in London and beyond. From commuting nearly everywhere by bike, to winning the Canadian age-group championships in both cross-country running and the International duathlon, Coach Bill not only talks the talk, but he walks the walk.
After dabbling in endurance sports – road, trail and cross-country-running, triathlon, and duathlon – and sports like hockey, squash and volleyball, Bill says he took to offering advice on training and competing from his experiences to help others.
“Amazingly, that led to people blindly following me into adult coaching programs for running and triathlons, a university triathlon club, a kids’ program for cross-country running, and a multi-sport program,” Bill says.
Many Londoners know Bill from his work with the MEC running meet-ups, the London Pacers, or the Western Triathlon Club. Bill holds certifications in coaching theory and sport-specific coaching, but much of his knowledge comes from reading, watching, and participating in the activities he coaches.
And boy does he participate. Last year, Bill estimates he rode about 15,000km – including a bike tour of 3,500km to Halifax and back – and ran upwards of 2,000km.
“Being active is my hobby,” Bill says. “It’s what I do with my friends – go for a ride, a run, or a hill workout. A lot of my activity is built into my normal day, commuting by bike or running to a run.”
It is hard to believe that Bill didn’t come out of the womb wearing running shoes, but rather came to endurance sports in adulthood.
“I never ran for running’s sake until my first fun run in my thirties,” he says. “And I didn’t do anything competitive until my late forties.”
Bill’s had success in the competitive realm, particularly in the 5km to half-marathon distances. Right now, he says his favourite distance to run – besides “from here to the fridge” – is a 10km trail run.
At the end of the day, Bill says it’s all about helping people get active.
“I really like to see people out doing any activity,” he says. “As a coach, if I can be part of the motivation that gets them out there, that is my favourite or most rewarding part. In fact, I’m probably more of a facilitator than an actual coach.”
Each week, Bill sends a personal newsletter-type email to 110 of his ‘friends,’ with updates and information he hopes will motivate them to get a little fitter or be a little more active. Bill is busy, but he says the fun he has keeps him going – and forms his personal philosophy: “Be active, have fun. Everyone welcome.”
Bill’s tips for winter running:
• Be safe: Use caution on the roads and adjust your workout/route based on the weather conditions.
• Be seen: Reflective clothing, little flashing lights and head lamps help, as chances are you will be running when there is less daylight.
• Be warm: The rule of thumb is to dress as if the temperature is 10 degrees warmer. Being warm is better than being cold. Dress in layers—base layer, warmth layer, wind and water-resistant layer. Protect the face and neck. A water resistant or Gore-Tex fabric shoe will be warmer than a regular mesh running shoe. Run into the wind to start, or run a route where you change directions to get breaks from the wind.
• Forget the speed: Save the speed for the treadmill or indoor track.
• Make a date: Running with a friend or friends isn’t only safer but there’s less chance you will wimp out!
• Run trails: Stay away from the cars, and enjoy the season.
Check out events.mec.ca for our special winter programs:
- MEC London Yoga – 10-week session – $40
- MEC London train to Run 5K/10K – 10-week session – $40 (includes MEC RACE)
By Cheryl Madliger, MEC staffer