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Sports Backers Blog

Marathon Training Team Coach Q&A: Ashley Simard

Over the next few months, we’ll be sharing a Q&A series that features each Sports Backers Marathon Training Team coach in an effort to share more about the Marathon Training Team and the work the coaches put into helping participants reach their goals for race day on November 16. As we get closer to race day, you’ll have the chance to learn about the great things going on within the Marathon Training Team.

Featured Coach: Ashley Simard


What is your favorite thing about MTT?

“Coaching and supporting runners on race day – there’s no better feeling than seeing their determination and grit while cheering them on to the finish line. We run a few miles with the runners here and there, but it’s their commitment to the 18+ week program and will to accomplish their goals that gets them to the finish line.”

How many years have you been with MTT, either as a participant and/or coach? Which team do you coach? 

This is my second year coaching the Black Team, and I ran MTT one year before coaching.”

Ashley Simard

Ashley Simard

Do you have a favorite memory from your time with MTT? 

“Coaching an athlete on race day who was going to let up a little with 1.5 miles to go, and I got in his ear to pick it up and catch his teammate ahead of him. Ultimately, he ran a better time than he expected. After the race he said he couldn’t have pushed through the pain without my encouragement – it’s a pretty cool feeling to hear that.”

What would you say is the biggest benefit that the program provides? 

“A team culture in what some runners consider an individual sport – support from teammates and coaches during training runs and on race day. Also holds runners accountable for getting their training in!”

What is the biggest piece of advice you would give to someone looking to start training for a marathon? 

“Start small! You don’t have to sign up for a marathon as your first race. Start running a 5k, 10k, or a half marathon, and build up your mileage and endurance so that training for a marathon isn’t any harder than it has to be.”

Describe a typical weekend group run.

“The fastest runners get out fast, but I hang with the more social–while still fast–group in the back. We enjoy each other’s company, tell stories, joke on each other, and the run goes by quickly no matter the distance.”

What inspired or encouraged you to become a MTT coach? 

“The team I run with – everyone is inspiring in their own way and we all have a common bond to want to run fast and beat our personal bests.

Do you have a favorite place to run in Richmond?

“The neighborhoods in Northside because the traffic isn’t as bad and the houses are quaint, or Church Hill, but the MTT routes don’t take us that far.”

How many marathons have you done, and do you have a favorite memory or experience? What was your reason to run your first marathon? 

“I’ve run four marathons: Richmond, Erie, Boston, and the California International Marathon (CIM), and my favorite memory is from CIM in December 2018. I was running through mile 20 and looked at my watch pace and realized I was ahead of my goal pace by a couple of seconds. Then, with .75 miles left in the race I started doing the math in my head and realized I was coming into the finish 5 minutes ahead of when I thought I would finish. It felt surreal to finish so far ahead of my goal time, and in that moment, I realized I had more potential in the sport than I was giving myself credit for.”

What do you like the most about the VCU Health Richmond Marathon? 

“Accessibility to the course! It’s pretty easy to get around the course to watch and support runners after they cross the Lee Bridge. As a runner running the race, the views change and there are plenty of turns and infrequent hills to keep the course interesting.”

The VCU Health Richmond Marathon takes place on November 16, 2019, and registration is available at