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Since 1998, the RRCA Coaching Certification Program has provided a baseline of education for individuals seeking to become knowledgeable and ethical distance running coaches to work with runners of all ages and abilities.

The RRCA Coaching Certification program is comprised of two levels: Level 1 and Level 2.

Level 1 Certification

The Level 1 Coaching Certification course focuses on adult distance running, defined as one mile or longer, and touches on youth running and shorter distances.

The Level 1 Coaching Certification course is designed to educate prospective coaches so they may:

  • Level I participants should have experience with the sport of running, a desire to improve their own running knowledge, and have an interest in coaching others.
  • Intellectual interest in the sport of running and training theory from expert coaches is a must. Personal experience running in events ranging from 5K to marathon distances is helpful.
  • An introductory video module will be emailed to registered participants and viewing is required in advance of the course.
  • Participants must be 18 years of age or older with no less than a high school diploma.

Historically, the RRCA has offered the Level I Coaching Certification course in person over two consecutive days in a classroom setting. Due to the pandemic, we have moved all Level I courses online to a virtual, interactive learning environment for the foreseeable future. 

Each course will take place from 8am-5pm over two consecutive days in the designated time zone. Hourly breaks and ample time for lunch will be incorporated into each day’s schedule.

The two-day Level I Coaching Certification course consists of 16 hours of synchronous coursework using the Zoom platform. Delivery methods include:

  • Lecture
  • group discussion
  • Small group work
  • Assignments and homework to be completed between Day 1 and Day 2

FedEx will ship the hard copy course book directly to the mailing address listed in each participant’s online registration. There will be an additional fee for all international shipments or re-shipments for providing an incorrect mailing address. 

Topics covered in the Level I Coaching Certification course include:

  • Principles of coaching
  • Exercise physiology for coaching
  • Principles of building a training program
  • Understanding different types of workouts
  • Understanding running form
  • Basic sports nutrition
  • The business of coaching
  • Sports psychology for coaching
  • Recognizing injuries and injury prevention
  • Environmental factors that affect performance

Full participation across both days, including reading, writing, speaking, and the use of technology, is required for certification. Attendance will be taken throughout each day, including by using a screen-grab of the Zoom video.

No running is required during the course.

Participants are required to pass an online exam and submit valid CPR and First Aid certifications to complete the Level I Coaching Certification process. See below for more information.

Registration for Level I Coaching Certification courses takes place online. Payment by credit or debit card is required at the time of registration.

The fee for the course is $325.  

Each course is limited to 35 participants.

Upcoming Level 1 Courses

Upcoming courses are announced via email notification list and on this page. Interested prospective coaches must sign up through the email list below to receive course registration announcements. Classes fill quickly, so register early. 

Review the Waiting List instructions below for adding your name to a full course’s waiting list.

November 13-14, 2021 – Bozeman, MT  FULL – Mountain Time


December 4-5, 2021 – Austin, TX OPEN

Receive Notices About Upcoming RRCA Coaching Certification Courses

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We use an automated waiting list tool through the RunSignup registration platform. If you are interested in participating in a sold-out course, please follow the link(s) above to the RunSignup registration page(s) for the desired course(s) and add your name to the course’s waiting list. You will receive an email if a seat becomes available. 

Due to our small staff size, we ask that prospective coaches refrain from calling or emailing the RRCA about their status on course waiting lists. Prospective coaches may log into their personal RunSignup account, view the My Waiting Lists section on their Profile, and see how many people are ahead of them on a specific course’s waiting list.

Participants withdrawing from a course and seeking a refund must email the request to [email protected].

Withdrawals are subject to a $50 fee until 14 days before the class date. After that time, no refunds will be granted.

You MAY NOT sell or give your spot to another person if you cannot attend. Refunds will be processed via the RunSignup registration platform, and funds will be returned to the credit or debit card originally used to register. Refunds may take up to two weeks to process. 

Course transfers are not permitted. You must first request withdrawal from the original course, then re-register for the new course, if space permits.

While rare, if the RRCA must cancel or postpone a Level I Coaching Certification course after participants have registered, participants will be notified via email by the Director of Coaching Education.

Options for enrollment in a different course will be provided, if available. In the event of a course cancellation by RRCA, participants will receive full refunds of the course fee and RunSignup processing fees.

Please review all course-related communications carefully.

Detailed information, including course expectations and pre-course assignments, will be emailed to all registered participants in advance of the course.

Information regarding the online exam and submission of CPR and First Aid certifications will be emailed to participants immediately following the course.

At the conclusion of the Level I Coaching Certification course, information about accessing the 100-question online exam will be emailed to participants. Each participant must independently complete the online exam within 30 days of the course and pass with a score of 85% or higher to qualify for certification. The exam is administered through a professional online testing platform that tracks individual responses, progress, IP address, and testing duration. Participants are not permitted to work together on the test and submit answers. However, individual participants may reference their personal notes and course book while answering questions. Before finalizing the test, participants will be asked to affirmatively agree to abide by the RRCA Coaching Code of Ethics . Upon completion of the online exam, participants will receive an instant score, which is also emailed to the Director of Coaching Education. Answers to test questions are not provided to any participant following completion of the exam due to certification testing integrity. If your score is 84% or lower, you have not passed the exam and will receive an email from the Director of Coaching Education detailing the re-testing process and associated fee. You must pass exam to finalize the certification process. Anyone that cannot pass the online exam in two attempts will not be certified as an RRCA Level I Coach and will not be granted a refund. Participants that do not pass the online exam on the second attempt may be granted the opportunity to take the Level I Coaching Certification course again, but will be required to pay the full course fee. There is a six-month window from the course date to complete all steps in the Level I Coaching Certification process.

Participants must submit valid CPR and First Aid certifications within 60 days of the Level I Coaching Certification course.

Due to the pandemic we will accept both CPR and First Aid courses that are completed online. We have no preferred providers for these classes, though many prospective coaches choose to take courses through the American Red Cross or American Heart Association. Electronic submissions via email are required, either as scans or photographs of the certification documents. Fax copies will not be accepted.

CPR and First Aid certifications are usually valid for two years. You will be required to maintain CPR and First Aid certifications in order to remain an RRCA Level I Certified Coach in good standing and use the RRCA Level I Certified Coach title.

Once a participant has completed all requirements for becoming an RRCA Level I Certified Coach, the RRCA will confirm completion and send a congratulatory email via the SimpleCert platform. This email will contain a link to download the Level I certificate.

The coach’s profile will be updated with their Level I credential, adding their name to the public Find a Coach listing. This will also grant access to the Certified Coaches Portal.

Currently, the only requirement to remain in good standing as an RRCA Level I Coach is to maintain current CPR and First Aid certifications. At this time there are no “requalification” or CEC requirements. 

If a coach does not update their CPR and First Aid certifications in advance of the expiration dates, their status as a coach will change to “not in good standing,” and their name will be removed from the public Find a Coach list and will lose access to the Certified Coaches Portal. Coaches will be reinstated by updating their First Aid and CPR expiration dates on their profile.

Any prospective coach that has a special need should email the Director of Coaching Education at [email protected] prior to registration to review accommodation options.

Level 2 Coaching Certification

The Level 2 Coaching Certification program provides a deeper understanding of the scientific, psychological, competitive, and managerial aspects of working with individual clients and training groups.

The program prepares coaches for organizing training programs and developing periodized plans that will bring athletes to success, help them manage fatigue, maintain motivation, and allow for peak performance at the appropriate time.

The Level II Coaching Certification program is open to all RRCA Level I Certified Coaches in good standing who have been certified for a minimum of one year. The Level II program is designed for coaches seeking to enhance their knowledge or reinforce concepts learned in Level I​.

Level 2 Coaching Certification program participants must:

  • Be an RRCA Level 1 Certified Coach ​for a minimum of 12-months. Coaches may begin the Level II program earlier but won’t be fully certified until 12-months following their Level 1 certification date.
  • Be 18 years of age or older with no less than a high school diploma.
  • Provide proof of coaching experience in the form of a brief essay outlining their experience as part of the enrollment process.

Level 2 Coaching Certification program is delivered in a combination of two formats that must be completed:

  • A two-day, interactive, synchronous online Session, schedule several times during the year.
  • Full participation across both days of the two-day Level 2 Session, including reading, writing, speaking, and the use of technology, is required for certification, as well as passing a 50-question online exam with a score of 80% or higher.
  • A minimum of 12 asynchronous online modules with end-of-module quizzes requiring a score of 8/10 or better.

Program Cost:

  • $25 enrollment fee for RRCA Level 1 Certified Coaches that intend to pursue the Level 2 Certification credential.  Following enrollment, participants will follow a pay-as-you-go system for the two-day Level 2 Session and individual online modules.
  • $325 for the two-day Level 2 Session.  Sessions are capped at 35 participants.
  • $25 – $30 for each online modules
  • Approximate total cost is $650 to complete all Level 2 Coaching Certification Program requirements.

No running is required during the program.

Enter the Coaches Portal to register and access the program >>

Coaching Education Team

Randy Accetta[email protected] Randy is an accomplished educator and runner that brings a wealth of experience to the RRCA coaching program.  He is the Communications Mentor for the top-ranked McGuire Center for Entrepreneurship at the University of Arizona, where he has twice received Teacher of the Year honors.  Additionally, he has co-authored two continuing education courses on how to coach runners, and he has written running-based articles that have been published in Running Times, Runners World and the New York Times.

Cari SetzlerCari earned a Bachelor’s of Science in Biology at Aquinas College, while earning All-American Honors 8 times and was national runner up in the indoor 1000 meters. In 2014 she was inducted into the Aquinas College Athletic Hall of Fame. Cari continued on to Michigan State University where she earned her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine Degree. She is RRCA level II certified, level II USATF endurance coach, level II USTAFFCA in sprints and hurdles as well as she is certified in running mechanics through Newton Running.

bobby.gesslerBobby is a graduate of the University of Maryland and obtained his medical degree from Georgetown University School of Medicine in 1983. Following this he completed his urological surgery training at Brown University and is a Board Certified urological surgeon in a group private practice in Columbia, Maryland. Bobby has served as Chairman for the Department Of Urology of the Johns Hopkins Hospital Affiliated Howard County General Hospital for over 10 years. Dr Gessler is an RRCA Certified Coach and Instructor and has USATF Level I and Level II coaching certifications in the endurance and combined events respectively as well as being a certified Level I Course instructor for the USATF. F

Brent AyerBrent has been active in the sport of running for over 50 years. He served on the RRCA Board of Directors from 1987 to 1990, again from 2004 to 2008, and was elected RRCA President from 2009 to 2012.  Brent holds USATF Level I & Level II and USTFCCCA coaching certifications. He coached the Frederick Striders Youth Track & Field Club for 12 years. In 2003, he launched the Hood College Cross Country program followed by the Track & Field team and coached them for 13 years. Brent holds an MBA and worked for over 30 years with several different Members of the United States House of Representatives.

What People Say about the Course

Individuals that have completed the RRCA Coaching Certification course and earned the title RRCA Certified Coach are not employees, nor contractors, with the RRCA.  All coaches are independent from the RRCA. They have agreed to abide by the RRCA’s Coaches Code of Ethics, which includes revocation of the credential for serious violations.

RRCA only verifies that RRCA Certified Coaches have completed a formal education program and have completed the requirements to earn the credential of RRCA Certified Coach and be included in our searchable database of coaches.

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