11th September 2020


Luke Gunn is a promising young British coach and has just enjoyed guiding his athletes to two silver medals, five finalists and three personal bests at the Müller British Athletics Championships in Manchester.

Gunn watched on as Mark Pearce smashed his personal best in the men’s 3000m steeplechase final by nearly ten seconds to collect silver while European junior champion from 2019 Isabelle Boffey secured the same colour in the women’s 800m.

In his role as Head of Athletics at the University of Birmingham, Gunn coaches a wide array of athletes from 800m to 10,000m to marathon and represented Great Britain & Northern Ireland numerous times during his own career as a steeplechaser.

With the Olympic Games in Tokyo pushed back to 2021 because of coronavirus, Gunn believes that could work in the favour of his two silver medallist from the Müller British Athletics Championships – Pearce and Boffey.

He said: “It was a successful Champs, some huge PBs out of nowhere, and some medals, which was nice. Mark ran a 1500m PB in the middle of Storm Francis the Tuesday before and when people are in shape like that it doesn’t matter what has gone on.

“He knew it was going to be his only steeplechase and he told me he wasn’t going to faff about, h was going to front run it, and for somebody like Mark – and I am sure there are loads of athletes out there – the Olympics being delayed by a year works massively in his favour.

“He wouldn’t have been ready this year but now he has had his eyes wide open. I am lucky that most of the athletes I work with are in that transitional age, early 20s, so they are still progressing and trying to move on in the pathway so there is a motivation this year.

“At the start of the winter Issy didn’t really want to put her colours on making the Olympics. This year was all about getting faster over 400m and getting a big winter in. She actually had a bad winter with injury so didn’t have much base but lockdown came at the perfect time for her.

“She ended up being able to go back into a winter phase of training and rescue a tail end of the season. Issy was one of the few who came away a bit disappointed with how she raced, which is testament to her talent.

“I personally am very excited, and I’m sure the rest of the athletics nation is, to see her and Keely Hodgkinson do battle for the next ten years in that event, they are definitely going to be the future.”

As well as personally having two medallist, five finalists and three personal bests, the University of Birmingham past, present and future won five medals in total and had 14 finalists overall.

As has been widely acknowledged across all areas of the sport, Gunn was challenged when lockdown began back in March and is open and honest when he says he got lucky with his approach.

He added: “This year became just getting athletes through that bonkers time and trying to get them ready to feel like they can even step on a track – and not all the athletes I coach did feel confident enough to do it. I feel lucky to have a lot of the majority through.

“No one knew what to do, it was a new thing for everybody but really early on in lockdown, when everyone was looking for goalposts, which you couldn’t give them, and I think I lucked out if I am being honest.

“I said that we are going to take a very long approach in this and even if no season happens we will do time trials of some kind in September, to give a goalpost that won’t be moved, and that helped.

“We had a six-week plan for track, we didn’t know when we were going to start it, but it was a microwave project – I can’t tell you when day one is but we’ll start a six-week plan when we think we can.

“I think that helped a lot of people because they weren’t trying to get in super good shape, which would have been for June and July, which would have been a waste because they couldn’t do anything.”

Gunn ran his last competitive steeplechase in July 2017 and is relishing the path he has taken as his journey into coaching moves onwards and upwards.

He said: “I never thought I would be coaching middle distance females, if I am being honest. I always thought I would get a load of steeplechasers and 5k guys. I have been fortunate at the university, you get a lot of variety come through and I really enjoy actually having different groups of individuals.

“I think I have got somebody across all of the age groups and all of the event groups right up to marathon. I am really getting to test myself out across different things.”