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“Like in Game of Thrones“: On a Run With Olympic Coach David Harmer

17th December 2021

“I love to help athletes achieve their goals,“ says David Harmer. He has been a professional running coach for 14 years, the last seven years as national coach for the British Athletics Association. As a coach, David Harmer travelled to Ethiopia, Kenya, Australia, and the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, among other places. However, David Harmer’s favorite running track in England seems to be worlds apart from any metropolises. We accompanied True Motion’s Tech & Brand Representative to the 1,000-people village of Newtown Linford and its Bradgate Park.

Content:

  1. One village, one pub, and three cafes

  2. Eleven kilometers through the deer park

  3. A view as far as Nottingham

  4. Coffee and chocolate peppermint cake at the end

The water in the river Lin gently ripples through Newtown Linford. There, in the small village with a population of 1,000 in central England’s Leicestershire County, it is quiet – especially in the winter. David Harmer appreciates that. For the past seven years or so, the running coach and True Motion Tech & Brand Representative has lived in the university town of Loughborough, 13 kilometers away. „Today, running to me means boosting my mental health,“ he says.


David Harmer knows what he’s talking about. He has been training professional runners for 14 years. Most recently, he has been the national coach of the British running team for seven years and coached the team at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio. In 2019, three of his athletes took part in the World Athletics Championships in Doha. Running defines David Harmer’s life. Even in his spare time. His favorite track: Bradgate Park in Newtown Linford.

One village, one pub, and three cafes

„When I run, I just want to relax,“ says David. That’s possible in the tranquil village of 1,000 residents. There, the houses wind along Main Street from east to west. There aren’t too many distractions in Newtown Linford either – day-trippers and locals meet in the village’s only pub, in one of the three cafes, the few restaurants – or in the well-known Bradgate Park.

Together with Newtown Linford, the park is now part of a nature reserve. Bradgate originated in the Middle Ages – and served as a hunting ground for the lord of the manor at the time. Later, the nine-day queen Lady Jane Grey spent her childhood in Bradgate House, a castle built in the park shortly before. The ruins of this building are still standing today – and, along with the Old John tower, form the park’s landmark. „The landscape here impresses me every time,“ David says. „The whole park seems like a backdrop for Game of Thrones.“

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Red and fallow deer cross the dirt roads or drink water from the Lin river. Rangers make sure that everything stays as it is. The tourists and athletes appreciate that. In the summer, the park is a popular destination for people from the Leicestershire County. And for David Harmer, it’s home to the most beautiful running track in Great Britain.

Eleven kilometers through the deer park

David starts his run in Bradgate Park just past the public parking lot at Hunt’s Hill. Eleven kilometers long, it’s his favorite run – and beautiful – but it’s not a fast route. „For me, it’s perfect for a relaxed run to clear my head,“ he says. „If you run in Bradgate Park, you need to know that it will be more of a slow run.“

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However, this is not true for all runners at Bradgate Park. As a coach, David had his athletes run up and down the hilly landscape of the deer park. It was part of their training program. „The good thing about Bradgate Park and its hills is that once your motivation drops, this incredible nature will keep pushing you on,“ he assures.

On David’s route, there is a first climb right at the beginning: at Hunt’s Hill, directly behind the parking lot at one of the park entrances. Once this hill is conquered, the route continues along the outer park circuit toward the south and Newtown Linford. This segment is somewhat flatter, runners can go a little faster. As long as terrain and weather allow it, that is.

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Because even though Bradgate Park is David’s favorite running desination, he doesn’t make it out to Newtown Linford quite that often. „In the summer and early fall, the route is beautiful,“ he says. „But in the winter, and especially when it’s raining, other routes are more suitable.“

Even before David reaches the village center after just under two kilometers, he continues west at Newtown Linford Cricket Club. Along the river Lin, he runs past the ruins of Bradgate House on the right. Next, he passes the Deer Barn Tea Room park cafe. In addition to the three cafes in the village center, this is the fourth cafe in the area. „Many cyclists and walkers take a break here,“ David tells us. For him, it’s onward for now.

On his loop through the park, he now runs north past the Cropston Reservoir. From there, David continues southwest, uphill for about a mile and a half. „The last meters are so steep that you almost need to walk them,“ says David. But the effort is worth it. At the very top, at the highest point of Bradgate Park, stands Old John.

A view as far as Nottingham

In the past, the old tower served as a viewing platform. Even today, runners have the best view of the entire park from there – and in good weather, all the way to Nottingham. „Old John is a must on the run through Bradgate Park,“ explains David.

If it is the starting point of the route, runners can plan their route from there. „There is always something new to discover. And that’s what makes the route so unique.“ The deer also make the loop through Bradgate Park so special. The animals run crisscross through the park – or fight over the females during mating season.

For most runners, at least, the run ends at Old John. David, however, accelerates once again – and turns onto the outer park path in the direction of Newtown Linford for a second time. Instead of running along the river again in a northeastern direction, he runs through the middle of the park – once again up to Old John. Only then is David’s eleven-kilometer run over.

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Coffee and chocolate peppermint cake at the end

„For me, Bradgate Park is a place where I can just enjoy time away from work and cell phones,“ he says. That works out well – after all, there’s rarely any real cell phone reception in the deer park. „You become a part of nature when you run,“ he says.


After eleven kilometers, David heads downhill from Old John toward Newtown Linford, to a cafe right near the park. Once there, he orders an Aero Mint Tiffin, a kind of chocolate peppermint brownie. „Truly English,“ David says, laughing. To go with the tiffin, the waitress brings a flat white.

About David Harmer:

David Harmer has been a professional athletics coach for 14 years. As national coach of the British running team, he coached athletes at the 2016 Rio Olympics, the 2017 and 2019 IAAF World Championships, and three European Cross-Country Championships (2017, 2018, 2019). In 2019, three of his athletes competed at the World Athletics Championships in Doha.


Prior to his time with the British Athletics Association, he coached university teams in the United States. „As a coach, I love helping athletes achieve their goals and dreams,“ he says. David Harmer has been a Tech & Brand Representative at True Motion since October 2021.

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