Karen Hancock

Karen HancockQualifications

UKA Level 3 (endurance, children in athletics)

Experience and Achievements

Karen started running in 1966, aged 11: she won a school 2-mile cross-country run by a huge margin, in Dunlop “Green Flash” plimsolls. Encouraged by finding a sport she was good at, she joined the now-defunct Norfolk Olympiads and competed at 400 and 800 metres (the farthest women were allowed to race in those days) and cross-country, where she reached County standard.

Following 10 years on “The Dark Side” which began at university, Karen came back to running as a way of giving up smoking after the birth of her daughter in 1983. She ran her first marathon aged 30 –self-coached and unattached – in Glasgow in1985 in 3:22:28; her second in 1986 in 3:15:20, and her third and – until recently – final marathon in London in 1989 in 3:03:38. This qualified her to line up on the élite women’s start the following year, so she sought a coach. A former Scottish marathon champion with a 2:18 time to his credit, Alistair McFarlane introduced Karen to twice-weekly track sessions with his talented squad, twice-a-day training, and peaking at 85 miles a week. Karen’s pbs fell to 37:40 (10k); 63:48 (10 miles); 1:24:12 (half marathon) and she was picked to represent Scotland in the European Womens’ 15k road race championships in Naples, four weeks before the 1990 London marathon.

Sustaining a knee injury after the Naples race, Karen’s subsequent years were plagued by a frustrating series of injuries and she was not able to compete at the marathon distance again until 2004. In the intervening years, Karen returned to competing on the track and at cross-country, becoming the W35 Scottish veteran champion at 800m and 3,000m.

With the prospect of having to give up running one day, Karen became a Level 2 coach in 1996, and jointly ran track sessions in Edinburgh for predominantly female middle distance runners with a Level 3 coach. After moving to London in 2001, and coaching her partner to complete his first London marathon in 2:55, Karen sought re-validation and established the Saturday morning Greenwich hill sessions to fill a gap in the Serpentine training programme. Karen recently achieved her Level 3 coaching qualification.

Karen still trains and races when not injured. To her great delight, in 2004 she achieved an ambition nurtured since 1989 – to stand on the start line of another marathon. She completed the Copenhagen marathon after only 16 weeks of training in 3:16:40 aged 49. The following year in London she achieved 3:07:46, finishing as the first V45 lady.

Interests and Activities

Karen established Saturday morning hill sessions in Greenwich in 2004, and also runs the Tuesday threshold sessions at the Dome.

She also provides marathon training advice for individual athletes. Her coaching philosophy is founded on the belief that good distance runners are not born, but made out of consistent, purposeful training over a number of years.


Karen was a consultant coach for the Rough Guide to Running (Rough Guides, October 2007). 

She has also written a few coaching articles which are available on the Serpentine website.

Involvement with Serpentine 

Karen established Saturday morning hill sessions in Greenwich in 2004, and also runs the Tuesday threshold sessions at the Dome.