As a coaching team, Randy and Kim Longmuir of Parksville are ideally positioned to employ the old “good cop, bad cop” routine to coax the best from their young cross-country and track runners.
Problem is, neither one is willing to take on the bad cop role.
Randy Longmuir likes to spend rest breaks between interval runs swapping puns with class cut-up Tyler Ponsford. And Kim has apparently ceded her claim to the role of hard case.
“We call her Cupcake Coach,” Sophie Scobie said. “She’s just a big sweetie.”
Whatever their method, something is working. Ponsford, Scobie and the other dozen school-aged runners who joined the Longmuirs for a training session at Parksville’s Springwood Park Saturday all traveled from Nanaimo to take part.
Many of them are runners with the Dover Bay Secondary School cross-country team, which the Longmuirs coach with former Ballenas runner Doug Oxland. And most of them are members of the Oceanside Track and Field Club, where Randy and Kim specialize with middle- and long-distance runners.
“They’re the best coaches on the Island,” runner Linden Kaps said with a shrug when asked why he chooses to travel to train.
The Longmuirs’ runners, both current and past, will get the chance to prove it in a pair of big meets the next two weekends. On Saturday, the top runners in B.C., including Olympic Trials contender Alicia Butterworth, will compete in the provincial cross-country championships at Nanaimo’s Beban Park.
The following week, the Dover Bay team and another OTFC runner, Thomas Grabher of Nanaimo District Secondary School, will compete in the B.C. Secondary School Cross Country Championships in Kamloops.
Kim Longmuir, left, looks on as husband Randy makes a point to their Nanaimo-area runners during a cross-country practice Saturday at Springwood Park in Parksville. — Image credit: J.R. Rardon/PQB NEWS
This weekend’s provincial meet, which will feature competition in categories from youth to masters, will determine membership on the B.C. team to the 2016 Canadian Cross Country Championships next month in Kingston, Ont. The Longmuirs have both been selected as coaches for Team B.C., the third time they have received the honour.
Randy Longmuir, currently director of technical development programs with B.C. Athletics, is also a member of the organization’s board.
Randy, 63, and Kim, who turns 60 this week, are retired teachers who grew up and met in Manitoba before marrying and eventually making their way west to Vancouver Island.
After teaching and coaching school sports in Victoria, the couple moved to Parksville in 1996. Here they have continued to develop runners — including their daughter, Caley — through their work with the Oceanside Track and Field Club and Ballenas Secondary School running programs.
And they show no signs of slowing down.
“Our daughter went through track and cross- country,” Kim Longmuir said of Caley, now 24 and a medical student at the University of Northern British Columbia in Prince George. “Everyone thought once Caley moved on, so would we. But it’s nice to pay it forward. We do it for the love of the sport.”
Randy and Kim have both been involved in sports from an early age. She played volleyball, while Randy competed in baseball and football.
“That’s where I developed my speed,” Randy said of the gridiron. “I didn’t want to get hit.”
And, of course, they both ran. Perhaps ironically, both started out as sprinters, and Randy Longmuir was once the Winnipeg record-holder in the hurdles.
As they moved into their university years, both discovered a love of distance running, and became accomplished road runners, right up to marathon distance.
Kim Longmuir once held the Canadian record at 20 kilometres, though she minimizes its significance.
“It’s an odd distance, so it wasn’t really a big deal,” she said.
Coach Randy Longmuir, left, readies his cross-country runners for a training sprint at Springwood Park in Parksville on Saturday. — Image credit: J.R. Rardon/PQB NEWS
While their competitive years may be behind them, the Longmuirs still have plenty to give. There is no longer an active cross country program at either of the secondary schools in Parksville or Qualicum Beach, but the Nanaimo youths are happy to soak up the instruction and fun atmosphere.
“Randy came up to me when I was in Grade 9, two years ago,” said Kaps. “After learning about the club here and their program, it seemed like the right fit for me. I knew this was where I wanted to be.”
The Longmuirs succeed through encouragement and keeping things fun and loose while simultaneously challenging their young charges to improve. It’s a fine line to walk, much like distance running itself, which exists in a narrow no-man’s land between ecstasy and agony.
“It’s a love-hate relationship, because it hurts,” Kim said. “But these are all wonderful kids, and for us it’s a privilege to work with them. That’s what keeps us going with it. We’re passionate about the sport.”
And their charges seem just as passionate about working with the longtime mentors.
“They’re not just coaches,” said Kaps. “They’re family.”