Since 1982 I've written a newsletter, Running Commentary. A new issue appears here each week, and material is archived.

Fri, 21 Mar 2003 14:44:26 -0500

Son of Marathon Training


Running books, like the people who write them, have a finite lifespan. The lucky ones live a long time, but there are no guarantees of longevity.

Better Runs, my 1995 book, remains healthy (in sales) after all these years. But its younger sibling Best Runs, published in 1999, is dying young.

"Best" never sold well, and actually had negative sales in recent months (with returns from stores outnumbering purchases). The publisher is letting it fall out of print soon.

As this one dies, though, two others live on through their "children." A second edition of Fitness Running (written with Dick Brown) was released in March.

This same month I started the revision of Marathon Training, due out a year from now. Why a new version? Because the earlier one, only six years old, is already showing its age. The following preface to the new edition tells how the book has changed.

I'VE LED three lives as a marathoner. Each happened to fall into a distinct period in the event's modern history, featuring a different set of attitudes and approaches.

Marathon Life Number One took me from 1967 to 1980. Most runners of that time -- which in the latter part of that period came to be called the "Running Boom," and in hindsight the "FIRST Boom" -- were like me: young, fairly fast (at least by today's standards) and male. Women hadn't yet arrived in great numbers, few runners had become longtimers or oldtimers, and the Holy Grails of marathoning were breaking three hours and qualifying for Boston. A schedule for the runners of that era appeared in the book Jog Run Race.

Foot and leg miseries, caused by the quest for speed, limited me to shorter races for most of the 1980s. On my return for Marathon Life Number Two, I found a different event than the one I'd left almost a decade earlier. It was bigger, both in numbers of runners and races, and more varied -- notably with more women running. Surviving the distance had become more important than beating the clock to most of the new runners, and to an older returnee like me.

Health problems unrelated to marathons, or to running in general, ended Marathon Life Two for me in 1995. During the extended break that followed, I wrote and Human Kinetics published the book Marathon Training. It was in print for more than a year by the time I returned to running this distance.

Marathon Life Number Three began for me in 1998. Again I saw changes. In just three years the number of annual marathon finishers in the United States had jumped by more than 100,000. The number of races had climbed by about 100. Organized training groups, often charity fund-raising efforts, had proliferated. Walk-breaking runners and pure walkers had boosted the size of fields and slowed their median times.

My Marathon Life Three coincided with what came to be called the "Second Running Boom." Its runners and run-walkers (of which I'm one) had changed the event so much that they'd updated my thinking on what it means to be a marathoner. The next logical move, then, is to update the book Marathon Training.

The most obvious makeover is in the photos that illustrate the book. The "look" of marathoning has changed since the mid-1990s. Here we not only update the styles of clothing and shoes, but also better reflect the larger and more diverse makeup of current race fields.

For instance, the first Marathon Training cover pictured four young men racing at the front. While we continue to honor such runners, they don't accurately represent today's typical marathoner. Which is why our new cover looks so much different than the original.

The first book carried the same subtitle as this one: "The Proven 100-Day Program for Success." I assumed then that runners were reasonably well trained before this three-month training period began -- that they already had been running for a year or more, that they could run at least an hour at a time, and that they'd completed at least a 10K race and ideally a half-marathon.

We can't make such assumptions anymore. Many people now make the marathon their first running goal. They may start from the couch and resolve to finish a marathon within their first year -- often making it their first race of any length. For them I've added a chapter on the prerequisites of marathon training, or how they must pre-train BEFORE the 100-day countdown begins.

"Thoughts for the Day," the brief essays that accompany all the days of this program, are entirely new in this book. Again they reflect the changes in thinking, trends and techniques since the first book's publication in 1997.

"Tips for the Day," the one-paragraph daily lessons, appear here nearly unchanged. So do the training programs. These schedules and supporting tips were 30 years in the making before the original book came out, and need little editing now.

As before, this book gives readers choices -- of how seriously they want to take the marathon, exactly what distances and paces they intend to run, and on which days they plan to run long, run fast, run easily or rest. Runners know best what they're trying to accomplish and how the pieces of this puzzle will fit together for them.

YOU MIGHT be able to help me write the new edition of Marathon Training. If you've used this program or any of its predecessors (going back to the original one published in 1977) -- or know someone who has -- send me a brief description of your experiences, positive or otherwise ( If your comments are published, I'll send you a free copy of the book next year.


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