Preview: Marathon Training

(From the Introduction) 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 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.

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 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 my book Marathon Training. It was in print for more than a year by the time I returned to running this distance.

Marathon Life 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, was to update the book Marathon Training.

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.

Each “Thought for the Day,” a mini-essay, is entirely new in this book. Again these pieces reflect the changes in thinking, trends and techniques of marathoning since the book’s first publication in 1997.

Each “Tip for the Day,” a one-paragraph lesson, appears 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 they need little editing now.

As in the previous edition, this book gives you choices – of how seriously you want to take the marathon; exactly what distances and paces you intend to run, and on which days you plan to run long, run fast, run easily or rest. You know best what you’re trying to accomplish and how the pieces of this puzzle will fit together for you.

I took the book this far. Now it’s up to you to finish it by writing your own marathon-training story. May it have a happy ending.

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