Mastering the Marathon

Fink, Don. Mastering the Marathon: Time-Efficient Training Secrets for the 40-plus Athlete. Guilford, CT: Lyons Press: 2010.

Reason read: the Toronto half marathon.

I picked up Mastering the Marathon because even though I am only running a half I thought the information couldn’t hurt. The unfortunate thing was I didn’t have time to use the “secrets”. The book is begins with the outline of “three magic bullets” and exactly how effective each “bullet” is to your training. The bullets are actually three different workouts designed to maximize your potential as a runner. They are as follows: marathon pacing sessions, long runs and higher-intensity repeats. I know what you are thinking – they sound like a variation of the three specific training runs you should already be doing to train for any distance. In other words, tempo, long and fartleks. The difference is Fink outlines training plans based on how fast you want to finish. The typical 16-week plans are broken down into finishing time and how much running you want to do throughout your training. Let’s say you want to finish 26.2 miles in 3-3.5 hours and you want your training to consist of only running. There’s a training plan for that. You want to finish in 3.5 – 4.5 hours and you want your training to consist of only running. There’s a plan for that. You want to finish in the same times outlined above but you want to do less running and add cross training – there’s a plan. Finally, you want to finish in the same times outlined above but you want to do the minumum bare-bones running. You guessed it, there’s a plan. A great deal is made about these training plans throughout the first part of the book. In chapters 1-4 Fink refers to them (in chapter 5) no less than a dozen times. By the time I got to chapter 5 I felt like I had reached Mecca.

But, Mastering the Marathon is not just about different training plans and the three magic bullets. Fink also includes success stories of runners who have improved their times with the help of his coaching. While they were a little repetitive (he predicts everyone will continue to get faster), I was more disappointed in the fact most of the stories were about seasoned runners than individuals who ran their first marathons after the age of 40. For every four stories about a seasoned runner there was only one about an over-40 new-to-marathons runner.



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