Marathon: the Ultimate Training Guide

Higdon, Hal. Marathon: the Ultimate Training Guide. New York: Rodale, 2011.

Reason read: In a word, Vegas!

I’ll be honest – I read this in sporadic fits. I didn’t sit down and read huge chapters all at once, but rather only a few pages at a time. Yes, Hal Higdon is a master at the marathon. Yes, he has run hundreds of races all over the world. Yes, he deserves all the accolades showered on him. But, but. But! It’s a little off-putting when he’s the one tooting his own horn. In the beginning his statistics on how many visitors his website gets, how many people download his marathon plans, and on and on got a little wearisome. His stories of besting other runners left a bad taste in my mouth (one incident in particular – a runner passed him during a marathon and was really excited to have “beaten” the great Higdon. Higdon couldn’t let the runner bask in this feat and instead assured the man he wasn’t racing this marathon but simply running it.) Having said all that, this is not a book that should be ignored. By all means, if you are planning to run a marathon, read this book. I’ll say it again, read this book. It’s a wealth of important information. Everything from nutrition to cross training is there (all the typical information)…and even some advice you might not expect, like a training plan for women designed to work around that time of the month. Yes ladies, there is a plan for your period. So, hubris aside, this is a great resource for every kind of runner.

Tales From Another Mother Runner

Tales From Another Mother Runner: Triumphs, Tips, and Tricks From the Road: a Collection for Badass Mother Runners. McDowell, Dimitry and Sarah Bowen Shea, editors. Kansas City: Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2015.

Reason read: for the title alone. I’m not a mother but I love a book with a great title.

Dimitry starts the introduction and right away you can tell what kind of person runner she is. Even with a bad stress fracture she “needed to go the distance” not as a spectator but as a runner at the Nike Women’s Marathon. Sounds like someone else I know.
I had to wait three months before getting this book from a library almost 200 miles away. It was worth the wait. Tales From Another Mother Runner isn’t just for running mothers. I should know I’m definitely not a mother and, with only two halves under my belt, I’m barely a runner. This book is for anyone who has to juggle running with other parts of their lives (and not just kids, too). Husbands, jobs, injuries, fears, you name it. These tales cover every aspect of running from first steps to last miles and features every kind of female runner from the speedies to the barely jogging (but just don’t call it jogging). Like the art of running there are highs and lows, funny stories mixed with sad ones. I identified with dealing with depression as well as the more lighthearted nuisances like trying to find a anti-chafe remedy for all areas (and I do mean, ahem, all areas). I enjoyed Tales from Another Mother Runner so much I’m going to look for McDowell and Shea’s other books.

Never Wipe Your…

Robillard, Jason. Never Wipe Your Ass with a Squirrel: a Trail Running, Ultramarathon, and Wilderness Survival Guide for Weird Folks. Barefoot Running Press, 2013.

This has got to be the strangest guide to running I have ever come across. Okay, to be fair it is chock full of useful information and thensome. Hey, you even learn the names of clouds…as in cirrostratus and stratocumulus. I kid you not. That’s the tame stuff. Azz wiping is even more informative. But. But! But, it’s all organized in a bizzarro way. Here’s an example: you are reading all about wilderness dangers (because nature can kill). Robillard is covering what to do in cases of ticks, snakes, even cougars. Then all of a sudden he jumps to information about foam rollers and stretching. Just when you think he’s moved on from the hazards of nature he returns to tripping on tree roots and the importance of learning to fall correctly. More safety information. The stick/roller information seems really out of place. Having said all that, one look at the table of contents and you know this isn’t your typical runners’ guide. I would say beginner runners shouldn’t attempt to use this book as a serious guide. Serious ultrarunners will know everything he’s talking about and I would say, the more experienced the runner, the funnier Robillard gets.

Can’t quote anything from the book, even for a review…mostly because I’m too lazy to seek permission. Pretend I inserted funny examples of why you should read this book here -> “—-“(p).

Reason: okay, I admit it. The title caught my attention.

Author fact: Robillard likens himself to Tucker Max. I would say Robillard is just as funny except his writing is more interesting.

Book trivia: Oodles of typos. Not sure what to make of that.

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.