Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Book Review - Marathon: The Ultimate Training Guide by Hal Higdon

When I got the email from Rodale Books, who is also the publishing company for Runner's World magazine, for Marathon: The Ultimate Training Guide by Hal Higdon it kicked off my crazy journey that was already brewing in my head but that I was too afraid to really admit to yet. But once I hit submit on the order form I knew that was it - it was time to confess! So before I chickened out, I made the announcement via Facebook and to all my family members. It was at least think about it. HA! Seriously though, I knew it was time to do more than think - it was time to act upon it. I'm not getting any younger, after all!

So I anxiously awaited the arrival in my mailbox and when it did finally get to me I was so excited to begin reading it!

You know you want it...Get it here
I'm a reader, so there isn't much that is more exciting than a new book! And I'm a runner, so there really isn't anything more exciting than a new book or magazine about running! It was just all glossy and fresh smelling, begging to be opened and pored over!!

So I didn't waste any time jumping right in! So what did I think about it now that I'm done reading? I will give it a 4 out of 5 for the encouragement and "everyone can be a marathoner" aspect; a 3 out of 5 for the wisdom and insight that is included. Tons of helpful information even if not earth-shattering or new. I give it a 2 for the actual writing as I found it to be a little repetitive at times. The training plans? Well, the jury will remain out on those until I actually run my first marathon because I can't judge without trying it.

The actual nitty-gritty of the book: I found it to be very encouraging in its tone which is something that I really needed if I want to actually pull this crazy journey off. I would just be stupid if I wasn't intimidated by running 26.2 miles, there's no doubt about that, but this book made me believe that it was totally attainable if I was smart about it. It used a lot of personal stories from Hal, some of his famous running friends, and comments from folks on his "V-Boards" as he offers online coaching via his website I would have to say, as an average runner, that I appreciated the comments from his virtual folks more than most of the others as I am never going to win my age groups or try out for the Olympics. So talking about 6 minute training miles as "easy runs" was completely irrelevant to me. But that didn't make it any less motivating, so don't get me wrong! I appreciate personal stories of triumph as much as the next gal! I actually have to say that I would have probably preferred MORE personal essays from regular every day folks that had completed marathons using his training methods. Even if they were just short little sidebars I think it would have added a lot to the book. What worked for real people and what didn't?

This is the fourth installment of the book so it was very modern in both tone and information provided by discussing the latest in fueling, hydrating and the science of running. This edition also includes training plans for the half marathon as well as a chapter specific to going half the distance which were helpful even though I probably won't be using his plans as I go into my half training later this year (more on that in a bit).

So I mentioned that the book was somewhat repetitive, right? While reading it I often wondered if the chapters were written as essays and then "compiled" into a book because there was at least a couple times that it would repeat very similar information. Particularly about carb-loading, training anecdotes from Olympic athletes for Hal, and the most irritating of all is his use of 26 miles 385 yards. Oh goodness gracious, if I could tell you how many times my brain stumbled over that throughout the reading of this book! I really think he maybe said "26.2" maybe once or twice. It was ALWAYS 26 miles 385 yards. As you know, there isn't anybody in the world that calls a marathon 26 miles 385 yards. It is 26.2 miles. Plain and simple. 26.2 Easy to say. Easy to read. Easy to compute. 26 miles 385 yards...not so much. I found myself mentally changing it to 26.2 each time I came across it.

I do feel like it lost some of the repetitiveness towards the later chapters when it got into specifics of training like what speedwork is, fueling, and nutrition. But that very well may be simply because I had become accustomed to his style by then and was converting that darn mouthful of 26 miles 385 yards (see - annoying isn't it?!?) into 26.2.

There are multiple training plans offered in the book, but as I also mentioned above, it turns out that all those exact same training plans are listed on his website for FREE. Being that this is my very first marathon that I'm attempting, I am going with his Marathon Novice 1 plan (for now anyways) which looks like this:
See it here
Okay, so a little side note - my goal for the marathon is simply to finish it. That is my #1 goal although I'm sure I will set some other ones along the way.

This plan is really different from what I'm used to seeing in training plans! First off, it has you running 3 days in a row which would be new for me. As my half marathon training gets to about the halfway point it adds a fourth day of running which I am okay with. However, it is run a day, rest, run two days (one of those "hard"), rest, then run long. I know a lot of runners get out there every single day. I completely believe in the power of rest and the power of mixing it up. I had a period of time awhile back that I bumped up to four days a week of running, but honestly, it began to bore me and I lost the excitement I get before a run day! Granted, the runs weren't varied (i.e. didn't have different goals or paces) so that added to the boringness of them (not a real word, but whatev - it should be! HA!). So when I look at 3 days in a row, I will admit that it scares me a little. Will it wear me down or will it build up my strength to compete strong? I don't know and that's probably what is the scariest.

The other thing about it is that you'll note that there isn't anything at all in that plan about pacing. There is a chapter in his book about finding your pace and what the various types of pace are, but he doesn't recommend doing any speedwork for the novice plans; which I don't disagree with completely. I just also know, from experience sadly enough, that if you always run at the same pace, you always run at the same pace. Here is what he says about the weekday runs: "Training during the week should be done at a comparatively easy pace". So if my marathon time that is predicted based on my most recent half marathon finish time is XX minutes per mile, I need to be running at that pace at least some of the time to get used to how it feels. Yet, when you run your long runs on the weekends, you are supposed to be doing a slower than normal pace since the goal of it is to get you used to being on your feet for many miles, not for running at your marathon pace. So if I always run at the same easy-non-speedwork-pace then come race day I will be running at my marathon pace wondering why it doesn't feel "easy" like all my long slow training runs were. So it confuses me a little. But apparently thousands of runners have used his plan and it has worked. We shall see...

All in all, I can definitely recommend the book to anyone that is looking at doing their first marathon. If you have a marathon or two under your belt already, I would skip it since it doesn't really offer new information or plans that aren't already widely available. What I primarily took away from the book was that even as a first-time marathoner that isn't very fast, that it is within reason and is achievable...and that it could actually be considered "fun" too! So it left me inspired which says a lot! I will probably re-read it prior to starting my actual training in 2014 and I may have a completely different take on it then. We shall see.

Question for you runners - any marathon books you would recommend?

1 comment:

  1. I only run when chased by a cheetah but I'm glad you were able to get so much out of it! It's good when you get a book that doesn't disappoint.