Sunday, January 9, 2011

Book review: The Non-Runner's Marathon Trainer

My husband picked this book up for me at a thrift store, and though I'm not (any more) a non-runner, I am training for a marathon, so I was interested in what it had to say.

The book shares the lessons taught in a popular marathon class taught at the University of Northern Iowa. According to the book jacket of my 1998 edition, "The class has been offered five times over 10 years, and all but one student finished the marathon. That is approximately 200 students - all first-time marathoners and many with absolutely no running background." While it says "non-runners" on the cover, the actual marathon plan assumes that you can jog for 30 minutes without stopping; if you can't, it includes a 10 week preliminary (couch to 5k style) program to get you to that point.

The marathon plan itself is a 16 week program. Participants run four days a week, increasing their mileage by no more than 10% a week. The goal of this program is to finish a marathon, not to finish at a particular time or to finish without walking. In addition to the assigned runs, the book also offers nutritional guidelines and a variety of mental strategies to help cope with the emotional demands of marathon training and participation. Each chapter has sections addressing physical and psychological components of training, as well as quotes from class participants.

While I haven't yet completed a marathon, the basic training plan looked very similar to training plans I've seen. Some of the mental strategies seemed a little silly (though others were things I already do), but I can see where they would be helpful in developing a positive attitude towards the challenge of running a marathon. The authors are very big on positive self talk.

I am certainly no expert or trainer, but the only inaccurate thing I noticed was a recommendation to strike with the heel or midfoot; everything I've read cautions against heel strike. Also, this edition being 23 years old, I'd be cautious about the guidelines given regarding nutritional intake, particularly percentages of protein, fat, and carbohydrates. Note: the repeated reference to carbohydrates as "carbos" made me grit my teeth.

I was going to pass this on to a friend who I know wants to run a marathon, but in the course of looking up this book to review it, I came across two different Amazon links offering it for $74+. I may explore why before passing it on.

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