My Best Race by Chris Cooper

Include this book into your training. You will find no better motivation.

4/5 stars.
ebook, 239 pages.
Read from May 4, 2017 to May 9, 2017.

I love books like this; books that just make you feel good and validate your feelings, well in this case it’s feelings on running.  I was really eager to read it after getting a copy from Netgalley. However, I must have been on the cusp of the archive date of this book because I did not get a chance to read it. I was so wanted to read this book that I actually went out and bought a copy.  I have no regrets.

This is book holds about 50 unique recountings, from pros to amateurs, as they share the one race that they won’t ever forget. Some stories are ones of winning, medals and Olympic trials, while others are memorable regardless placement or perceived failures. There is even a love story for romance fans! From World Champions and Olympians, to the average avid runner, all the stories share the same passion for the sport. The stories also cover a variety of distances and generations giving a history of some very memorable moments in running. There are contributions from:

Kathrine Switzer – The first woman to officially run the Boston Marathon in 1967 despite women being barred from the race.

 

Boston-Marathon-photo-credit_APImages_web.jpg
Kathrine running the 1967 Boston Marathon. Her then boyfriend, now husband, is trying to stop the race official from physically removing her from the race. 

 

John Galloway – a pioneer of the run/walk method, a top marathon runner,  member of the 1974 Olympic team in the 10,000m, coach and writer for Runner’s World. 

Pam Reed – 2002 Badwater Ultramarathon overall winner and the first woman to become the overall winner in the Badwater marathon, one of the toughest ultras in the world.

I wanted this book the last forever. This book motivated me through all my runs this week. Seriously, I think I am going to start including works like this into my training regime as it gets me so stoked to go out for a run and inspires me to perform better.  I know I could have definitely used this sort of boost in my last marathon!  The format of the book actually caters really well to this as each story is only a few pages making it easy to bookmark and return to specific passages or stories that spoke to you. After each story, the narrator provides a short piece of running advice as well, the best one that I took away from the book is one by Pam Reed who recommended using club soda on endurance runs to keep the stomach moving and receptive to food. I am seriously going to give this one a try.

The best thing about books like this is that it puts these amazingly talented pro-runners on the same pages as the joe-schmo runners and that is because at the root of it, whether fast or slow, we all love to run. If you are not a runner, the unique feeling that comes with running and the community it invites is not one that is easily explained.  I know my boyfriend sure doesn’t understand why I would want to run for such long stretches at a time or why I racing 42.2 is my idea of fun versus a form of punishment. While running does require a little bit insanity, the main concepts revolve around pushing yourself to your limits and the infinite rewards it brings. I swear to you, nothing is more satisfying and confidence building. Running also enables you to get outside to enjoy the little things, to take some time for yourself, and offers ample opportunities to meet like-minded people in one of best supporting communities around. Runner’s are a special bunch of people.

I would recommend this book to runners of all types. Add it to your training repertoire and return to it when you need a boost.

Smart Marathon Training by Jeff Horowitz

4/5 stars.
Paperback, 224 pages.
Read from May 15 to 29, 2014.

I’ve been running now for about 3 years and I’ve read, browsed and skimmed a variety of articles, magazines and books on different running techniques and training programs. What I found with so many of them is the excessive amount of exercise that are contained within the recommend training schedules, even ones for the absolutely beginners. I always felt that a 6-day-week training program that mixes 4 or 5 days of running with a variety of different cross training and weights is way too much for a beginner. To me, that spells burn-out and injuries. The first year I started running and training for a marathon I ran 3 days a week and I was utterly exhausted managing just that! The average person has a busy life juggling work and family, which is tiring enough in and of itself, just finding a solid running base before beginning any sort of training is challenging enough. Whether a beginner or not, every runner wants to be successful, injury-free and find a balance with everything in their life and this book finally confirmed everything that I was already feeling about training: less is more.

Jeff Horowitz challenged the idea of running back to back races without injury and has successfully run over 150 marathons and has applied this knowledge in his career as a coach and in this book. The traditional marathon training plans which can have runners clocking in over 80+ kilometers in a week (50+ miles). The premise behind these traditional plans is that in order to better at running you need run and do a lot of it. Horowitz argues that this isn’t the case and that you can run a better marathon by running less and making your workouts more efficient. His system focuses making your training dynamic in that each of your training runs have a concise goal and effort scale. For example, The long run: is to expand your endurance and work slow twitch muscles. This is run with the a 60-70% effort while the tempo runs are shorter runs in which you are running near your race pace or a bit quicker and you should be exerting about 80 to 85% effort. He emphasizes how important hills and speed work are to build strength, reduce injuries and work your fast twitch muscles which, will give you the speed to beat your personal best.

I had to flip the notion that “more is better”…devised a plan that includes three runs a week, totaling no more than 35 miles, consisting of speed and hill work, a tempo run and a long endurance run; core strengthening, strength training, running drills and balance work two to three times a week; and aggressive crosstraining…at least twice per week.”

What makes his program unique is that the emphasis isn’t on the amount of kilometers you’re making each week and he suggests running no more than 3-4 times a week while following quick and easy weight and strength training exercises, cross training (biking is his highest recommendation as it compliments running the most) as well as core and flexibility. He emphasizes just how important and beneficial these exercises are to running. Having a strong core and legs will ensure you will encounter less injuries and will improve your speed while cross training works out different muscles to keep your body from reaching exhaustion but at the same time you’re still adding to your overall training. Exercising while exhausted is not only hard, but not wise. You risk injury and you’re not doing your body and favors but pushing yourself that hard. Horowitz helps runner’s recognize when they’re doing too much and to pay attention to their bodies and intuition, which so many training programs ignore.

This book is by far one of the best marathon training programs and it has affirmed that my own ideas about marathon training are good ones. I would highly recommend this read for anyone embarking on a marathon, whether they are beginner or just looking to change up their training scheme.