When I bit the bullet and signed up for the Shamrock Half-Marathon, the first thing I did – as any good librarian would – was look for books about long distance running. I ended up putting hold requests on Hal Higdon’s Marathon: the Ultimate Training Guide and Marathoning for Mortals by John “The Penguin” Bingham and Jenny Hadfield. I think both books have a lot of really good information in them, but Marathoning for Mortals was definitely geared more to the new runner that wants to complete a long distance race. It is also much more evenly divided between full and half-marathons.
I would suggest this title to anyone looking to train for their first half or full marathon. Bingham and Hadfield cover training, cross-training, injury prevention, nutrition, gear, and preparing for and recovering from race day. In the back of the book, there are 8 training plans: 4 for the half-marathon and 4 for the full. They encompass any way that you want to complete the distance: walk, walk/run, run/walk, and run. I didn’t really look at these too closely because I’m using one of Hal Higdon’s online training schedules.
I especially enjoyed Bingham’s sections of the book because he is an advocate of long slow running. My only speed right now is slow so it’s nice to read about a famous figure in the running world who also runs slow. He also gives a lot of practical advice about what to expect. One of my favorite passages is below. Bingham is explaining what to do the night before the race to make sure you’re ready when you get up in the morning.
“You don’t need to worry about having the time to do all this. You’ll have more than enough time because you are not going to sleep much. You’re not. So just forget about it. You may try to sleep. You may lie in bed and toss and turn for hours. But you’re not going to sleep.”
There’s just something about knowing that everyone else has trouble sleeping the night before a race that helps me to not stress out about it. The night before my first race was hellish because I couldn’t sleep, and I just kept getting myself worked up about how tired I was going to be in the morning. Now I’ve learned that adrenaline will get you through, and you can crash later with a well-deserved nap.
The cross-training and nutrition sections are really helpful as well. I learned that the yoga I do twice a week is really good for running and that I need to add in some strength training. The nutrition section was interesting mainly because it dispels the myth that carb loading will somehow improve your performance. It also explains when and how often to eat gels, which was something I was really curious about and got varying answers online.
So if you’re thinking about running a long distance race, check this book out. It’s a quick read that’s dense with good information.