The Ultimate Guide to Marathon Running by Lucas Ellis

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The Ultimate Guide to Marathon Running by Lucas Ellis

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Category: Sport
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: Trish Simpson-Davis
Reviewed by Trish Simpson-Davis
Summary: Intended as a stand-alone guide, this magazine provides an up-to-date overview of training complete with schedules for three levels of marathon running. A useful resource at only £7.99, but I wouldn't rely on training for a marathon in twelve weeks.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 164 Date: September 2010
Publisher: Dennis Publishing
ISBN: 978-1907232572

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A friend of mine and I started running nearly ten years ago. I'm still going, a 5 km run-walk most mornings which averages the same speed as a postman whipping through his round. I fear it will never lead on to a marathon, but I always enjoy myself. My friend completed the New York Marathon five years ago, but hasn't run again. Together with a keen 10k runner from a local running club, we approached this book from different viewpoints.

The first thing I noticed about this book is the attractive magazine format. The tone is chatty, and the layouts feature large fonts and bullet points, without too many words on some pages. Numerous photographs of female runners feature bums and boobs, and there are adverts to add to the glossy look. From a quick glance, it provides a non-scary invitation to the reader to dip into rather than read. If you never normally open a book, this may be the guide for you.

Is it attactive but superficial? My club running pal certainly thinks so, commenting that in common with running magazines, this book provides a comprehensive overview but seldom investigates a topic deeply. In terms of the explanations, I feel the target audience is 25 to 40 year olds, without discussion of the differing needs of older or younger runners. For the novice, sections on running gait, shoes, compression clothing, nutrition, race day and goal setting are informative, and maybe all that he or she will need. The general advice on injuries, stretching and cross-training, is excellent. Injuries need to be taken very seriously, not least because they invite arthritis twenty years along the line. The book is rather coy about chafing and how to deal with it, and there is no mention of runner's belly or care of the feet, all of which might confront a beginner.

The information needed to start training is here, although not particularly easy to find without an index. I feel it would be difficult to construct an individual programme from the information given on some of the training methods. Signposting to more detailed internet resources, especially on interval training, Fartlek and lactate threshold would help. My club runner felt that her coaches provide that level of expertise freely, good reason for new runners to seek out their local club.

The runner relying on the novice programmes outlined at the back of the book would be wise to allow more than twelve weeks for preparation. It isn't clear, unless you read the book cover-to-cover, that sufficient training for most people will take longer, since the entry requirement for the programmes is the ability to run without stopping for half an hour. If it takes more than a month to reach that level, I predict that an injury-free build from 30 minutes to 4 – 8 hours will take longer than the arbitrary 12 weeks. I also doubt that the beginner programme provides sufficient endurance work (or self-efficacy) to guarantee that the runner can achieve 26.2 miles, since the longest run, 15 miles in Week 8, is little over half the distance. My marathon-running friend, who followed his book scrupulously and successfully with no other input, commented that he knew he could complete his marathon because he ran 18 and then 8 miles on consecutive days in his training. For someone used to training swimmers, that made a lot more sense to me.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending this book.

Suggestions for further reading:

I suggest you have a look at the website ( which offers an enticing selection of books on leisure pursuits for all energy levels.

You can read more about this MagBook and buy the guide from here or for the USA click here.

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