This post features a few thoughts about some books that I would recommend reading and potentially owning as a runner or running coach. Ultimately as a runner, and especially if you are a coach, it’s good to develop your own philosophy about how to train. For me part of that process involves a lot of reading – and it continues. Don’t take everything you read as a given, challenge, try, refine and even modify what you learn to suit your own philosophy and approach.
Running training guide must have
There are three key books I’d recommend in relation to getting some good information and advice about how to train for middle and long distance running. The first is Daniels’ Running Formula (2005) which contains the wisdom and experience of one of the world’s best known running coaches Jack Daniels. It also has two very useful features that would make it worth owning in its own right, even without the additional benefit of Daniels’ commentary: The first of these is a 24 week training program for each of the following distance specializations: 800m, 1500m-3000m, Cross Country, 5km-15km, half-marathon and marathon.
The second is a training pace guide and system that allows you to match your current fitness level (based on a recent race performance) to training intensities for speed work, tempo/lactate threshold training, long runs, easy runs and high intensity long intervals. This goes a long way to prevent you training too fast too soon and getting injured – they key is to follow Daniels’ advice not to increase your training paces until you have proven advanced fitness by racing at a higher performance level. If I had to buy one book about how to train for running this would be it. The training programs provide a good framework for runners and coaches alike and I find myself tweaking them often to suit my purposes as a runner and athletes I advise.
Marathon and endurance events
The second book that is worth owning and if you’re a marathon runner is also a must have in your library is Advanced Marathoning (2009) by Olympic Marathon runner and exercise physiologist Pete Pfitzinger and author Scott Douglas. This book takes you through complete and very good explanations of the physiology of training for and racing the marathon, including fueling during and after runs, race strategies and importantly gives you a choice of training plans that will get you to the finish line based on moderate or high mileage. You would be hard pressed to find a better book about how to prepare yourself for the marathon.
The third book is Peter Coe’s Winning Running Successful 800m & 1500m Racing and Training (1996) – not a huge book at 120 pages but Coe’s well organized mind manages to pack a lot of useful insights into this volume. A must have for coaches of aspiring Olympians.
To round out your reading on training philosophy I’d add in Arthur Lydiard’s works – which are well summarized at the Lydiard Foundation – a free download with notes added by Nobby Hashizume helps clarify some of Lydiard’s thinking. Whether you believe in high mileage or not, there’s plenty to be gained by tapping into the periodisation structure and excellent variety of Lydiard’s training systems.
The Big Book of Endurance Training and Racing by Phil Maffetone is a long read (it is a big book!) but there’s a lot of useful information and some left field thinking. I don’t completely agree with all his assertions but I’ve been able to take a lot away from the experience. Worth a look, especially if you’re into Ironman or ultra-running.
Running history and storytelling
There’s no doubt it pays to learn about what has worked for good runners and coaches in the past. Some of the lessons are less than obvious, but by paying close attention you can pick up a treasure trove of useful information. Here are two excellent reads by Pat Butcher.
The Perfect Distance Ovett & Coe: the record breaking rivalry. I reviewed this book some time ago but this remains a great entertaining read: author Pat Butcher manages to build a sense of drama into the big races of the period and the preparations and personalities of the leading middle distance runners of the day.
I’m a student of athletics and enjoy digging into what makes athletes successful: coaching, technique, strength training, support networks and psychological make-up. You get a good taste of each of these in the book and it leaves you wanting more. The training methods used by Coe and Ovett should be scrutinised, not only were they successful then, breaking numerous world records, but the personal best times of Ovett and Coe are still highly competitive today and certainly good enough to be in the medals in major championship racing where nous, belief, instinct and competitive fire decide the issue. This book is currently being adapted for film.
Butcher has another short monograph available for sale via his website which tells the story of Ali Mimoun the winner of the 1956 Melbourne Olympic Marathon. I had to Google monograph, be aware this is a short work. However it is a quality tale and features more great storytelling by Pat Butcher. A quick plug also for Thor Gotaas’ book called Running which presents a sprawling global history of the sport of running.
Injuries, form, footwear and general advice
Running Well by Sam Murphy and Sarah Connors is a handy general running book to have in your collection. This book has some good general advice and useful information for runners. The ready reckoner type tables that help you track down and diagnose some common running injuries are a nice reference to have on hand. This information is quite general so you’ll still need to book an appointment with a physiotherapist or sports doctor to confirm your injury suspicions. There’s some great anatomy diagrams and also some really useful core, rehabilitation, stretching and strength training exercises that most runners could do which make the book a solid addition to your library. The information of footwear is now somewhat dated and shouldn’t be taken as gospel. The next book picks up on that topic to bring us up-to-date on all matters pertaining to footwear and running injuries.
Tread Lightly by Pete Larson and Bill Katovsky (2012).Tread Lightly should be first and foremost compulsory ready for anyone involved in distributing, retailing and marketing running shoes. Larson and Katovsky bring all the latest research on what shoes can and can’t do for you into the open. Read this book and then critique the service and advice you receive when you next visit your local running shoe store. You’ll also find plenty of information about injuries, form and the helpful personal insights of the authors, both of whom are runners.
Anatomy for runners by Jay Dicharry
This text comes from Physiotherapist Jay Dicharry and is less an anatomy text and more a description of running movement, injury and rehabilitation. As a man in charge of a thousand dollar treadmill it’s heartening to read about the guy in control of a million dollar machine coming to similar conclusions about form and in particular the need to focus on strength and coordination. There’s some good stuff in here that has added to my knowledge.
Which comes first Cardio or Weights (2011) by Alex Hutchinson. Not really a running book but a great guide that examines the science behind many of the conclusions that are often espoused in mainstream popcorn media. My take out from this book and from reading a lot of research is that the interpretation of many scientific studies reported should always be taken with not just a grain, but a packet of salt. Hutchinson helps navigate the maze and provides some guidance on what does and doesn’t make for a good scientific study. I know there’s a few Fitness Professionals that read this blog so If you haven’t already found it this book is a great one for you to read.
Happy reading! Does anyone have any other books they find either inspiring or useful? Please share your thoughts with a comment below.
Words by Brian Martin