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Promises more than it should?
on June 7, 2003
The premise of this book is that virtually anyone can finish a marathon by following this four month schedule. The book is based on the authors' experiences teaching a 4-month long "Marathon class" at a university on several occasions. The authors assert that only ONE person out of 200 who have taken the class failed to complete a marathon (allowed himself to get dehydrated.) I'm wondering if there is a hidden stat here not revealed--how many people dropped out of the class because of injury or exhaustion?
As an "adult onset athlete" who began getting serious about exercise a little less than two years ago, I'd have to say this book, for all of its inspiring promises, doesn't jibe with my experience. The authors suggest that even completely out of shape people who have never run (like myself) can get up to a base level of fitness in just a month. Sounds like a good way to court injury and failure to me. For sedentary people, a good month of rigorous exercise short of running would be a smart start, followed by a very gradual walk/run program, until you can run 3 miles a few months down the road. Anything faster is courting injury.
I finished my first 20k a few weeks ago, about a year and a half after beginning my running program. Along the way I dealt with the usual--shin splints, runner's knee, and the warning signs of IT band syndrome. All of these things were the result of pushing myself too far, too fast, but I was able to overcome each by taking a step back in training, finding alternative exercises and moving forward. However, if I had started the program this book suggests one month after I started running, I KNOW I would not have been able to complete it. Bodies need time to strengthen themselves. Cardio fitness comes quickly, but the muscles and bones just can't keep up with that pace.
I'm now beginning my first marathon training, and have found much of the advice in this book--especially what it has to say about the mental game--very useful. It offers a moderate program--just 4 days a week of running--which also makes sense for a novice runner.
But if you are a sedentary person, and are picking up this book as a way to jump start a fitness program, I'd suggest you start more slowly, and get a good year's base of consistent fitness efforts before setting out on a program like this. Yes, I'm sure there ARE people out there who jumped right into marathon training and managed to succeed, but why risk jeopardizing your new-found commitment to exercise, by launching into a program that may defeat your goal by bringing on injury? If your goal is commiting to a new fit lifestyle, there are plenty of other goals you can set to get you started--a first 5k and a first 10k are achievements a new runner can be just as proud of.
Here are a few titles I have found useful, and a bit more realistic: "Real Exercise for Real People" by Peter and Lorna Francis," and "Marathoning for Mortals" by John Bingham and Jenny Hadfield.