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Studying Up

I may not be doing much running these days, but that doesn’t mean that running is ever really far from my mind. Sometimes I just prefer to read about it instead of doing it…

Last April I went through the Road Runners Club of America (RRCA) running coach certification course. I got to spend two long days in a classroom with other runners, talking about every aspect of running — form, nutrition, pacing strategies, speed workouts, mileage, etc. I loved it. This was during a time when I couldn’t actually run much, and I kept my motivation up by telling myself that everything I was learning would be applied to my glorious comeback that summer.

…that didn’t exactly happen. I just wasn’t hungry enough. But as the season comes to an end, I’m finding myself more motivated than ever. I’m ready to move beyond my comfort zone and start training differently (read: smarter) than I have for the past couple of marathons (let’s just hope this motivation lasts through the holidays…).

I’ve learned a lot from the RRCA course and my years of racing, but I’d be pretty dumb if I claimed to know everything there is to know about training. As with everything in life, I think it’s important to always continue learning…at least if I want to become a better runner and a better coach, anyway.

But this fall, I realized that it had been awhile since I really studied running (with the exception of the certification, of course). Which is sort of weird, since this used to be one of my favorite aspects of the sport. There’s so much literature out there, so many different perspectives on how to train and how to get faster, and so many smart individuals to learn from. But somewhere along the line, I replaced reading books about running with simply reading running blogs. Blogs are great and all, but I think it’s time to expand my horizons a little bit.

So with that in mind, I picked up two new resources that I’ve been slowly making my way through. The goal is to read these over the next couple of weeks so that I can incorporate some new concepts into my training plan for Vermont City.

The two books I’m reading now:

Run Faster From the 5K to the Marathon by Brad Hudson and Matt Fitzgerald

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The premise of this book is adaptive training, which Hudson defines as the “belief that a responsive, evolving, creative approach to training is better than an approach that is too structured and formulaic.”

Sounds like common sense to me. What works for me as a runner may not work for you, and vice versa. And how often have you gone through a training cycle without tweaking anything? Hudson uses this approach to talk about the importance of coaching — which, for many of us, means self-coaching. This book touches on training for more than just marathons, which is what I’m most interested in. Obviously Operation #goodbye318 is high on my priority list, but I want to get faster in other distances along the way. (Also being targeted: my old half marathon PR. That needs to go ASAP.) I honestly don’t know how much I’ll get out of this book, but I’m interested to read more about his training philosophy and (hopefully) get some ideas to use in training for shorter races.



 Advanced Marathoning by Pete Pfitzinger and Scott Douglas


I was sold on this book after reading the first lines in the Preface:

What do we mean by advanced marathoning? Simply this: that many runners aren’t content with saying, “I finished.” They want to run the marathon as they do shorter races — as fast as possible

I’d say that pretty much sums up my situation! I’ve heard a lot of great things about Pfitzinger’s approach to training, and of the two books I just purchased I’d say I’m most interested in reading this one. There’s a lot more science to it, which the nerd in me can’t wait to delve into. But I’m most excited about the training plans.


Pfitzinger’s plans center around higher mileage…something I need to start working into my training. I do not believe that everyone needs to run high mileage (a term I use very loosely…”high” has different definitions to different runners) in order to succeed in a marathon. My PR was run after a training cycle in which I barely peaked at 50 miles. You can get faster without going beyond that. BUT…when you’ve been doing the same thing and getting the same result time and time again, I’d say that’s a pretty good sign that you need to change things up. I don’t want to just run more however…I want to run smart. I don’t plan on following any of his plans exactly (I never do that), but I do believe there are important principles that I can incorporate into my own training.

I will do a full review of the books once I’ve finished, just in case any of you are interested. Seeing as the weather keeps getting colder and snow is just starting to fall, I think it’s pretty safe to say that I’ll be reading a lot over the next few weeks.


I’m curious — have any of you read either of these books? What did you think? Any other running resources that are high on your list?

29 Responses to Studying Up

  1. I have both books! I actually think I have most running books 😛 I am trying to be smarter this training cycle too. This will be the first time I actually base build, etc. Usually I just hope from one marathon to the next so there is really no need or down time. I am incorporating some of their ideas in my Boston plan. However, what I am still on the lookout for is some good downhill workouts…let me know if you know of any!!
    Celia´s last post ..hamilton marathon 2012

  2. Run Faster sounds like one I would like! I have the Advanced Marathoning…I def enjoy using it!
    jenelle´s last post ..Question of the Week: Answered, Inspiration!

  3. I have not read either of those books, so I look forward to you condensing all the information and sharing it with us. Thanks, Coach Conkey! A book I read recently is “Shopaholic & Baby” and I recommend it. I learned about how credit card debt isn’t really something you should worry about, because it tends to work itself out in the end. Basically.
    Ali´s last post ..Thankful Things Thursday: Cold & Cheery

    • Thank you so much for the wise financial advice. I’m so excited to hear that I can stop paying my credit card bill every month since it’ll just work itself out! That’s what you’re saying, right?? Please confirm.

  4. The book I always find myself going back to is Run Less, Run Faster (FIRST plan). Plagued by shin splints, running back to back days is never ideal for me. This book puts emphasis on 3 runs per week, quality over quantity: speed, tempo, long. I’ve found this keeps me from getting the feeling that I “have to run”. I always WANT to run, because it’s only 3x per week. Burnout is less likely.

    I’m actually working my way through the Hanson Marathon Method right now. I read an article in Runners World about it (last year maybe?) and just ordered the book from Amazon last week. Looking forward to learning more about it! Love different strategies for running and racing.

    The two books in this post are coming up on my “to-order list” on Amazon, so please report back w/your thoughts on each :)
    Melissa´s last post ..Philadelphia Marathon Race Recap

  5. So, this is extremely specific to me (aren’t all training plans? :) ) because of the training I had to do to recover post heart surgery, BUT, I found heart rate training (using HR zones) to be AWESOME for me for getting faster while building endurance.

    Now that I’m in Colorado, however, the idea of using HR zones in combination with the mountains seems iffy to me. Cue my whining about hills, waah.
    LizScott´s last post ..The 1.5 Career Marriage

  6. I bought The Lore of Running, and I absolutely love it. It delves into the mechanics of running all the way down to a cellular level. I’ll admit, I’m a bit of a nerd, but I love having insight into all the different things that are happening in my body while I’m running and what that means for how to train to run faster and longer.
    Michelle´s last post ..all I want for Christmas: runner’s edition

  7. Katie @ msfitrunner

    I LOVE Advanced Marathoning, it is like my running bible. I LOVE their plans. I loosely followed their 18 week, 55 mile plan for my last marathon. I say loosely becasue of the kids and family not always allowing me the time to do exactly what the plan says and because even though they are the experts, I still felt the need to hold onto my stubborn, I’ll do it my way thinking;-) I had a fantastic 18 weeks. I really want to do the RRCA cert, but it seems like they never offer it in new England. I might just have to go down to MD or VA, where it seems like there are always classes.
    I have my eye on that other book you got, I’m interested to hear what you think because I want to get faster at my shorter distances as well! You will love AM!!
    Katie @ msfitrunner´s last post ..Mother Runner and the Next Ryan Hall

  8. These both look really good! But the advanced marathoning looks REALLY good. I need to read more about running, I think I would enjoy that.
    I’ve been meaning to comment for a while now but have never gotten around to it. I love you blog and all your pictures. I am in love with Vermont, though I’ve never been there…my fiance and I are planning our honeymoon there in May and I’m so excited!
    Lauren @ The Unlikely Runners´s last post ..The One With A Pre-Marathon Meltdown Update

  9. Hey, I got my Chondromalacia diagnosis just yesterday-so I too am resting and trying to read some running literature to help me determine a plan for 2013 marathon training. I just purchased Run Less Run Farther by Runner’s World. It bases training on doing only 3 runs a week-but each is purposeful-rather than just having bunch of junk miles. It teaches you to run smarter to help aviod injury during marathon training. I have never run a full so I think this sounds awesome for me. I will have an interval track run, a tempo run, and a long run + 2 days of cross training. Not sure if you have heard of this book or not? Happy reading!

  10. I’ve read them both. Both books are excellent for achieving an understanding of the physiology behind the different components needed to run your best race. Of the two, I favor Pfitzinger. I found his book easier to read and I liked that he has detailed plans. Hudson encourages you to write your own plan, so you have to work a bit harder to assess your strengths and weaknesses and rely on the feedback your body is giving you, in order to modify your plan accordingly. That’s not a bad thing at all; I’m just at the point where I prefer someone to tell me what I need to do!

  11. I haven’t read his book, but I followed pfitzinger’s ‘get back to running post-stess fracture’ plan and it worked great until I decided I was healed and could do what I wanted! Thats probably not helpful at all, but he seems like he knows his stuff.
    Jean´s last post ..Ditching the Hag Look and a Poorly Thought-out List on New York

  12. i read both of these books and liked them both. i liked advanced marathoning a little bit better though.

    there’s SO MUCH to read out there and keep up with. sometimes it’s overwhelming :)
    kristy´s last post ..that’s the plan…

  13. I have both of these books. Last marathon cycle I started with Pfitz and ended with Hudson or was it the other way around? Hmmm. Anyway, good reading material. :) Enjoy!

  14. I haven’t read either of those books yet, but I recently got The Hanson Marathon Method…I’m on week 3 and loving it. It has the same high mileage philosophy and, in addition to your three SOS (something of substance – tempo, intervals, long run), they talk about the importance of the “easy” runs that a lot of people think are simply “junk” and “throw-away” and the role that they actually play in injury prevention and in recovery. The most interesting part of the plan, I thought, was that you never have a “long” run longer than 16 miles! Instead, you are taught to run on fatigued legs, training for the last 16 miles of the marathon, rather than the first 20. So you will have an easy 6 monday, intervals tuesday (ends up being around 9 miles), rest wednesday, tempo thursday (tempo runs 6-10 miles with a 2 mile warm up and 2 mile cool down), easy 7 friday, easy 7 sunday, and a long run of 16 sunday. So its really high weekly mileage and it teaches you to perform when you are tired and fatigued (like at the end of a marathon)

    I did a summary of the ideas on my blog: http://mtnsandmiles.blogspot.com/2012/10/the-plan.html
    Logan´s last post ..Cookies and Math

    • Thank you for the summary and for linking to your review. I’m sort of fascinated by The Hanson Method. It makes a lot of sense in theory, but I would be nervous about not running longer than 16 miles before a marathon. Maybe it’s just old prejudices…you know? I’d be really interested to know how it ends up working for you!

      • I’ve read a lot of reviews and blogs from runners who have used it…and pretty much all of them have stepped up to the start line and thought “oh crap, what have I gotten myself into,” but all of them have also had extremely successful races. I have a friend who has used it twice, so I am planning on picking his brain about his experiences (both the first time and the second) and writing something on my blog about it. It’s my first marathon, so I’m sure I’ll still end up at the starting line with giant butterflies and totally rethinking my entire plan, but only time will tell!
        Logan´s last post ..Tasty Tuesdays

        • Haha, of course…but I think that happens to everyone at the starting line, no matter what training plan they follow. Thanks for the additional info. I’m really interested to see how your training goes! Good luck!

  15. I haven’t read ANY running books…unless you count ‘Mile Markers’ by Kristin Armstrong, which makes me WANT to run but not necessarily be any faster. I think I may buy a training book for my next half. I’ve never studied the theory of running at all! Scandalous!!
    Cathryn´s last post ..Shrines, palaces and sunshine

  16. I have “Run Faster” and I like it. I thought that it seemed like common sense when I first picked it up (I got it more for the training plan planning), but it has some really good points. On the flip side, I have often used it as an excuse to not do a workout because of this little ache or being tired…but that’s my major malfunction! I really like that he has progressions of certain types of workouts laid out for the different distances. It’s nice to be able to have a range of options (and not have to come up with them on your own) especially if you feel something is too easy or too hard. Enjoy!

  17. Any running book suggestion for newish runners?

  18. Of the running books you’ve read previously, which are your favorites?
    Lauren´s last post ..A VERY IMPORTANT life lesson, with marshmallows.

  19. I read the Pfitz book a few years ago and started following on the of the training plans (I think peaking at 55 miles/week) although I ended up getting injured so no idea if it would actually work. I’m really interested in all the training theories since everyone is so different and people respond differently to various training plans.

    Excited to hear what you think, and I’m definitely going to try to get more into coaching in 2013…scary!
    Susan – Nurse on the Run´s last post ..it’s the little things

  20. […] blog, SPEEDY runner coming back from injury. 2013 has big things in store for her, like Operation #goodbye318. I don’t doubt she’ll smash that goal next year at […]

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