Since 1982 I've written a newsletter, Running Commentary. A new issue appears here each week, and material is archived.

Sun, 6 Mar 2005 15:02:31 -0500

So Old It's "New"

RUNNING COMMENTARY 561

My recent column titled "How Much Is Enough?" (RC 559) didn't say enough for one reader. She wanted to hear more about "your new marathon training program which calls for a long run only every other week."

I promised her a longer explanation. This will come as a reprint on this website of an upcoming Marathon & Beyond column, after it runs in that magazine.

Meanwhile I needed to correct her impression that the program is "new." That would imply untested, which it isn't.

I've published marathon training schedules since 1977. The first appeared as an afterthought in Runner's World magazine.

An advertiser dropped out at the last minute, leaving a blank page to fill. "Can you write something for that spot?" asked publisher Bob Anderson. "Say whatever you want; just do it quickly."

I tossed together a plan for marathoners, based on my practices up to that time, then added a few paragraphs of explanation and encouragement. The writing took less than an hour.

That article drew more response than everything I'd written to date, combined. Hundreds of letters flowed in, not just from that month but for years afterward. Some runners told how their training and their marathon had gone, some wanted more advice, some had heard about the article and asked for reprints.

That piece said nothing magical. I wouldn't even write it exactly the same way now.

But it gave runners a program to cling to at a time when they could read little else about marathon training. That time is long past. Books abound now, along with magazine and internet advice, and organized training groups galore.

I was an early arrival to writing marathon programs but a latecomer to writing a full book on the subject. My original Marathon Training came out in 1997, and by then was just one more volume on an overflowing shelf.

Marathon Training sold well enough to generate a second edition, released about a year ago. I refreshed nearly all of the writing, but the training schedules remained unchanged. The introduction explained that programs 30 years in the making (at the time of the first book) needed no revamping in the seven years between the two books.

Together the two editions have sold more copies than any other recent book of mine. Runners presumably are reading Marathon Training. But if they're following the prescribed running, you couldn't tell it by my mail.

I rarely hear any comments on this book, and I interpret the silence as a good sign. You know how runners are. We don't quietly swallow our disappointments.

Anyone I had led astray would have let me know, quickly and loudly. My marathon training has failed some runners, I'm sure, but not badly enough or often enough for complaints to rise above a trickle.

No program will work for everyone, all the time. But mine have worked well enough, for enough people, for enough years, to rerun these recipes unchanged whenever a new chance comes along.

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