Hal Higdon has contributed to Runner's World for longer than any other writer. An article by Hal appeared in that publication's second issue in 1966. Author of more than 36 books, including 4:09:43, the best-selling Marathon: The Ultimate Training Guide, and a novel, titled simply Marathon, Higdon has also written books on many subjects and for various age groups. His children's book The Horse That Played Center Field was made into an animated feature by ABC-TV. He ran eight times in the Olympic Trials and won four world masters championships. One of the founders of the Road Runners Club of America, Higdon also was a finalist in NASA's Journalist-in-Space program to ride the space shuttle. The former training consultant for the Chicago Marathon, he answers questions online for TrainingPeaks, also providing interactive training programs.
Higdon became acquainted with the Boston Marathon as a member of the U.S. Army stationed in Stuttgart, Germany, training with Dean Thackwray, who would make the U.S. Olympic team in 1956 as a marathoner. Higdon knew then that he eventually needed to move upward in distance from his usual track events (including the 3,000-meter steeplechase) to the marathon. He first ran Boston in 1959, then again in 1960, failing to finish both years. “My mistake,” Higdon realized later, “was trying to win the race, not finish the race.”
It took five years for Higdon to figure out the training necessary for success as an elite marathoner, becoming the first American finisher (5th overall) in 1964. On that journey, he wrote an article for Sports Illustrated about Boston titled “On the Run From Dogs and People” (later a book by the same title) that contributed to the explosion of interest in running in the 1970s that continues to this day.
Higdon also wrote a coffee table book titled Boston: A Century of Running, published before the 100th running of the Boston Marathon in 1996. An expanded version of a chapter in that book featuring the 1982 battle between Alberto Salazar and Dick Bearsley, titled The Duel, continues as a best-seller among running books. His most popular running book is Marathon: The Ultimate Training Guide, with a quarter million copies sold, now in its fourth edition.
Higdon has run 111 marathons, 18 of them at Boston. He considers himself more than a running specialist, having spent most of his career as a full-time journalist writing about a variety of subjects, including business, history, and science, for publications such as Reader’s Digest, Good Housekeeping, National Geographic, and Playboy. Among his more than three dozen published books are two involving major crimes: The Union vs. Dr. Mudd (about the Lincoln assassination) and The Crime of the Century (about the Leopold and Loeb case, featuring attorney Clarence Darrow). Thus, 4:09:43 offers a natural progression in his long career.
Higdon continues to run and bike with his wife, Rose, from their winter and summer homes in Florida and Indiana. They have three children and nine grandchildren.