Read an Excerpt
You already have everything you need to be a long-distance athlete. It's mind-set not miles that separates those who do from those who dream.
There's a story about a hungry man who walks into the market square with only a pot full of water and a pocket full of stones. As he sets his pot on the fire to boil the water, a curious crowd gathers.
"What are you making?" ask the onlookers.
"Stone soup," he replies. "I really like stone soup," he continues, "but some carrots would sure make it better."
Someone produces carrots. "And celery, too; that makes it better." Soon, he has celery as well. The story goes on, and the man ends up with a soup complete with vegetables and meat.
Starting a long-distance training program is a lot like making stone soup. Right now, it may not seem like you have very much. You may not be in the best shape of your life (and therefore, your fitness has been "watered down"). You may weigh more than you wish (your pot). You may even think that your personal genetics ill suit you for long-distance running or walking (your stones). Well, you've come to the right place.
We haven't found a mortal who couldn't run a half- or full marathon. You already have everything you need to be a long-distance athlete. You see, once you decide to run or walk farther than the 10-K (6.2 miles), your quest centers much more on tenacity than talent. Even the very best athletes at the 20-K, half-marathon, or full-marathon distance will tell you that the mind-set not the miles separates those who finish long-distance events from those who only dream of finishing.
So bring the pot, the water, and the stones. We'll supply the carrots, celery, assorted other vegetables, and meat. We'll help you turn your stone soup into a stellar supper.
A Program for Every Mortal
Training books, even the best of them, tend to try to find the least common denominator among runners and walkers and then describe formulas that work for as many folks as possible. What we've found, in observing and coaching thousands of people, is that there is no least common denominator. Each of us comes with a unique history, a unique biology, and a unique set of skills and experiences.
That's why you won't find any formulas in Marathoning for Mortals. This is not a rulebook. It won't tell you everything you have to do and all the things you mustn't do.
Instead, you'll find training tools, training plans, lots of helpful hints, and the wisdom of dozens of long-distance athletes who have personally conquered the half- and full-marathon distances. You'll find eight different training programs, including pure running plans, run/walk plans, and simple walking plans for the half- and full-marathon distances. But you won't find any formulas. You'll find only strategies that will help you discover your own course to the finish line.
We wrote our training programs with the help of the running and walking community. Rather than try to create a plan that works well for a few and not at all for most, we've chosen to give you all the information you need to design a plan that works for you, for your level of interest and experience, in your life as you have to live it.
So you've never run a step before in your life? No problem. One of our plans will work for you. You've already completed a marathon but want to run your next one a little bit faster? We've got a program that will work for you, too.
You really want to complete a marathon, but you're worried that your knee pain will act up? We've got a program for that. You feel silly every time you run but you've always dreamed of going the distance? We've got something that will work.
It doesn't matter where you're coming from. It doesn't matter how un-divine your running skills are. It doesn't matter how low you feel you rank among the ranks of mortals. You can and will become a long-distance athlete. We promise. We've seen it happen. We've seen mortals of every shape and size, of every type of fitness background, of every sort of lifestyle cross the marathon finish line.
You can be one of them. We invite you to experience the joy that many of us find as the miles we run exceed the miles we thought we could run.
In Part One, you'll learn everything you need to know about yourself to get started. Many new long-distance athletes skip this important first step in their long-distance training programs and suffer disastrous results as a consequence. Your past injuries, your current health and fitness status, your lifestyle, and your personality will all help to determine the best training plan and race goal for you.
In Part Two, you'll discover the method behind the training madness. Each chapter will teach you about the key workouts and their sequence and intensity level. These chapters will provide the blueprint that you need to successfully follow the right training program for you and to alter that program to fit your personal needs.
In Part Three, you'll find important tools to help keep your training on track. Injury prevention, cross-training, nutrition, and gear all help to keep you comfortable, pain-free, energetic, and motivated to continue to forge ahead.
In Part Four, you'll learn everything you need to know about the race itself. You'll find out how to motivate yourself from the start to the finish and beyond. From dealing with prerace jitters to postfinish letdown, we'll take you on a step-by-step journey that will prepare you for every step to marathon success.
Last but not least, at the end of the book, you'll find eight different training plans, ranging in distance and difficulty from walking a half-marathon to running a full marathon. You'll follow the training program most suited to your background, personality, and goals.
We recommend that you read the entire book before taking your first step. Then during your training, keep the book nearby. You will encounter obstacles. You will ask questions. You can return to the book again and again to help you sort out the causes and cures for aches and pains and motivation lapses.
This book marks the sum of years of race expo lectures, training clinics, training programs, and workouts. It is a compilation of seasoned half- and full marathoners' tips, race directors' advice on how to tackle a long-distance course, and the questions that we have heard over and over through the years.
We hope that it serves to guide you physically, mentally, and spiritually through a life full of race stories and dreams realized. Once you realize those dreams, we hope you pass this book on to a friend who shares the same fears, a friend who is looking for that same glimmer of hope.
Who We Are
Most people know me by my nickname, "the Penguin." I earned that nickname by starting my active life at 240 pounds (about 90 more than I weigh now). As I ran one day, I caught a glimpse of myself in a storefront window. Unlike the thin, agile runner that I had envisioned I was, I instead saw a short, fat man waddling down the sidewalk. In one instant, the Penguin was born.
Since those early days of struggling with an overambitious spirit and an underambitious body, I've learned that moving that body with my own two feet has given me more joy, more frustration, and ultimately more knowledge than anything else I'd ever done. Even the years I spent as a professional musician and college professor never gave me the satisfaction that I found in running and walking.
As best as I can figure, I'd be back selling used cars by now if I hadn't met Jenny at a running camp. Oddly enough, I attended that camp as a clinician and she as a participant. In time, though, it was clear that the student was the teacher.
I was not a natural-born runner. I always felt embarrassed during gym class because I was the slowest kid in the class. I hated running.
Instead, I participated in team sports. I started 16-inch softball when the ball was bigger than my head. Volleyball and basketball were part of my daily agenda. I ran as a form of punishment. I made myself run five laps if I missed a serve or ten laps for a missed free throw. I quickly associated running laps as a negative outcome in life, a payment for failure.
I dreamed of running normally, running as fast as the other kids and without pain or embarrassment. Every once in a while I would try to run normally. I'd strap on my new Nike (Forrest Gump) shoes, set out on the sidewalk, and go. I'd get to the end of the long block and then hang my head and cry all the way home.
I continued to dream of running normally right through college and, as a result, earned a few degrees in exercise physiology. I wanted to teach and coach people how to be active, live active lifestyles, and enjoy activity.
While interning at GE Medical Systems Corporate Fitness Center just outside Milwaukee, a few of my favorite coworkers asked me to train for a local 8-K in Milwaukee called AL'S Run. "How long is an 8-K?" I asked.
When I found out that it was just under 5 miles, I said, "I could never run that long!"
My friends gently guided me through 10 weeks of training. Every week I ran just a few steps farther than I had run the week before. Every week my friends would look me square in the eyes and repeat, "I told you so." "You CAN do this." "It's all in your head," they told me.
On a crisp fall morning in Milwaukee, I lined up for my first race. I didn't know what to expect. I didn't believe I would finish. I worried that if I finished at all, I would finish last. Despite my fear, I found the courage through friendship and camaraderie to try.
Well, I did finish. And I didn't finish last. As I crossed that finish line, I smiled for the cameras.
I went on to run longer, faster, and smarter. I found my inner long-distance athlete and ran my way through dozens of marathons. I even ran fast enough to qualify for the Boston Marathon. Yes, that's right; I, the girl who came in last in gym class, qualified for the Boston Marathon, the most elite of marathons.
I began coaching runners and walkers in 1993. I created the training company called I Think I Can, and it was a home for adults wanting to train for and complete half- and full marathons.
Years later I was granted the opportunity to coach for the world's largest endurance training program, Team in Training (TNT). I began my journey with TNT in 1997 with the hopes of helping more people to reach the finish line and, more important, to find a cure for leukemia.
I eventually decided this is what I wanted to do with my life and joined forces with my friend Mike Norman to start Chicago Endurance Sports. CES is a company that trains new and seasoned walkers, runners, triathletes, and adventure racers.
You see, I am not a collegiate coach or an elite runner. I'm a mortal, just like you. I'm a woman who has learned through education, personal triumph, and many people's training stories, questions, and experiences how to make the transition from mere mortal to long-distance athlete.
How We Wrote This Book
Each chapter of Marathoning for Mortals begins with a question that we've been asked and is followed by an answer that is really a conversation between John and Jenny. You'll get to hear both of our voices. You'll get to read where we agree and where we don't. Think of us as the Click and Clack of the running world. You'll get two perspectives on every issue, every challenge, and every problem that you might encounter.
You'll come to see, we think, that in some cases there are no clear answers. Sometimes the answers are elusive even to those with years of training and experience. You'll also come to see that there are some unavoidable truths about being a long-distance athlete that the gifted and the less-than-gifted have to accept.
You'll learn that sometimes enthusiasm is your biggest asset, and at other times it is your greatest liability. You'll learn that sometimes less is more, and often less is plenty. You'll learn that your mind can trick your body and that your body is limited more by your imagination than by your biomechanics.
We'll be with you every step of the way with helpful hints from other runners and walkers and our own unique blend of solid coaching advice and Penguin philosophy. With a combination like that, your success is all but guaranteed.
Join us now on a journey where the finish line is just the beginning.