Disclosure: some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.
So you are ready to train (or train again) for a marathon. Having run a few myself - and tweaking my training plan each time - here are four books I recommend for training whether it is your first marathon or you are trying to Boston qualify.
Fair warning, the training programs in this book are INTENSE. But this book made me the fastest I have ever been. After running the Boston Marathon in 2013, I had a desire to go even faster than the 3:29 pace I had maintained over the past two marathons. One of my running buddies recommended this book and I decided to switch from my go-to training plan to the 70 to 85 mile per week plan in this book. Yes. I ran 70 to 85 miles a week. It was a bit crazy, but boy did I become a running machine!
Two of the features of this training plan that I found the most influential were the long Wednesday runs (usually 12 to 15 miles) and the long runs paired with actual races. I ran a few 10K races and a 25K during my training and I swear by this method of training if you want to get a personal record at your next big race. Why? There is something about an actual road race that spikes up your adrenaline and gets you running faster. I would do a warm up of about three miles, run a six minute mile 10K then do a cool down run of another three miles. So basically I would get a 12 mile run in but was running half of it much faster than my planned race pace.
So what were the outcomes? I ran the 2014 Raleigh Rock n’ Roll marathon at a 6:45 pace – so a 3:08 finish! At the end a guy came up and handed me an envelope and told me I got third. I looked at him bewildered and said “third in what?” I had no idea I had placed third for women overall in a marathon (there was a half finishing at the same time so it wasn’t clear who was who at the finish line). My only regret is that I wasted my peak performance and running shape on a super hilly, windy, first time race. If I had known how close I was to breaking a three hour marathon you can bet I would have been at a better race that day!
I used this book for my first two marathons. To give a bit of history. In 2008, I got a Nike + Band. Now for those of you newer to the scene – this was a super cool technology for the time where you wore a pebble tracker in your Nike + shoe and had a watch that would track your steps and calculate your mileage (so basically the rotary phone of wearables – ha!). I was so excited the day that I got it that I ran 15 miles. And got so worn out and hit a wall and had to get my husband to come pick me up on our scooter on the greenway with a Gatorade. Funny, not funny. So, I decided to skip running a half marathon (the longest race I had run at that point was a 10K) and decided to sign up for our local City of Oaks Marathon that coming October.
This is where the book comes in. I went to Barnes and Noble (because remember, it was still the dark ages), and found Four Months to a Four Hour Marathon. It was a short, efficient guide that had an easy to follow layout. Perfect for my type A personality. I bought it and started training.
Full disclosure – I did NOT run a four hour marathon at my first race in 2008. I missed a crucial step – fueling during my run – and was so sick by the end of the race from malnutrition that I moved in what felt like slow motion across the finish line at a 4:19 finish time.
I used the book one more time to train for the Disney Marathon that was 15 months later and was able to finish right at four hours (despite terrible race conditions).
I still recommend the book for first time marathon racers who are comfortable with a nine minute pace to start.
I got to introduce the author, Kathrine Switzer, at a local Girls on the Run banquet and was given a copy of her book. Katherine’s story about how she was the first woman to run the Boston Marathon is super inspiring for any girl on the run, and really made me appreciate what is easy to take for granted (being able to race in marathons!). The picture on the cover shows a race official trying to pull her off the course mid-run – just for being a woman – can you imagine that happening today!?
This is not a training book, but it is awesome to hear about her runs and her race day experience.
The title is a mouthful, but I really like the way that Runner’s World sets up their training plans. If you are in between beginner and advanced marathon training, you will find a good training plan fit in this book. It also includes fueling tips and other recommendations to make it worth getting the book instead of trying to piece it all together from the Runner’s World site. That being said – it is the first magazine I will pick up if I get stuck on a treadmill or airplane.