REVIEWS: Reviews to Begin
There are really three different types of running books:
Specific books focus on a particular technique related to running (good examples are the “Runners World: Cross-Training for Runners”, “Weight-Training for Runners”, “Chi-Running” and also books on particular types of running such as “Trail Running” or “Uphill Techniques for Off-Road Runners”).
Story-telling books are crowd-pleasers such as Ultra-Marathon Man and Feet in the Clouds, not books about training, but as the name says, tales about running or a particular runner (these books are often autobiographical).
I’d like to start my instalments with an overview of the third type: The generic training manuals. Even these come in varieties, and I’d personally be inclined to divide them into two categories
Some may wonder what happened to the middle category, but that’s really unnecessary, once you’ve left the basic training information and ready-made training schedules behind, you’re entering the advanced territory off custom-made programmes and in-depth information.
The key difference between a good basic running book and a good advanced running book is that they’ll both explain the basics, but the advanced running book will also give you the full background necessary to make your own judgment on the validity of the trainings presented, and much more importantly, give you a toolkit to tailor-make programmes to your own unique needs.
I’ll give a quick word on my own bias before throwing myself at the reviews. If you’re not interested in these details, I recommend skipping straight to the next article and look at the reviews themselves.
Quick Word on Bias
I do not review books that are think are now completely outdated. Running, no matter how you look at it, is a science, and as such consists of a multitude of hypothesises, all of which are tested on a daily basis: By coaches on the track, athletes themselves on the road, and by scientists in a laboratory.
Over the last century many theories have come and gone, but in the confidence of the 80s and 90s, many prevailing paradigms have been allowed to stand unchallenged much longer than they should have (the most notable of these fallacies being the Myth of Lactate, glycogen depletion leading to fatigue, and the necessity to replenish all water lost during exercise, but there are numerous more).
Together these beliefs formed the Paradigms guiding running science, and this model has traditionally been known as the Energy-Depletion Model.
When scientists (and indeed runners and coaches in their role as practicing experts) encounter enough anomalies which cannot be explained by the universally accepted paradigm, the paradigm is thrown into a state of crisis (which is where we currently linger) as the hold-outs of the old paradigm battle the followers of the new emerging paradigm(s).
Well, the running world stands on the precipice of such a Paradigm Shift, and I belong to the followers of the new Paradigm proposed by Noakes (the Central-Governor Theory). This makes me naturally biased against books written from the perspective of the old worldview. I ask the reader to keep this in mind and make their own judgements.
So with this in mind, let’s jump to the first series of reviews of generic books.