Book Review: Marathon: The Ultimate Training Guide

I received the Hal Higdon book Marathon: The Ultimate Training Guide as a gift at a recent holiday gift exchange with my Chicago Princesses. 

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I was incredibly excited to receive this as a gift from Heather as I’m training for the Illinois Marathon on April 30.  I need all the help I can get! 

The first few chapters were about why the marathon distance is so alluring, how to begin running, how to choose your first marathon (tip: pick a larger marathon for better support & organization).

“I can’t even imagine what it’s like to run for 5 or 6 hours” – Bill Rodgers

I also learned about the origins of the CARA training program, a local Chicago running club with a large marathon training program that many people participate in each summer. You’ll see them running along the Chicago lakefront on Saturday mornings. 

Other training tips:

  • Increase your mileage gradually & include step-back weeks (weeks w/ decreased mileage)
  • Have a long training period for the marathon (suggested 18 weeks)
  • Your long run shouldn’t be more than 50% of your weekly mileage

Truths of Marathon Achievement:

  1. Progressively longer runs will get you to the finish line
  2. Scheduling Rest Days is Key to Staying Healthy.  Your body needs 48 hrs to recover from a hard workout. Rest, Cross-train on your off-days.
  3. Taking one step back allows you to take two steps forward. Stepback weeks allow you to survive the stresses of your training load.
  4. Speed training can be a double-edged sword. It can be one too many focuses for a newer runner. Do it in the off season… you’ll have many options.
  5. Learning to Pace & Learning to Race are the two most critical skills. Pacing is important – Practice! Practice racing and the details of a race; make your mistakes at smaller races.
  6. Consistency is what counts in your long run
  7. Nutrition is an oft-overlooked factor in Marathon Success
  8. Practice everything connected with the marathon – not just the running
  9. Tapering is an art and a science.
  10. You’ll only go as far as your motivation will carry you. Internal motivation = Intrinsic.

What will success in the marathon mean for me?

  • A well-execute training plan
  • Taking care of myself (sleep, eat, manage stress, avoid injuries)
  • Run happy on race day
  • Pace myself –> stay on pace!

Higdon’s book also has some other key chapters that I wanted to notate – Lauren, look at these again! 

Striving to Improve

  • Be conservative in planning your marathon goal times, especially if it’s your first.
  • Be consistent in training
  • Be steady in your training and fitness –
    • Runners begin to “detrain” (i.e. lose fitness) after 48-76 hours and it takes 2 days of retraining for each lost/skipped day.
  • Find your mileage level
    • Everyone has a set point that’s best for them.
    • Track your running to find this
  • Slow it down
    • Run slowly, especially if it’s a rest day, or the day before a hard workout
    • Slow running metabolizes fat instead of glycogen
  • Take a day off! Rest days are important.

Build Up Mileage
What does mileage accomplish?

  • Better utilize glycogen. Glycogen levels become depleted in 60-90 minutes.
  • Improved use of muscle fibers.
  • Psychological benefits: run a high mileage and fatigue your legs, then you rest & taper and are mentally ready for the marathon.
  • Most people are good at ~50-75 miles per week
  • Pay attention to how you feel. Don’t sacrifice Quality for Quantity!



Mike from 26.2 is my Cooldown is giving away a Tanita body fat calculator & scale.  Check out his giveaway!


3 thoughts on “Book Review: Marathon: The Ultimate Training Guide

  1. kilax

    Wow! That book sounds like it has some awesome tips. The “detraining” part was interesting. And the part about having your long run be 50% or less or your weekly mileage. Someone recently told me that my other runs should not be more than 50% of the distance of my long run! Lots of rules…

    I can’t remember if this is your first marathon! I ran mine last year, and really wish I would have focused more on the mental strength required. I ended up running it by myself and felt quite lonely in the end, despite being around hundreds of people.

    1. Lauren Post author

      This is marathon #2 for me. I did the Chicago Marathon in 2006, but don’t remember too much. It had been incredibly hard, but I wasn’t in the same shape that I am now.

  2. Pingback: Planning for Breakfast | Lauren Runs

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