Training for Toronto: Foundations

One of the things I like about training for a marathon is that it takes a long time. That sounds a little odd, I know, but hear me out.

Marathons are a “long view” kind of thing. Training programs (such as the one I’ll use in preparing for the Toronto Waterfront Marathon on October 14) are usually about 18 weeks long. Developing a good strategy, i.e., one that’ll work to meet one’s goals while staying within one’s capabilities, needs good, deep thinking. And that takes time.

I’m also the kind of guy who likes the psychological side of running as much as the physical. And the marathon, more than any other distance I’ve raced, marries the head and the body together in one tightly-knit whole. A harmonious one if all the pieces fit together, but a painful one if they don’t.

I want the fit to be harmonious.

I’ll start the physical part of my training in early June, when I begin an 18 week training schedule that will, I hope, take me to Toronto healthy, fit, and eager to race. Already, though, I’ve begun to train psychologically for the big day by reading.

Yes indeed, by reading! There’s a lot of wisdom out there in the running world, and I absorb the best of it that I can find. Right now, that means relying on one old friend, Tim Noakes’ Lore of Running, and two new resources, Running Within and Advanced Marathoning.

Lore of Running The Lore of Running, by Dr. Tim Noakes (Human Kinetics, 2003) is my gold standard for books about running. It’s legendary among runners and coaches, and for all the right reasons. Noakes is a professor of exercise and sports science at the University of Cape Town in South Africa, director of the medical research council/UCT research unit for exercise science and sports medicine at the Sports Science Institute of South Africa, and one of 22 founding members of the International Olympic Committee’s Olympic Science Academy. To date, he’s run more than 70 marathons and ultramarathons. Lots of cred there!

I keep this book close by, and dip into it often. It’s heavy on the science side of things (a lot of detailed stuff about the physiology and biochemistry of running), but Noakes also offers practical advice about training and training. The book’s long chapter on how to run marathons and ultramarathons is invaluable.The Lore of Running will be my go-to source for everything I need to know about how my body works as I prepare for Toronto.

Running Within Running Within: A Guide to Mastering the Body-Mind-Spirit Connection for Ultimate Training and Racing, by Jerry Lynch and Warren Scott (Human Kinetics, 1999) approaches the experience of running from the psychological/mental perspective. Its authors are a a sports psychologist and runner (Lynch) and physician and elite triathlete (Scott). The book’s stated purpose is to address issues around the harmony of the body, mind, and spirit that are needed for runners to perform well. Running Within offers a number of very useful tools, such as relaxation and visualization exercises, affirmation-building tips, motivation boosters, and pre-race and race strategies. It’s not flaky stuff, but solid, evidence-based content.

I’m already into my second reading of Running Within, and have added a number the book’s tools to my daily routines. They’re already making a positive difference, so I’ll keep developing them in preparation for Toronto in October. If you’re interested in the mental side of the running game, I recommend that you add this book to your library.

Advanced MarathoningThe fact that I’m even reading Advanced Marathoning, by Pete Pfitzinger and Scott Douglas (Human Kinetics, 2008) is, I think, a sign of how far I’ve progressed as a runner since getting back to the sport four years ago. This is serious business! Pfitzinger is, of course, well-known as an Olympic marathoner (1984 and 1988), and is currently chief executive of the New Zealand Academy of Sport. His co-author, Scott Douglas, is a regular contributor to Runner’s World and Running Times. Current American marathon star Ryan Hall wrote the forward to the second edition of the book.

Advanced Marathoning offers runners who want to do better (whatever that might mean to them) in the marathon with in-depth guides to the components of training for the big one, including nutrition and hydration, balancing training and recovery, tapering, and race-day strategy. Then it presents a number of detailed training schedules, which differ in the average weekly distances they offer (from 88K per week to 137K per week) and in the intensity of their runs. I’m currently absorbing the components of training material, and considering adopting one of the book’s training schedules to replace the more-or-less generic training program I’ve used in the past. More to come on that in a later post.

(Note that all three of the above books are published by Human Kinetics. If there was ever a publishing house that serves runners – and other athletes – well, this is it!)

As time goes on, I’ll add more posts to this thread, including Fueling, The Program, and Psychology. Stay tuned!


  1. Thanks for the recommendations. I bought Advanced Marathoning. You can ask the authour for your cut 😉

  2. Alan, thanks for posting this – there are a lot of books out there and I wouldn’t hesitate to take a look at this trio following your recommendations. The Noakes book I was aware of, but the others sounds very interesting indeed. And perfect groundwork for your training toward Toronto in October.

    1. Glad you like the recommendations, Ape. You’re right, there are a whole whack of books out there. I’ve sorted through a lot of them in the past few years. Only a few – like these three – have stuck. 🙂

  3. Nice post! It’s like a literature survey or annotated bibliography.

    And I imagine you meant October 14 😉

  4. Fantastic article, thanks so much! I am going to add the last two books to my library. Dr. Noak’s book is one I have really enjoyed. Thanks for the suggestion. Love your running reading connection. I find that as I am running I can almost feel new learnings integrate. Well done Alan!

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