Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Book review - Everyone's Guide to Distance Running

There aren't a lot of books about ultra running. I saw a reference to this book in the Ultra section of "Lore of Running". I got it used from Amazon and it arrived in excellent condition.

Norrie Williamson is an endurance athlete who now lives in South Africa. He is known mostly for his distance running but he also did triathlons (London to Paris Arch-2-Arc Enduroman) and other endurance events.

I really enjoyed this book. I went thru the 400+ pages in 2 days. The author never lets the book become dry and technical. Everything is always based on his experience, and he has a lot.

The first section is about the running lifestyle. He begins with a short autobiography describing how he started to run. He then moves on to trying to gigure out why people get into endurance events and ends with our long term prospects as endurance athletes as ages catches up with us. This section was the most interesting to me, maybe because I don't quite understand why I'm attracted to longer distances and I'm hoping for some revelation.

The second section is about training. Even though the technical aspect of training in the book didn't introduce any new and amazing training technique, I still read the whole thing. Basically, Williamson is a believer in speed work, reasonable volume and adequate rest. He also believes that one should reach his/her full potential at shorter distances (5k to 21k) before moving up to longer distances. He convinced me that to run a 50 mile race, I would have to run/walk it. He also convinced me that I could do the distance way faster than I thought I could.

Then there's a very comprehensive section about nutrition before, during and after a race. The last part is a hodge podge of things that didn't fit the previous sections. The section on heart rate monitors is a bit out dated in my humble opinion. 

I was expecting a little more training plans but there are only a few. This book is not aimed at the new runner. Most plans assume you are already running 50k/week or more. For example, the first long run on the "Comrade Marathon (90km race in South Africa) plan" is over 20km. There are a few 10k plan, but the first week totals over 30km so you are expected to have a decent base.

What I enjoyed the most about this book is that the author rejects limitations. He acknowledges physical and genetic limitations but makes us realize that for most of us they are an excuse and that we are nowhere near to reaching them. We somehow convince ourselves that we can't break a certain level. Williamson actually convinced me that some of the limits I had already set in my mind were not worthy and that I should just keep at it and see where it takes me. If I decide that I won't ever break 3:15 in a marathon or 42 minutes in a 10k or that I can't run 50 miles then surely I will never do it. I now think I can.

Definitely recommended.

1 comment:

Alexandre said...

Salut Jean-Daniel,

Demande-moi pas comment j'ai fait exactement (en fait, je vérifiais si mon propre blog était repérable à l'aide d'une recherche par nom http://bebesnap.blogspot.com) et je suis tombé sur ton blog francophone pour finalement aboutir ici...

Je suis impressionné par la passion que tu as de toute évidence pour tes activités. J'étais comme ça avec le hockey avant de devenir complètement empoté (et papa).

Bon courage et laisse un mot si tu passes à nouveau dans l'Outaouais, j'habite Ottawa maintenant.