Book Summaries

Book Summary – How to Run a Marathon by Vassos Alexander.

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In How to Run a Marathon: The Go-to Guide for Anyone and Everyone, British sports reporter, and endurance runner Vassos Alexander shares strategies, tips and insight for running the 26.2-mile marathon distance. The book includes interviews with marathon runners, running documentaries, and training and nutrition tips for conquering the distance.

There’s nothing fairer than the marathon. Nothing quite as egalitarian. Not in sport, and not in life. Simply this: train hard enough and you’ll finish it.

All happy families are alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.’ So writes Leo Tolstoy, in the opening words of Anna Karenina. The same is largely true of marathons. When they’re going well, the miles just seem to tick by smoothly, serenely, almost effortlessly. But woe betides you when a marathon goes pear-shaped.

The Marathon distance

  • In 490 BC, Pheidippides ran from Marathon to Athens, around 26 miles, to deliver news of a near-miraculous victory in the battle against the Persians.

Lisa Jackson – 100+ Marathons, Your Pace or Mine? Book

Speed isn’t the only way to measure your running success.

When I go to a marathon, I measure my performance by how many people I’ve spoken to, how many people I’ve helped and encouraged when they were feeling terrible. You don’t have to be special to run at all, you just have to want to do it.

Kathrine Switzer – The First woman to run an official marathon

In 1967 she was the first woman to run the Boston Marathon as a registered competitor. They tried to stop her; they failed. Eventually she forced them to change the rules – and she continues to help women worldwide through her 261 Fearless Foundation.

In North America there are more women runners than there are men. Of all participating runners, 58 per cent are women and the guys don’t mind.

Nick Butter – Running a marathon in every country of the world

Documentary: Running the World 196

Throughout the challenge, Nick’s been raising money for Prostate Cancer UK.

My achievement will hopefully inspire young minds, old minds, any minds, that we can all do our bit to value the time we have on this wonderful planet. Even if our bit is just being grateful for today.

Tomorrow is a maybe, today is a privilege, let’s go make the most of today.

Ron Hill – World’s longest running streak

Ron once won the Athens Marathon, one of many stellar achievements in a fantastic career. He set world records at four different distances, was the second man in history to break 2:10 for the marathon, and won numerous gold medals. He founded Ronhill Clothing. And he famously owns the world’s longest run streak, running every day for 52 years and 39 days. From 1964 to 2017, he ran at least a mile every single day – even after breaking his sternum in a car crash, even after bunion surgery, which left him on crutches.

Eddie Izzard – 43 marathons in 51 days for Comic Relief in 2009

In 2009, Izzard completed 43 marathons in 51 days for Sport Relief, despite having no history of long-distance running. In 2016, she ran 27 marathons in 27 days in South Africa in honour of Nelson Mandela, raising £1.35 million.

The 10 Percent Rule: When ramping up your training, never increase the length or duration of your long run, or your total mileage, by any more than 10 percent per week.

Rory Coleman: 1,000+ Marathons

Rory has run 1,046 marathons – 254 of which were ultramarathons – 15 Marathons des Sables and owns 9 World Records.

Rory’s Power Hour consists of 12 five-minute chunks on the treadmill, running back-to-back with no breaks. You run four minutes fast, at goal marathon pace or quicker (around 9 mph in my case), followed by a minute of sprinting (11 mph). Then recover back at marathon pace. And repeat. 

If you’re stuck in a running rut, think about whether you’re working too hard on easy days, ortoo easy on hard days.

Life is about the journey. The joy is in the struggle.

‘Divide the marathon into thirds. Run the first part with your head, the middle part with your personality, and the last part with your heart.’ –  Mike Fanelli, champion marathon runner and coach


There’s nothing fairer than the marathon. Nothing quite as egalitarian. Not in sport, and not in life. Simply this: train hard enough and you’ll finish it.

Often the hardest thing is getting out in the first place. Plus, it really doesn’t matter what’s behind that front door, a stately home or a bedsit. On the start line, you’d rather be a well-trained student in second-hand shoes than a billionaire with all the latest gear who’s been too busy to put in the miles. Every time you set out on a training run, you’re writing a cheque to your future self – and you’ll cash them all on Race Day.

Nobody ever regretted training properly for a marathon.

The Wall

An imaginary obstacle in the latter stages of an endurance event that comes about because of low levels of energy or enthusiasm. Typically, it’s avoidable through appropriate training, relevant pacing, optimal nutrition and bucketloads of perseverance.

The best taper advice is to avoid too much running the closer the race gets.

Doing too much is worse than doing too little. Because do too much, you end up arriving at Race Day tired. Do too little, you end up arriving on the start line lethargic.


The general taper rule is less is best. But that doesn’t mean nothing. Nothing makes you feel terrible. But too much, too late is an even bigger mistake. The best taper advice is to avoid too much running the closer the race gets. Instead, as Race Day approaches, run a little cleverer. Drop your volume, drop your intensity so you arrive fresh and ready rather than broken and battered and demotivated about the whole bloody thing.

The taper is the point where you have to trust the training you’ve done. People wobble in the last few weeks be- cause they’re uncertain that they’ve done enough. It’s not like prepping for an exam. If you don’t do enough, physio- logically, your body will not adapt in the last few weeks so any running you do doesn’t make any difference. May as well not bother to do it.

We play the way we train

In the marathon, you won’t be let down by a lack of skill. You won’t be let down by team- mates. It doesn’t matter how big your house is, how many friends you have, or how funny you are. It’s just a dance, you being led by the distance. Put in the time, put in the miles, respect it – and you’ll be just fine. In many ways, the training is everything. Running, racing, life, it’s always about the journey rather than the destination.

Types of Runners

The Thumpers

  • The Thumpers hit the ground really hard.

The Shufflers

  • The Shufflers barely lift their feet.

The Slows

  • The Slows could walk faster than they run – you often see them in the park at weekends.

The Octopus

  • An Octopus: arms and legs all over the place.


Glycogen gives our muscles energy, it’s our body’s natural Duracell AA battery.

But the problem with a marathon is that we’ve only got enough glycogen to last for around two hours, which for recreational runners is a maximum of 18 to 20 miles. And when we run out of glycogen, that’s when we hit the dreaded Wall. Which means ideally, we’d refuel on the run. Runners have different tastes. Some can rely on energy gels to give them that all-important mid-race momentum, others feel sick at the thought of them. Many get the nutrients they need from energy drinks, others from bananas and jelly babies.

The Rule of 15

Fifteen grams of carbohydrates every 15 minutes – or 60 grams of carbs per hour. Every hour. Of course, some runners will be able to handle this amount of carbohydrate, others will not and may need to start at 30 grams and progress up from there. Most energy gels provide approximately 25 grams of carbohydrates. And don’t forget, you can obtain some of these carbohydrates from a sports drink. So, to get 60 grams of carbohydrates in an hour, you would need to consume two gels and 75 ml of energy drink.

‘There is something magical about running; after a certain distance, it transcends the body. Then a bit further, it transcends the mind. A bit further yet, and what you have before you, laid bare, is the soul.’  – Kristin Armstrong, ‘See Vous Play’, Runner’s World magazine

Ben Smith 401 Marathons in 401 days

Ben Smith once ran 401 marathons in 401 days for anti-bullying charities. Along with his husband, Kyle, he now runs the 401 Foundation, supporting local community projects. 

In the first half of the race … 

•if you think you’re going too fast, you definitely are; 

•if you think you’re going at about the right pace, you’re going too fast; 

•if you think you’re going too slowly, you’re probably about right.

Negative Split – Marathon

  • Experienced marathon runners can ‘negative split’, run the second half quicker than the first.

Even Split

  • Running both halves in around the same time.

The Medal

 It always feels wonderful to finish something as difficult as a marathon and be given a tangible reward by a smiling volunteer. They usually place the medal around your neck as you stand there on wobbly legs – which makes you feel like an Olympian.

All the Best in your quest to get better. Don’t Settle: Live with Passion.

Lifelong Learner | Entrepreneur | Digital Strategist at Reputiva LLC | Marathoner | Bibliophile |

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