Trail Runner’s Book Review: Advanced Marathoning

Advanced Marathoning, 3rd edition, by Pete Pfitzinger and Scott Douglas. Human Kinetics, 2019. Reviewed by Laura Clark for the Fall 2019 edition of our Trail Times newsletter.

I have come to accept the fact that I have a rigid personality. Children’s toys must be returned to their correct receptacles, regardless of the fact that for kids play is a freewheeling jumble of imaginative possibilities. Books are meant to be read cover-to-cover, no furtive peeking allowed. And I approach magazines, which beg to be flipped through, in a similar fashion, starting with the editor’s notes and all the way to parting shots. Sad, but true. Little did I suspect that when I opened Pete Pfitzinger’s 3rd edition of Advanced Marathoning, I was about to experience a major breakthrough.

Yes, I did dutifully read the forward, but that was a given being that it was penned by Molly Huddle. Although we have never met face-to-face, Molly and I are connected by our mutual friend Diane Sherrer, a Finger Lakes coach and sportswriter, who tragically died of cancer. Diane encouraged Molly to carry on, when as a high schooler, she felt she could never measure up. Diane was there in the rain, sick and all, to present me with a dollar store princess crown after my first 50 miler.

So, with this awesome beginning, did I continue reading in my customary die-hard pattern? Nope. A quick scan of the chapter listings indicated a few departures from the first two editions. I had done my homework, checking out coffee-stained and dog-eared previous editions from the library. Expectedly, profiled athletes had changed over time and the training tables were less rigid to account for modern lifestyles, but I was surprised to discover that entire chapters had been added. The mailman delivered my copy two weeks before my first marathon of the season, The Lost Cat 50K in Dorset, Vermont. A bit too late to provide training advice, but handy with the tapering suggestions. Whenever I was tempted to overreach, I consulted that section. Sometimes I obeyed; sometimes not, but at least I had a rough plan.

Then it dawned on me. My next marathon was four weeks away, Nipmuck Trail Marathon in Ashford, Connecticut. I located the new section on “Multiple Marathoning,” with suggestions on what to do if your next event is 12, 10, 8, 6 and foolishly 4 weeks away. Apparently, all I had to do was recover and taper with a few medium-long runs thrown in to assuage guilt. So a week after Lost Cat I found myself at the Mt. Greylock, Massachusetts 8 Mile Uphill Road Race, with an off-the-books downhill return to my car. Ouch! Not exactly sure if that is what the authors had in mind.

Now that I am in serious taper mode, I turned to the new section on the “Older (And Wiser) Marathoner” to see where I had gone wrong. I may be older, but the preceding scenario leaves my wisdom in doubt. One takeaway is the realization that although I still go long, it is more difficult to make myself go fast. Sort of like the last three-fourths of a race where you figured you have suffered enough. Except this is my life and not a race. My other realization? I have signed up for a strength training class. After work and after the days get dark. My summertime vacation from resistance work, while granting me a few more hours of scarce northeast outdoor daylight, did nothing to nudge my body into race shape.

And yes, I did read the rest of the book, but thoroughly enjoyed the liberating experience of extracting the advice I needed immediately. If you own the first or second edition, do consider updating with the third. As a librarian, I recognize that often there is little reason for yet another edition of a book except to boost a repeat round of income, but this is not the case here. While the structure of the basics is the same, there is so much new material that you will essentially be perusing a familiar format with more relevant and expanded information.