Trail Runner’s Book Review: Daniels’ Running Formula

Daniels’ Running Formula, 4th edition, by Jack Daniels, PhD. Human Kinetics, 2022. Reviewed by trail runner Laura Clark. Laura is an avid mountain, trail and snowshoe runner who lives in Saratoga Springs, NY, where she is a children’s librarian. Above photo: Peter Maksimow.

The name Jack Daniels is known throughout the world, but for runners, there is only one association that really matters. Dubbed “The world’s best running coach,” by Amby Burfoot, Daniels has won two Olympic medals, coached uncountable collegiate and post-collegiate athletes and along the way has shared insights in his book, Daniels’ Running Formula, a staple reference for runners and coaches everywhere. Chances are you already own or have read one of his earlier editions or at least sampled his workouts during your high school days.

Sadly, multiple editions are often a means to place a book once more in the public eye, counting on our “fear of missing out” mentality. But this isn’t the way Daniels works. I remember when I reviewed his 3rd edition, impressed that it was so much more than the second. The same applies to this 4th edition. You will want to purchase it as your latest running companion or at least borrow it from your local library.

Completely new are the chapters on ultramarathon distance and triathlons as befitting their rapid ascendancy since the 3rd reiteration in 2014. No longer fringe events, the triathlon entered the Olympics in 2000 and is now firmly entrenched in the American scene, often as a way for runners to avoid the specter of overuse injuries. Although ultramarathons are not there yet, no one can deny the appeal of the iconic Western States 100 Mile Endurance Run. Daniels’ ubiquitous training tables are mostly lacking in these chapters as both events feature a wide range of distances. That would be more like a second book.

Other distances, ranging from 800 meters to marathon do feature detailed training information which you could use to self-coach. Notably, the chapter on half-marathons has been eliminated, replaced with 15K-30K, assuming that the training plans outlined would cover even marathon training for more experienced runners. While these distances have enjoyed a resurgence lately, it is still puzzling to me as to why the half-marathon section has been eliminated as this distance is currently one of the most popular. For this, I recommend you investigate your library for an earlier edition or search my favorite for amazingly cheap and honestly represented used copies.

Finally, in keeping with current findings that the hours you devote to rest and supplemental training is every bit as important as mileage, that section has been promoted from Chapter 15 to Chapter 9 to give it more of an up-front-and center stance. But whatever distance you choose to focus on, know that while the tables presented are fairly intuitive, they do require a bit of study. Daniels gives you all the pacing definitions you need, but you do need to expect at least an initial workout for your brain as well as your feet.

Rest assured, however, that you are by no means required to be an automaton, as Daniels encourages you to adapt his advice to your lifestyle and requirements and to “Run with your brain the first two-thirds of every race and finish with your heart.”

Jack Daniels