Marathon Countdown

The First Marathon

Marathon Countdown is a self help marathon training book. But first a little marathon history. The marathon has gone through a number of metamorphosis since it was first run over 2,500 years ago. According to legend, the first marathon was a one person race that took place on the Plains of Marathon, near Athens, Greece. Pheidippides, a Greek soldier and ancient Olympic runner, was chosen to deliver the news of a Greek victory over the invading Persian army. The legend says that Pheidippides ran the 25 miles from Marathon to Athens. At the end of his run, he was so exhausted that all he could gasp was, “Rejoice, we conquer!”’ before he collapsed and died. An ominous start to the marathon!

The first recorded competitive marathon took place at the 1896 Olympics in Athens, Greece. The organizers included the 40K (24.8 mile) race in order to commemorate Pheidippides legendary run from Marathon and to increase local interest in the Games.

The 40K distance remained the standard marathon distance until the 1908 Olympic Games in London. The International Olympic Committee wanted to standardize the marathon distance and decided on an even 26 miles. That decision didn’t last very long. The 26 mile long course was measured, starting at Windsor Castle, where the grandsons of King Edward and Queen Alexandra would have a view of the start. Exactly 26 miles later, the course ended in the Olympic stadium across the field from the viewing box of the royal family. Queen Alexandra insisted that the finish be directly in front of the royal families box, so the distance was increased 385 yards to place the finish in front of the royal family. That’s where the official marathon distance of 26.2 has remained. So, as you struggle over that last .2 miles of your race, blame Queen Alexandra!

The Early Marathons

For three quarters of a century, the marathon was considered such a physically demanding event that only the most highly trained and genetically gifted athletes would even attempt it. In the early 1900’s, many athletes and coaches believed that the marathon distance would ruin the athletes and tear down their bodies to such an extent that they would be unable to compete in any further athletic competitions.

Arthur Newton, a great ultra-distance runner of the early 1900’s, wrote: “Before the 1914 to 1918 War, the marathon was considered an event for only the favoured few who had unusual toughness and stamina.” Legendary runner, Emil Zatopek, said before the Olympic Marathon: “Men, today we die a little.” Today we know that the marathon, if approached with respect, does not tear down your body. It greatly improves your physical health, your mental health and your fitness level. But, it wasn’t until the mid 1970’s that the myth that only an elite few could participate in a marathon, was destroyed.

Marathons For The Masses

The two events that may have helped dispel the idea that the marathon was reserved for a select and eccentric few were the live broadcasts of the Olympic and other big city marathons; and the publication of several books on fitness and running. In 1968, Ken Cooper’s book “Aerobics” was published. This book motivated previously sedentary people to get out the door and start exercising for health and fitness. In that same year, the Mexico Olympic games took place and were televised live. In 1972, Frank Shorter won the marathon gold medal in the Munich Olympic Games. In 1977 Jim Fixx’s book – “The Complete Book of Running” was published.

Marathon participation exploded during those years. The New York marathon increased from 126 participants in 1970 to over two thousand in 1976. Other major marathons enjoyed similar increases in entrants. More and more marathons started to pop up all over the world. As marathon participation increased, so did the number of available marathons. This greater availability added exponentially to the number of runners that were able to run a marathon.

The Second Marathon Boom

The first marathon boom of the 1970’s brought many more runners into the world of the marathon. While the number of participants increased enormously, most of the marathoners were still accomplished athletes that were running competitively. They ran the marathon because they wanted to compete against others in their age group and their goal was to finish in the best time possible.

In the 1990’s, another running boom appeared. This revolution, which may have been fueled, in part, by the incredible amount of publicity given to television star Oprah Winfrey’s participation in the Marine Corp marathon, targeted several new groups. People now saw that a middle age person with very little athletic experience could also run a marathon. Finishing time became less important and just finishing became the goal. Participants began to train for and complete marathons for a variety of very valid reasons, including: weight loss, lifestyle change, goal setting, fitness, self improvement and dedication to a sick or deceased family member or friend.

The Marathon Countdown System

So, what does all of this marathon history have to do with The Marathon Countdown training guide? It concerns the great variety of people that want to run a marathon today. Today’s marathon runners come in all ages, sizes, fitness levels and they run for many different reasons and have many different goals. Some have been running for many years while others are just getting their running life started.

Most marathon training books have only one type of training program. The fact is that one program simply is not appropriate for everyone. Ideally each participant would have their own personal coach that would design a training program specifically for them and their goals. But that is not a reasonable option for most people. This is where The Marathon Countdown training guide comes in. This guide provides you with a choice of many different training levels and marathon goals. It takes you from your marathon planning stage, through your training program and finally to your race week and beyond. You will be guided through the process of picking the most appropriate training plans and workouts. You will choose your own time line and build your own program. You will end up with the best marathon training program that will meet your specific needs. I will guide you in how to put together the perfect training program for you and your goals.

Using the Marathon Countdown system, you are basically going to act as your own coach with some help from this book. In acting as your own coach, you must also take responsibility for developing the best program for yourself and also executing that plan. This book will be there with you to guide you each step of the way.

This book is more than a coaching or training program. It is a complete marathon running guide. The Marathon Countdown guide will take you from the early stages of marathon planning, through race registration, training, travel tips, race day logistics, race strategy and finally what to do after your race. It is the complete marathon training system.

The Marathon Countdown guide uses the Goal-Pro™ training system that I developed for my personal coaching business. Goal-Pro™ is a goal based progressive workout training program that is highly focused and goal specific. There will be no wasted time, miles or workouts. Everything you do will have a specific purpose in helping you successfully complete your marathon goals. There are no junk miles or workouts with no real purpose.

Why Self-Coach?

One question you may ask is why should I coach myself? Why don’t I just use a program that has one generic training schedule? These run-of-the-mill training schedules are not the best option because they are not specifically built for you. The generic programs that you find in other training books or on the internet are very generalized programs that are intended for the “typical” runner. The problem with this is that you are not a “typical” runner. You have your own specific goals, ability, fitness level, running experience and training time availability. There is no general training programs that will completely fulfill your needs. There are only two ways to truly acquire a training program that is designed for your specific needs. You can:

  • Hire a running coach
  • Design your own program

Hiring a running coach is a very good option. A personal running coach will build a training program that is specifically designed for your goals, ability and time commitment. The problem with this option can be summed up with one word – “cost”. A professional running coach can cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars. So, the only cost effective option left is to act as your own coach and design your own program.

You may believe that designing an effective training program is a difficult and complicated process. That is an understandable assumption, taking into account the vast number of different training books available and the complex, scientific terms that many of them contain. However, the fact is that running training is really quite simple. It will help if you understand the basics of training and phyiology. You just need to know how and why the workouts you will be doing improve your fitness and get you ready to run your best marathon. You need to learn the best way to combine the various workouts into a program that will help you accomplish your goals. That is what this book will do. It will show you basics of marathon training and how your body adapts and learns to be an efficient marathon running machine. Then all you need to do is choose the plan that is best for you.

Ockham’s Razor

Ockham’s Razor is a principle that was written by 14th century logician and Franciscan friar, William of Ockham. William wrote the Latin “Pluralitas non est ponenda sine neccesitate”. This translates literally as “Plurality should not be posited without necessity”. It is more commonly stated as “Of two competing theories or explanations, all other things being equal, the simpler one is to be preferred. Ockham’s Razor has also been referred to as the “principle of simplicity” or in even more simple terms, the acronym “K.I.S.S.” (keep it simple stupid). This has become a basic principle in science and means quite literally that if more than one answer to a problem exists, then the most simple answer is the most preferable one.

Ockham’s Razor is the perfect principle to put to use in designing your marathon training program. It is also the direct opposite of the method used by many experts in the marathon training field. Many marathon coaches tend to complicate the process of running training. After all, if it was simple you would not need them, would you? To be fair, the physiology involved in marathon training really is very complex and involved. There are many different physiological, chemical and biological reactions that take place in producing the energy that allows you to run efficiently. But, the theory is really very simple.

I am not saying the act of marathon training is easy, but the theory is. It will take a lot of both physical and mental effort on your part to succeed in marathon running. The know-how provided in this book, combined with careful planning and dedicated training on your part, will insure your marathon success. In this book, I am going to present some basic training information. I will give you the how’s and why’s of marathon training. I am going to give you the simplified version of marathon training physiology. While it is not critical for you to understand how and why training works, I think that you will be able to design a more successful program with at least a basic knowledge of the physiology involved. I promise I will keep it simple.

So, now it is time to get started. Make sure you have a full understanding of the basic training principles before you continue on to designing your program. Most importantly, have fun with designing your program and enjoy your training. I have tried to remove any complexity involved and if I did my job properly, your training will a positive experience and will assist you in expanding your running knowledge and improving your running life.

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