Review of The Art of Running Faster: Improve technique, training, and performance by Julian Goater and Don Melvin (2012)
‘Don’t practice plodding,’ the key takeaway from The Art of Running Faster. And running is an art – just watch Paula Radcliffe or Mo Farah at their best if you haven’t already.
Now I’ve been a plodder pretty much since I started running 5 years ago. It’s seen me through two marathons and my first ultra a few weeks ago. This is great and there is some real benefit to plodding. But, to be perfectly honest, I’m getting a little sick of being at the back of the pack. I’m never going to be a front of the pack runner but I would like to be somewhere in the middle!
For Goater, a former world-class runner turned coach, there are six primary components of running fitness: speed, suppleness, stamina, strength, skill, and psychology. He argues that if you work even one of these, you’ll see improvement; work on all six, and you’ll see a breakthrough. Yep, I need to do a lot of work on all six!
The first half of the book covers these components in some detail. I like the non-technical speak on building a base and that it’s more than just building the miles. The second half covers ‘sharpening the knife’. There’s some great advice particularly for those with a bit of a competitive streak – on mixing pacing, working to your strengths, and on the psychology of racing. At the back of the book are samples of training schedules starting at 10-15 miles a week up to 77 to 83 miles.
This book is great with a clear focus on not practicing plodding and it works well for beginners, plodders like me, to speedy club runners to elites. It’s also not about pushing yourself on every run and racing every weekend. Instead, it’s about developing a plan where each run has a specific purpose, including the all-important recovery run. I like that it provides variety and spells out the value of doing more than hitting the roads. This for me makes running feel a little more like play and I think we all need a little of that.
So here’s cheers to adding some speed to my runs. I’ll let you know how I get on.