I am ashamed to say that I hadn’t heard of Julian Goater until he was interviewed on Marathon Talk last year. He is a former national cross-country champion, who has represented GB at international level at 5000m and 10,000m. This book is a distillation of his thoughts about improving performance, interspersed with anecdotes from his running days.
He’s from the “tough bastard” era of British running in the 1970s and early 1980s, when he and his rivals such as Dave Bedford and Steve Jones set records that still stand today…and knocked back as many pints as they’d run miles. Having read a number of Runner’s World articles about taking things gently and not overdoing the mileage, it’s refreshing to read a training book that’s uncompromisingly old-school. Goater clearly believes in banging out the miles. His example marathon training plan in the appendix suggests 70-mile weeks.
Don’t let that put you off though. If you followed the guidance in this book to the letter, you’d essentially be Mo Farah. Only the most committed of mileage-hunters would take up his suggestion that we should all run twice a day 5 days a week. And after reading this book, I’m still bobbins at keeping to a stretching routine.
But there is stuff in here that everyone can benefit from. I was particularly interested to read his thoughts on “gearing” when going up and down hills; adjusting your cadence and arm swing to help you power up the gradient more efficiently. He also convinced me to finally join in with the cross-country season last winter, which noticeably brought strength benefits to my Edinburgh marathon training.
Interestingly, he’s pretty dismissive of Yasso 800m repeats – the session where you try and run 800m in the min:sec time that you would run the hour:min of a marathon (so 3mins 15secs for a 3hr 15min marathon). To Goater, doing this over and over again: “That isn’t progress. It’s stasis”. I think I’d agree with this. In my training, I’ve seen more benefit from shorter, more intense intervals, such as 400m repeats or 1min on-1min off fartleks.
Presentation-wise, the book has a terrible, 1980s-BBC-style, cover, which I hope won’t dissuade people from giving this book the attention it deserves. Inside, the book is actually very nicely designed, with great vintage race photos, call-out boxes for the key points, and helpful end-of-chapter summaries.
So, brass tacks: has it made me faster? I’ve been dipping into this book for over a year, and in the 2013/4 season I set PBs in 5k, 10k, 1/2 marathon and marathon distances. The 10k and 1/2 marathon PBs were particularly gratifying, as I finally went sub-40 and sub 1:30 respectively, which had been long-term goals; since then I have got even faster. While my performance improvement is inevitably down to a number of factors (fewer pies being the biggest), the book has definitely made me think about my speed training and weekly mileage in new ways. Recommended.