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This book is an interesting mixture of auto-biography, training and racing tips for the marathon, and misc thoughts on the sport of running. It is actually a rather poorly organized book, especially considering Rodgers had a professional writer assisting him. It is often scattered enough, and bounces around so much that it is hard to follow his running history. Even as an avid runner, I found the book to be a bit tedious, and a pretty long read.

That being said, there are a number of interesting insights into the world of elite marathoning. The book was written in 1980, just prior to the Olympic boycott, so Rodgers doesn't talk about that. That would have been the most interesting thing a would have liked to hear Rodgers address. I'm not sure if there is a later edition that fills in what happened from 1980 on. Rodgers spoke highly of President Carter when he wrote this book. A few months later is was extremely critical of Carter and the Olympic boycott, and very vocal about that in the media. 1980 was Rodgers big chance to win a Olympic medal. In this book, Rodgers expressed frustration that everyone always looked at Frank Shorter as better than Rodgers because he had won a Gold medal. In 1984, just a few months after finishing just a minute or so ahead of me in a 10K race, Rodgers placed 8th and failed to make the team in the Olympic trails marathon.

What I found most surprising is how lightly Rodgers seemed to take his racing. Based on his own descriptions, you get the impression that he rarely raced particularly hard, and often didn't care if he won or lost. Even when he won (most of the time), his descriptions imply that he was just jogging along and no one else could keep up. I have often hear Rodgers described by others as a low key guy who became extremely intense while racing. Writing about his own races after the fact, he either doesn't remember or fails to express that intensity. Of course, this same guy occasionally would stop while leading races, seemingly just becuase of the impression this would leave on others. He seems to enjoy his image of being non-chalant about racing and his eating habits, and uses the book to help further that image. Only in the very last chapter when he returns from some poor races to win the 1979 NYC marathon do we really see some fire from him.

He doesn't pull any punches with being critical of the AAU and the state of "amateur" running in the US in the late 1970's. By 1980, it was a lot more accepted to bash the AAU, but I was still surprised to see how vocal he was about them and that he was willing to put that down on paper. Even in 1980, the AAU had a lot of say about when and where you could race, and I would have thought he would have had some fear of retaliation for writing what he wrote.

As far as the training and racing advices goes, he made some good points, but not really anything that most of us having heard many times already from other sources. The main keys were heavy mileage (125-145 per week), and although Rodgers didn't do tons of speedwork, he made a real point of saying that you need to do speed to run a good marathon. That was a major factor in a couple bad races that he tried to do off just high mileage without the speedwork to support race pace.

In all this was an interesting, but not great, book. I wouldn't put it at the top of my reading list, but it is still worth picking up, especially if you are a Bill Rodgers fan.


Thanks for the review. I have a spouse who now feels that a marathon is not out the realm of possibility. He is reading up on the subject.

Do you have a book that you do recommend?


This is not the book to read for preparing for a first marathon. It has no real training specifics, although it has a few tips on how to race, what to eat, etc.

Although I coach a lot of marathoners, I tend not to read most books on marathoning because they are a little too basic. An excellent overview of running and racing is "The New York Road Runners Club Complete Book of Running and Fitness." This is not exclusively about marathons, but it does cover marathons and includes great information on just about every topic you might want to know about running.

Although I have only glanced through them, any of the books by Hal Higdon are a good bet. For a true novice, Galloway isn't bad - just realize his advice doesn't translate as well to competitive runners as he would lead you to believe. "Daniels Running Formula" is another excellent source of training information.

For experienced racers or someone looking to make their marathon debut at a fairly high level, I recommend glancing through the training in "Running with the Legends" and "Run with the Champions". "The Lore of Running" and the "Track and Field Omnibook" are great references, but not exactly casual reading.