Sprinters are born, but endurance athletes are made

“1:59: The Sub-Two-Hour Marathon Is Within Reach – Here’s How It Will Go Down, and What Can Teach All Runners About Training and Racing by Dr. Philip Maffetone

This book has a simple goal, but a highly ambitious one: to reach a sub-2-hour marathon. Unlike his other “general theory” books, in this book Phil Maffetone uses the tools and tactics directly as an action plan to develop our physique and mentality to be able to run the marathon in just 1 hour and 59 minutes.

Now, as I write this almost a decade later since publishing date in 2014 the sub-2-hour marathon has finally been achieved in Vienna 2019 by Eliud Kipchoge, one of the main contenders expected in the appendix to break the barrier. So, 1:59 is humanly possible.

But of course the rest of us mortals are not a pro runner and won’t likely to reach 1:59, but it’s the effort and science behind it that makes this book so interesting, as we now have the ideal benchmark if we choose to train and live like the pros. Or at least close to it. And for a running geek like me, this is a goldmine.

The book neatly covers all the most important subjects on running, from vitamin D, to running economy, slow twitch and fast twitch muscle fibres, recovery and rest, lactic level, aerobic and anaerobic, heart rate variability, VO2MAX, cortisol, addressing over training, stretching (or why you shouldn’t do it), nutrition and diet, glycemic index, massage therapy, on the right shoes, barefoot running, cadence, altitude training, to how he use time (not miles) for training, and many more, including a special analysis of the Kalenjin people in Iten, Kenya (the de facto Mecca for running) and why they produce so many pro runners.

“Sprinters are born, but endurance athletes are made”, Maffetone remarked. And this mindset indicates that although it is far from easy, we don’t really need a special talent to become a distance runner and that everything written in this book is actually trainable for anyone.