The Principles of Running

The Principles of Running
Amby Burfoot, Rodale, 1999

Amby Burfoot won the ’68 Boston and has written about running for twenty or more years. The Principles of Running is subtitled “Lessons from my first 100,000 miles,” and it covers all the bases: Starting out, hard/easy training, women’s issues (like menstruation, pregnancy, and menopause), running in terrible conditions, racing, nutrition, recovery, and of course the marathon. Despite its breadth, it’s a short book, simple and direct. Each brief chapters begins with an introductory section describing the topic, followed by “principles,” short one- or two sentence instructions. “Consume fluids all day long,” “At the first sign of Achilles tendonitis take several days off and ice the tendon.”

In a book so comprehensive, aimed at such a wide range of potential readers, there are inevitably quibbles (“don’t wear cotton shirts or socks”?) A more serious criticism for the hard-core is the occasional vagueness and lack of technical information. For example, in discussing heart-rate training, he uses very simple algorithms without mentioning the significant variations in results that make such algorithms only moderately reliable.

For most runners that won’t matter. For those of us interested in detailed technical aspects of running and training, there are other sources (see below). Burfoot has run a tremendous amount, clearly paying attention the whole way, and has talked to thousands of runners. He’s a graceful writer and he’s compiled a huge amount of information. The book is fun to read. Burfoot’s pleasure in running shines through. Very few runners would fail to find something enlightening, amusing, or both.

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