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on 9 October 2009
And did you ever do some training to try and be a better runner? Maybe tried a Marathon once or twice?
You should read this to get an idea of what it takes to be a world class runner.
I'm pretty sure Charlie had more natural talent for running than he admits in the book - but he's still pretty convincing that the right approach and a deal of hard work can get you a long way. Like winning the London Marathon and taking a medal at the Olympics.

Still the fastest ever Englishman at the distance.
"Remarkable!", as David Coleman might have put it.
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on 26 April 2011
I can't recommend this book highly enough to anyone who has wondered what their potential as a runner might be. I used to spend a lot of time concentrating on the training schedules, shoes, energy gels etc without ever working out the 'why am I doing this?'.

Charlie's story is exceptional as he truly gets to the heart of what it takes to give a great performance, all set against the background of his own career and Olympic success. It also contains some excellent descriptions of what racing at the sharp end is like.

I've been been running for nearly 20years but never that quickly. After reading Charlie's book I decided that I was going to run the race of my life at the Reading Half Marathon this year and, following his example from the book, I didn't know how good that could be. Concentrating on the why allowed me be to beat my previous best ( 1.38 at the Great North Run when I was 27). After six months of focussed training I did 1.24.52 at 42 years old @ Reading HM.

A great story and insight into getting the best out of yourself.
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on 29 September 2015
Charlie Spedding’s introduction sets the scene for the book, stating “I won a bronze medal in the Olympic marathon, but I was definitely not one of the three most talented distance runners in the world. I was a talented runner compared to the average runner, but you don’t run against average runners in an Olympic final.”
The first two chapters of the book give an account of the 1984 race. Following this, the book proceeds in a conventional chronological sequence. Charlie mentions that his first ever race was over 100 yards at his primary school, in which he finished last (hence the title of his book). However, in his first cross-country race he finished second, indicating that he was clearly a natural distance runner rather than a sprinter. In 1983 he won the AAA 10000 metre championship in a personal best of 28 minutes 08, having broken away from the field with three laps to go. He then decided to move up to the marathon, observing that even if he had gained selection for the Olympic 10000m, his lack of a fast finish meant that he would be in danger of being eliminated in the heats.
I found chapter 12 of Charlie’s book, entitled ‘progress of training’, particularly interesting. He observes that in his early years, he did not do any speed work in the winter, but he improved significantly after he began doing speed sessions all year round, and that keeping his muscles attuned to the extra stress of faster running “resulted in less stiffness and fewer injuries”. In his marathon preparation, he regularly did 15-mile runs at a hard pace, explaining that “I had to get used to maintaining a brisk pace over an extended distance, and I ran intuitively at a pace that was brisk, but sustainable, for 15 miles. To run like that for 20 miles would be too hard, and to run for 10 miles would lack relevance for the marathon.”
He also comments that he suffered from persistent Achilles tendon injuries, and that it was not realised at the time that these were caused by tight calf muscles. He observes that “my tendons were sore, so my tendons were treated, but it didn’t work well because the real problems were tightness and scar tissue in my calf muscles. The reduced mobility in my claves transferred the stress to my tendons, making them sore. Modern treatment would involve massage deep into the muscle to break down the tightness and scar tissue, which would relieve the pressure on the tendon.”
Charlie comments that “it was always the really big races that motivated me most. ... When I peaked successfully, I knew I would beat people who might normally beat me. The ability to peak correctly gives runners like me the chance to step up from our normal level to something much greater.”
I found this book inspirational, and thoroughly recommend it.
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on 9 May 2013
This book is brilliant and worth every second spent reading it. I have read absolutely no books on athletics during the last forty years. I have no regular interest in athletics at all, although I was a distance runner at school, and I had (sadly) never heard of the author or his achievements. Despite all that, the book was gripping from start to finish and I would really like to shake Charlie’s hand, buy him a beer and thank him for writing it.
With no interest in the subject, why did I read it? I was attracted by the “Last to First” achievements of Charlie and what I could pick up by way of ideas to help improve my own personal focus. To that end, the journey that Charlie steps the reader through was highly illuminating. As a work to help you get your own head lined up and ready to rock, it really hit the spot for me.
To add context to that, I’ve run my own small business for twenty years and sometimes my performance has been great and sometimes it’s been … erm … less than optimal, shall we say. I could never understand why and at times wondered if I was just in fact crap. Hence, the theme and messages in this book resonated amazingly and after reading it I feel both enlightened and considerably lighter mentally, physically and emotionally. I’m now much less concerned about the ups and downs I’ve experienced because I know that I can turn it on when I both need to and want to. The solution is so simple, yet so powerful, I’m left shaking my head in surprise.
This book really cuts straight to the heart of such issues so thank you again for writing it, it’s probably a shed load of beers I owe the author, not just one.
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on 27 February 2010
An extremely enjoyable read from beginning to end.

I have read dozens of books on athletics over the last 45 years and this is one of the very best.

Charlie clearly sets out the reasons how he managed to achieve great success even though (as he would be the first to admit) he was not the most naturally gifted of athletes.

His Olympic marathon run and London Marathon were two of the gutsiest performances I have ever seen and it was great to relive these races in his excellently written book.
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on 17 January 2012
Great book didnt want it to end. Fabulous insight into the world of an elite runner with ideas and info for anyone interested in sport, business,coaching and general interest. Charlie is down to earth and straight forward, his achieved so much , really felt like I got a very honest insight into someone who's life doesnt revolve around all the glossy media hype associated with modern sport. Very refreshing and so much better than a lot of the sport biographries that are out there.
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on 8 July 2014
Love this book. Charlie Spedding is Britain's only Olympic marathon medal winner (might revisit this review after 2020, depending on how Mo Farah shapes up) and Last to First tells us how he did it.

Quick answer: a little bit of talent (although not *that* much, he seems to make us want to believe), a lot of dedication and a frame of mind that allowed him to peak for just the right occasions. Never the fastest, he nevertheless managed to win the London marathon in 1984, get a bronze in the Los Angeles Olympic marathon, and hold the fastest English marathon time for an unlikely 29 years.

Very well written and easy to follow, the book takes us through his career and training, how he got himself "up" for the biggest races, and leaves the reader with a pleasant understanding of his humility and modesty. My left Achilles tendon has been hurting for the last six months and it's interesting to read how he was able to overcome injuries and setbacks from the beginning to the end of his running years. I found the way he was able to change the way he thought about himself (an epiphany in a pub) inspirational and it's given me hope of one day getting a sub-three hour marathon. Thanks, fella!
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on 9 November 2011
Great insight from someone who has performed at the highest level. Makes you realise how much psychology is involved in the sport. I could relate to a lot of the book even though I'm not a top athlete myself. We all have our own battles, disappointments and victories at all levels. Thoroughly recommend this book.
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on 11 November 2013
I came across this autobiography quite by accident and remembered the name from my teenage years .... I was intrigued as I have always been a very keen runner (although nowhere near on the platform of being elite) ... I was completely hooked by the first couple of pages. What I particularly enjoyed was you don't have to be into running or interested in athletics to like this very frank and honest account of what it takes to become a great athlete. The story is simple, straight talking and sincere, Charlie neither sugar-coats his opinions or exasperates his experiences. He tells of his dreams and dogged determination in becoming the best British marathon runner we have ever had. Everybody, athlete or not, can take something from this book. It reminds us of what can be achieved with the correct attitude and application. It is a book I know I will keep dipping back into.
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on 25 January 2011
This book really does give a great personal perspective on how to break down your mental barriers and set up clear objectives on how to succeed in distance running.

Charlie's story will leave you inspired and motivated to perform to the best of your ability.
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