Julian's new book, just published, is written by an athlete who has been there, done that, worn the vest and often got the medal.
Very few people are placed better than Julian to write about how to achieve your potential in running with this thought provoking, motivational and often humorous book.
However, despite Julian's performance as an elite international athlete let's get one crucial matter out into the open, this is definitively a book for runners at all levels; joggers, (those casual runners who want to keep fit, lose some weight and jog a few miles a week), as well as competitive runners who want to do better next week than they did last week.
The chapters in the book are set out in a logical, readable form, interspersed with concise comments highlighted in the text with a short summary of the chapter at the end of each section. Julian focuses on the 5, (or is it 6?), Ss: speed, suppleness, strength, stamina, skill and psychology. The importance of the mind is emphasised; the author believes that many of us do not achieve our true potential because often we lack self-belief, that ability to challenge our mental boundaries which inhibit our performance in races. This is as true for the social runner as it is for the runner who races regularly and wants to run faster.
Whilst this is a book full of advice, guidance and challenges, it does refer to Julian's contemporaries, (notably Dave Bedford, Steve Jones, Charlie Spedding and Henry Rono), referring to their views of training and competing as well as those of the author. (As an aside, Spedding's book "from last to first" is a classic autobiography of a sportsperson, an average runner who strived to be better). Julian is a great believer in each of us being able to achieve our potential by listening to our body and being honest with ourselves. However, never "over run" or "over race" is a clear message, and Julian warns runners at all levels that sometimes they need to say "No, I'm not going out this week-end for a few miles, but thanks anyway" in order to maintain that freshness and eagerness for running throughout the year.
It is not all serious stuff. There is a lot of light relief. "The Art of Running Faster" contains some great anecdotes; the one about the Ethiopian runners leading in the World Cross-Country Championships who thought that they had finished after three laps of a four lap race made me laugh and cry at the same time.
Those of us who race and follow athletics know Julian was always a great "club man", whether for Shaftesbury or the R.A.F. Not surprisingly, Julian advocates getting involved in a club for several reasons, (particularly for advice, guidance, support and friendship), emphasising the social aspects for club runners at all levels.
In summary, this is an inspirational book. If you are a runner and want to be a better runner, then this book will make you want to put on those training shoes and kit and go out for a run. Very helpfully, Julian has included an easy to follow training schedules at the end of the book, (written for runners of all levels and ability).
You may not achieve the times that Julian and his colleagues achieved, but this book will give you the encouragement to make the best effort to do so. It's a great read from a great athlete and now a leading coach.