Top positive review
very useful information about how our good runners trained
on 23 December 2013
Gabrielle Collison used to run for Belgrave: she placed second in the 1993 Surrey Womens Cross-Country Championships, and the following summer she placed second in the Surrey Championships at both 1500 metres and 3000 metres. She subsequently obtained an MSc in sports science. This book contains interviews with 18 of Britain's leading male and female marathon runners of the 1980s, including Hugh Jones and Mike Gratton who won the 1982 and 1983 London Marathons respectively, Charlie Spedding who placed third in the 1984 Olympic Marathon, and Joyce Smith who won the women's race in the 1981 and 1982 London Marathons. (The most notable omission is Steve Jones, who set the British marathon record: Gabrielle has explained that he twice failed to attend scheduled interviews with her.)
These 18 interviews are followed by a section entitled `pilot study interviews', which features interviews with Jim Alder and Bill Adcocks (first and second in the 1966 Commonwealth Games Marathon) and with Don Faircloth, who placed third in the 1970 Commonwealth Games Marathon. Personally I would have thought that it would be more logical to have these three interviews as a prologue rather than as an epilogue, but they still make very interesting reading.
In her introduction to the book, Gabrielle observes that the standards of British marathon running in the 1980s were significantly higher than they are now. In 1983, 100 British men ran the marathon in under 2 hours 20 minutes: the 100th fastest British marathon runner that year recorded 2 hours 19 minutes 52. Twentysix years later, in 2009, the 100th fastest British marathon runner recorded 2 hours 33 minutes 59. In the 1980s, eight British men ran a marathon faster than 2 hours 10 minutes; from 2000 to 2009, only two did so.
Many of the interviews in the book make similar points: a background of playing out of doors in childhood, and a reasonably high mileage including high-quality fast sessions with other athletes as well as long runs, seem to be regarded as the basic ingredients of success at the marathon.
This is a very interesting book which I would definitely recommend to anyone with ambitions to run a fast marathon, or to anyone with an interest in learning more about how British distance runners used to train in the 1980s, when British distance running had significantly more strength in depth than it does today.