Professor John Brewer is known as a go to guy for marathon running. He works at St Mary’s University in Twickenham where they have some fantastic running programmes (Mo Farah was a such a regular when he lived nearby they’ve named the track after him) and unusually Brewer specialises in applied sports science. The applied bit is particularly exciting because it means his work crosses the researching theories vs implementing theories into practice divide. So, I had high hopes for his book.
The book has a nice angle; exposing the running myths while giving you the most up to date knowledge of what science is telling us on how to run a marathon well. It is packed with pictures, beautifully designed, very easy to use and much more like a handbook than something you would read cover to cover. I think it would work well for someone completely new to running who is in that sponge phase of wanting to soak up all that they can about the marathon they have signed up to. It does bust some myths. It does give some good information on racing in different conditions, the kit to use, nutrition to think about, race day prep and training, but I think that causes a little bit of an issue in that is covers so many angles that Brewer has gone wide (to skim everything) rather than deep (and go into too much complexity). For me this means it felt like there was a mismatch between the way the book was pitched (to someone who is starting to take their running really seriously) and the information, tone and presentation (which was more suited to someone just starting out).
As I read every book from the perspective of what sport psychology can I take from this to help my clients I was quite disappointed. The sport psychology elements were neither incorporated fully into the individual elements or given (in my opinion) substantial enough sections within the wider chapters. Completely understandable when going wide to cover everything but it didn’t feel there was enough specificity for someone to be able to draw out any specific suitable tactics to use.
Having said all that, if you are pretty early on in your marathon journey, and looking for some basic, evidence-based knowledge to build your training plans and prepare for your race this book could be very helpful. If you are really taking a step up and wanting to work seriously at your running this book will definitely help you learn a few new things about how to run smarter, but you’ll need to go elsewhere for the specifics to get you actually running faster.