Two years ago I worked on an Audible podcast with Mara Yamauchi. We were supporting a presenter to train five people to run the 2020 London Marathon. Covid happened and the marathon got cancelled – but I loved the experience of working alongside Mara and picked up so many nuggets of advice I thought she would be able to write a brilliant book. And now she has.

Marathon Wisdom is not only a clever title but nicely highlights why this is not like other marathon training books (and I have read many). There are no training plans, theories or approaches listed. There are none of the sections you expect to see in a marathon book like Nutrition, Training, Strength and Conditioning or Psychology. Instead there is advice backed up by great stories of Mara’s time as an elite marathon runner.

It is not a book for you if you are just starting out in marathon distance running. There are other books to get you in shape for that. Marathon Wisdom is the book to get you better and wiser at marathon running. The silos we usually break down our training into don’t exist here – because they don’t in real life either. For example, an injury is never just an injury – it is ingrained in training, strength work (or lack of it), many elements of psychology and often relates to nutrition too. This realistic mixture of issues and knowledge makes the book much more interesting. For me as a psychologist it also highlights how psychology seeps into every element of the marathon. And when athletes are more psychologically informed they will be able to perform better and enjoy the process more.

This means as well as being great for athletes it will be invaluable for coaches. Additionally, as Mara spent much of her time as an elite athlete living and training in Japan, there are lots of insights which she learnt from their approaches which are not traditionally considered in the UK.

The cleverness of the title extends to the cleverness of the chapters too. Each chapter is short and sweet which makes it really easy to pick up and put down when tired – something which is common when marathon training! There are 42 mini chapters because there are 42 (and a bit) kilometres in a marathon and there is something in every chapter you’ll be pulling out your pen or post it note to mark.

10 great nuggets of wisdom I loved:

  1. “Discovering a love for something is immensely valuable and worth spending time on.”
  2. If we draw up a roadmap from dream to reality it will helps you see what is possible and also what is required.
  3. We can easily get side-tracked by shiny things and forget the basics: good training, rest and fuel.
  4. When you watch too closely what others do you will be ‘comparing and despairing.’ To counter this she lists some great questions to help you focus just on yourself. 
  5. Personalise your training journey – find out what works for you and build it into a written toolkit as this will give you small, practical habits to use daily.
  6. Value your ‘done’ list. Focus on what you have done rather than what you haven’t – write down your achievements.
  7. Note what you can’t control and accept it.
  8. Create a tick list of all the things you could potentially do when you are struggling in a race. Definitely building this one into my work with athletes and myself.
  9. Don’t focus on the recognition from others – give yourself credit when you deserve it – and then celebrate that.
  10. We won’t like failure but we can accept it is a great way to learn.

In the book Mara discusses a Japanese word: gaman. It mean patience, endurance, tolerance, perseverance, self-denial and self-control. She translates it as ‘hanging in there’. To me that summed up the book really. The marathon and the training to get there is all about hanging in there – and Mara’s wisdom will make that journey easier.

You can pre-order Marathon Wisdom here: