Running a Marathon for Dummies [Review]

Running a Marathon for Dummies by Jason R. Karp, PhD

Boy… these dummies books are tough for me. I don’t like the titles because they imply that you are a dummy if you read one. Yet, they’re always laid out in a really solid and informative manner. This one is no exception. Running a Marathon for Dummies by Jason R. Karp, PhD (he also wrote the Running for Women book I reviewed) is a really well-organized book full of great information!

Running a Marathon for Dummies

The book is broken down into five main sections. The first section breaks down the basics of the marathon, not only covering why you need to take time to train and what kind of gear your need, but it also gets into physiology. If you don’t want to study the physiology that closely, the author does give you permission to skip over that, but it’s interesting to know how your body responds to the training.

I also like that it talks about form. I do not agree with people who say “you just run”. Yes, there is an element of that, but I truly believe that if you focus on your form when you’re starting out, you will improve and stay injury-free (or less-injury-prone) more than without focusing on form.

From the book: One reason they get injured is because they haven't learned how to run before attempting to train for a marathon

The form section includes a bunch of drills you can use to improve your running economy, complete with photo illustrations to make sure you know how to perform the drill.

The second section is about building a plan. It discusses the importance of the long run, interval training, hills, mileage, etc. It also has three chapters on training plans, one each for a beginning runner, intermediate runner and advanced runner. The training plans are very detailed too, they don’t just recommend “Run this far on this day”, they really break down the intervals, distances, etc.

Sample page of a Running a Marathon for dummies training plan

A couple of weeks in the Advanced training plan

The third section is about keeping yourself healthy. This covers strength training, stretching, plyometrics and cross-training. It also has a chapter devoted to recognizing and avoiding all of the most common running injuries. I thought I knew a lot about many of those injuries, but I found little tidbits of info that were beneficial and are things I could refer back to when working with runners (or myself) as little niggles and aches come up.

Running a Marathon for Dummies injury diagrams

Section four is all about race day. Explaining the taper and getting your mind ready to race. The chapter on race day plans covers actions during the race itself as well as the immediate post-race recovery process.

And like any “Dummies” book, the last section is “The Part of Tens”. In this book the “tens” are:

  • Ten Things to Do on Marathon Race Day
  • Ten Common Training Errors
  • Ten (or so) Great Destination Marathons
  • Ten (okay, eleven) Frequently Asked Questions about Running a Marathon

So despite the “dummies” reference in the title, this is a very smart book. It would be a handy title for someone just starting on a marathon journey or someone who wanted to have this around as a reference to look up whatever may be slowing down their marathon crusade.

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