Review: The Competitive Runner’s Handbook

March 1, 2008

The Competitive Runner’s Handbook
by Bob Glover & Shelly-lynn Florence Glover
641 pages; $19.00

I’ve been using my lunch hours to carefully browse the many running books at Borders and finally purchased this title. I can certainly learn about running by trial-and-error, but why? Recovering from my first injury, I use my bandage instructions as a bookmark so that I remember how much I have at stake; that, or maybe so I learn how to wrap ankles really well.

The Competitive Runner’s Handbook is both a running narrative and reference manual. What it’s not is cutting-edge science.  At times, the author, Bob Glover, comes to mind-numbing conclusions such as dress warmly in winter and running is hard for fat people. Some material is repeated several times across chapters, but that’s almost required. In general, the book’s attitude to running is listen to the body.

While the book cover says “now completely revised,” this most current edition is copyrighted in 1999. The material is very relevant, almost timeless, but there’s only a short chapter at toward the end of the book on heart rate (instead of throughout) and there’s no mention at all of newer technology such as watches with foot pods or GPS, which are quickly becoming standard equipment for competitive runners.

The reader most likely to get the most out of this book is someone who has entered a few races and knows what the experience is like but wants to take a more rigorous approach to running. It’s also a good learning base for terminology and methods that may get brushed over in Runner’s World or trendy fitness books. Do you know what a fartlek is? This book will tell you.

This is a book that you’re unlikely to outgrow. It covers information from how to get into running to Elite training. I have no intention of ever winning a race, but the book shares even the psychological aspects of taking down your nemesis. Out of the thousands of runners at each NYRR race, I’d be lucky to recognize a familiar face let alone have someone out there to get me. Nevertheless, it was interesting to read what gunning for number one might be like.

Not surprisingly, my favorite chapters were on marathon training and competition. The Marathon Strategy chapter dissects every component of the marathon from what to eat to pacing to mental toughness. I feel better prepared for what’s in store for me after being primed by this book. I liked the numerous references to New York Road Runners Club — to which I belong — and Central Park, but it’s introduced so casually that it’s unlikely to annoy anyone not lucky enough to live in New York City.

I’ll definitely reference the book’s many ideas on workouts, training/mileage schedules, nutrition, and injury prevention (obviously), among many others over the next few months. The chapters are short and well-organized so it’s easy to find exactly what you’re looking for quickly.

The author’s ‘I’ perspective is occasionally self-congratulatory and has been criticized in some reader reviews, but I think it makes the book more personable. Bob Glover’s many successes helps establish his credentials as a running expert and coach, but at the same time it’s balanced by his setbacks and what he’s learned from them.

Overall, I highly recommend the book.

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