Four Months to a Four-Hour Marathon

By David Kuehls

Reviewed Jun 25, 2018 on The Litt Review.

I buy a lot of random marathon training books in used bookstores. This was one of those - $2.50 on the shelf. At the time, this seems like a stupid purchase. Why should I throw these into my cart, when I’ve got others at home and I may not even get to it?

Consider if I do set aside time to skim it. If I learn one good tip, something that changes how I think and what I do, would that be worth the $2.50? Almost certainly. Nonfiction books, and particularly how-to books, are, from this standpoint, a great investment.

Even if they are run of the mill, middle of the road books like this one. Kuehls wasn’t preaching to the Olympic trainers, but to your average joe. He didn’t want to make anyone change to a fad diet (“A word about fad diets while you are training for your 4-hour marathon: DON’T”) or try a different type of new shoe. All of the advice here is what you’d find in a couple of blogs on Runner’s World, if you were looking for your most conservative running advice. And not if you were trying to be elite (a word he bolds, too.) For instance, when talking about runners drinking before a marathon: “They [are] Olympic runners. Their metabolisms are different than ours.”

I would consider a lot of the advice poor, too. For instance, he says that carbohydrates are the only fuel for your body. That’s not true, scientifically - you can also use fats and proteins. But he discards any conflicting science there. In fact, there’s not much science in this 100-page book, at all. It’s all written as “Do this. Don’t do that.” No justifications, just advice. An example: “Stop drinking caffeine three days before the run.” But that would probably kill me - withdrawal from caffeine can take over a week.

That having been said, I picked up some good tips. First, buy three pairs of shoes, and break one in with 6-7 short runs, and then use that for your race. Switch the other shoes up each run - this allows them to air out, extends the life, and lets the shock absorbers rebound. Buy 8-10 pair of white cotton ankle socks. I’m surprised I haven’t done this - I use long black socks, which are too thin. Do your Saturday long run in the same timezone as your marathon, and have a meal (preferably brunch) after to refuel.

Writing this review may have taken more time than I took skimming the book. That’s OK. I picked up what I did where I needed it, and discarded the rest. Still worth the time and money.

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