by Keven Shevels and Stuart Ferguson
I was lucky enough to receive a free copy of the latest offering in the ”Run Off-Road” series by TrailGuides: “The Mountain Marathon Book”, so let me share my impressions with my fellow mountain runners. This 224 page tome clearly aims to be the definitive treatise on the topic and I’ll start by ruining the suspense: co-authors Keven Shevels and Stuart Ferguson do a fine job of doing just that. “The Mountain Marathon Book” does more than that and includes excellent advice for anyone contemplating one of the 24-hour challenges (such as the Bob Graham and Wicklow rounds) or any off-road ultra-distance races.
Simply put, a mountain marathon is a long-distance navigation exercise held over upland and mountainous terrain. Normally held over two days it involves carrying all the equipment and supplies needed to be self-sufficient over the period.” – The Mountain Marathon Book
As the authors point out, mountain marathons are a unique discipline occupying a space somewhere in between fell running, orienteering and ultra-running while having elements of classical outdoor expeditions and thus previous books in the “Run Off-Road” series have covered different angles of the concise information presented here. To their credit TrailGuides have done very well to avoid duplication and produce a book that can both stand alone as well as supplement the earlier publications.
The book is broken into eight main sections and more than forty-five chapters: “The Basics”, “Equipment”, “Food and Drink”, “Training”, “Pre-Event Preparation”, “The Event”, “After the Event” and “Health and Safety” making it easy to hone in on the area of particular interest to you. My own understanding of mountain marathons is fairly basic so I jumped straight into the introduction to the discipline in the first section. Here you are introduced to the four main obstacles a competitor will face: weather, terrain, teamwork and navigation before moving on to answer what I imagine will be some of the most pertinent questions for first-time mountain marathoners: the events you can choose from (as it proves there are sixteen events on the British and Irish isles), the differences in courses and levels and the rules and kit requirements.
The book utilises photos and graphics extremely well, my favourites being the drawing of how to properly organise and pack your bag and the sketch of typical terrain run. The lengthy “Training” chapter manages to cover all important aspects of training (such as endurance, uphill, strength and flexibility) and delivers specialised training schedules for the event separated into the three levels of experience corresponding to the difficulty classes of the mountain marathon courses: A, B and C. There are some hefty long runs in store late in the programme but the training rationale is always well explained and the experience of the authors shines through. The schedules are 30 weeks long and are essentially a perfect adaptation of Arthur Lydiard’s training principles to this specialised discipline. Any off-road runner wondering how to adapt the philosophy of the great coach to their sport will find themselves inspired here. I did.
I finished reading with the feeling that very little I needed to know had been left out completely and for the few topics that received shorter shrift, such as navigation, the reader was referred to the excellent sister volumes such as “Navigation for Off-Road Runners”. The writing style of the TrailGuides authorship always sat well with me: the explanations are clear, the tone one of common-sense, a degree in physiology or years of immersion in the peculiar linguistics of off-road running is not necessary.
So if you are preparing for a mountain marathon or if you always wondered what exactly the effects of running with a heavy backpack are, or how to deal with ticks and midges, then consider investing the RRP of £19.99 in “The Mountain Marathon Book”. I have followed TrailGuides since they published their first “Run Off-Road” book and the small publishing company seems to be improving with every new publication. I will look forward to the next book in the series titled simply “The Trail Running Book”.
The book can be purchased directly from TrailGuides Publishing.
[rating: 5/5] Tries to provide the ultimate reference for mountain marathoners. And succeeds.