February 24, 2012
I got a copy of the “Running Room’s Book On Running” by John Stanton through a Facebook contest. Vanessa Rodrigues from a barefoot ultrarunner and blogger said she’d send a copy of this book to one of the people that commented on a certain post. I was the only one to post, so naturally I won a copy of the book.
Considering how big John Stanton and his Running Room movement are, I’m surprised I didn’t get myself a copy a long time ago. In case you don’t know, John Stanton is the founder of the Running Room, an international chain of stores that serve the running community. He is particularly famous because his training philosophy is geared towards recreational runners, not hardcore elite athletes. The “Running Room’s Book On Running” that I read was his first book, but he also has a newer edition called “Running: The Complete Guide to Building Your Running Program” and “Walking.” It might sound almost like gospel, but John Stanton’s books form the guiding principles of the Running Room’s training programs.
I have been a student in 10k, half-marathon and marathon clinics organized by my local Running Room. Each of these clinics comes with a small printed Clinic Manual. Each clinic also comes with access to a much larger (200+ pages) and more detailed online manual in PDF format. Having read the manuals for those clinics in detail, I recognized that these manuals contain selections of material from “Book On Running.” However, the full book contains considerably more detail and reference material. For example, the section on Running in warm weather has a humidex table on the opposing page. I also recognize that the “Tips of the Day” on the Running Room’s website use selections from this book too.
John Stanton’s “Book On Running” is definitely a case where you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. The book looks HUGE at first glance at over 300 pages and the size of a typical hardcover book. However, upon opening it, I noticed the font is quite large and double spaced. There are also lots of full-page pictures and graphics that make it seem much larger. It also has several dozen pages of tables which have 10-18 week training plans for various speeds and various distances measured in both kilometers and miles. If it was compressed to pure text, I imagine the book wouldn’t be much larger than a 90 page paperback novel.
I was also surprised by the book’s format. For some reason I was expecting this to be semi-autobiographical like Christopher McDougall’s “Born To Run.” John Stanton’s “Running” reads more like a textbook. That isn’t a bad thing! It flows in a rather natural way starting with “Shoes and Clothing” and continuing to chapters like “Running and walking Intelligently” and “Types fo Running.” There’s some repetition, but it’s nice to have when you refer back to just that section. This book’s strength is in it’s use as a reference. Recently I needed a reminder of how to do Fartleks. Using the index brought me right to the concise paragraphs that explain the drill.
The strongest chapter in the book is on the topic of “Women’s Running.” The author clearly states that he didn’t write this chapter. I wish this level of detail was consistent throughout the whole book. For example, this chapter described how running can increase the risk of osteoporosis in older women. The description goes right down to calcium ions and how to help prevent it.
I was a little let down by the chapters on “Nutrition” and “Running Form.” Nutrition in general can be very complicated, so I’m not surprised John Stanton was intentionally vague. The nutrition chapter gave good general hints, but stayed away from particular dietary advice. Running form is similarly controversial, and it is given the same vague treatment.
I accept the fact that John Stanton may be more of a figurehead than a complete authority. A book with this amount of medical, physiological, nutritional and technical shoe information obviously had a lot of collaboration. In fact, some people have heard him openly contradict some of what is written in his books. This may be because he didn’t write those sections, or his opinion or contemporary science has changed since this book was published.
Overall, it is a very good reference for any recreational runner and invaluable to have on your shelf.