Lore of Running

I’ve read many a training book through both my sports studies when younger and to satiate my endurance sports passion as I’ve got older. All too frequently I start with great hope, that I’m on the cusp of newfound training enlightenment, of finding hitherto undiscovered secrets to improved performance, of methods that will revolutionise my thinking around how to train and how to slice seconds  or – dare I think it! – minutes from my PBs. And all too frequently the promise gradually dissolves as I read, until I finish the book with the far lesser satisfaction of mere knowledge consolidation. This isn’t because I know all there is to know! – far from it – but rather because most writers, in their desire to be thorough, struggle with presenting ideas originally. Ultimately their book ends up reading like most other training books on the shelves of all good book stores.

Lore of Running is a different story. Tim Noakes is a physiologist and pathologist, a health professor and a doctor of exercise science. He is a leading light on the subject of athletic performance and an undisputed expert in his field. What immediately strikes you about Lore is the sheer depth of research – quite literally a life’s work – that has gone into this book. Admittedly, being the best part of 1000 pages, it is a daunting prospect to read. But the weight of the text serves to support the feeling of trust in what you are reading. Noakes manages to turn fairly dry physiological and biochemical theory into a compellingly readable study of how exactly the human body works. Part 1 provides the best descriptions of muscle function, oxygen transport, running economy, energy systems and running performance I’ve found. This sets the scene for subsequent analyses in Part 2 on training basics, overtraining, mental training and a fascinating section on insights into elite athletes’ methods. Part 3 takes you from training to racing, covering distances from 10K to ultra distance events; Part 4 looks at running health and staying injury free.

I was first recommended this book by my friend Ewan – a sub-3hr marathon runner, who frequently quoted Noakes’ views when discussing our own training. Since reading it I regularly catch myself expounding Noakes’ principles as if my own, such is the impact it’s had on me. I’ve implemented many of his ideas into my own programs and I would recommend this for anyone who shares an interest in the science of training. As the Runner’s World cover quote suggests, it is geared towards those who take training seriously; but that doesn’t mean you have to be an elite athlete to find this book fascinating and an invaluable training aid. To borrow a few lines from George Sheehan – writer of the foreword in the fourth edition – this book “puts into words our own thoughts as yet unexpressed and leads us to insights not yet discovered. We all have within us the drive toward excellence. …Noakes…blazes a path for us all.”