Learn : Marathon Story  

Note from Editor: Joe is a seasoned veteran in the world of running, writing and helping others prepare for marathons. He has run more than 700 races and written more than 25 running-related publications. In addition, Joe is the original editor of Runner's World magazine. If you would like to learn more about Joe and his publications, check out his web site at

Running Background:

marathon photoI consider myself an intermediate runner and I primarily run because it's been a habit since 1958 that I can't break now. I decided to run a marathon because it was time. My marathon count had stalled six years earlier. I'd never used the R-word (retired from this distance), but this looked more and more likely. Also, the timing was right. This marathon, my 48th, would be on the 48th anniversary of my first race. Both fell on April Fools' Day. Plus I'd attended all five previous Yakima River Canyon Marathons -- but as a speaker or finish-line announcer. It was time to see it from the other side.


For the past two years I had coached Marathon Teams. The training had worked for them, with (at the time) all 60 of the runners who'd started their marathons finishing them. If asking them to train this way, I wanted to show them a willingness to try it myself. In simple terms this program focuses heavily on the long run and on recovering between. It's low-key and low-tech. It's the least that I think runners can get by with, not the most that they can tolerate. After a "pre-training" climb to 10 miles (in as long a time as this requires), the true three-month program starts at 11 miles and moves up by two miles every other week to a peak of 21. In-between weeks are faster tempo runs of about half the previous week's distance. Any other runs during the week are short and easy. My only detour from this plan was to run by minutes instead of miles, with a longest run of 3-1/2 hours. Walk breaks are optional for the Marathon Team. I always took them on the long days.

Any advice taken was my own, so I had only myself to blame for any problems encountered in training or on race day. Training was amazingly and blessedly trouble-free. No injuries, no illnesses, no interruptions of any kind. Race day? Well... read on.

Race Day:

The 2006 Yakima River Canyon Marathon wasn't quite what I expected. I knew the course well, or so I thought. After all, I'd DRIVEN it all five previous years. The car had made easy work of the long climb at about 15 miles and the longer one at around 22. Running them was a different matter, especially for someone who'd done all his long training on a dead-flat route. I'm also a confirmed walk-breaker -- have been since 1980, did all training with the breaks this time, battered old feet and legs couldn't possibly travel this far without walking. This veteran made a rookie mistake on race day -- feeling too good at the start, running too fast, going too long between breaks (planned for run-five-minutes, walk-one). The result was inevitable. Ask me sometime about the 15-minute uphill 23rd mile. My only time goal was to avoid a PW -- personal worst -- which I did with a minute to spare. So no complaints.


I didn't have any problems with my recovery. The next morning I met with the Marathon Team. While shuffling stiffly to address these runners before their run, I said, "I can teach you to walk this way the day after your race." This was normal stiffness. I babied it as usual -- taking one rest day for each hour of the race -- and then started a careful buildup of running with no further problems.

Running Gear Recommendations:

Body Glide
This was the first time I'd ever used it. Before, I'd thought that abrasions of the feet, nipples, upper legs and underarms were part of the game -- especially on wet days like the one at Yakima. After slathering on the Body Glide, I came away from this marathon free of battle scars.
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Nike Pegasus Running Shoes
This was an experimental model, which came by way through a chance meeting with the right person at the company. I took every long run and the marathon itself in these shoes. They were wonderful. Alas, they never made it into mass production and I could never find another pair.
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Tips/Words of Encouragement:

I've been lucky enough to make a career of offering marathon training advice. Much of it is available for free on my website -- -- with a new column or a rerun from a magazine added each week.

Plans to Run Another:

I'm planning to run another marathon because we all keep looking for the perfect race. Even if my fastest is long past, I still seek one that goes more smoothly than the last. Plus, at the least, I'd like to keep alive a streak of sorts. I've run marathons in my 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s and now 60s -- as well as the 1960s through 2000s. My 70s and the 2010s await.

For my next marathon, I'd stick with my plan. In this case, that would mean not getting caught up in the early adrenaline poisoning, run the right pace and walk-break as scheduled.

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