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Running A Marathon For Dummies

Author: Karp J
Category: Sports Performance
Audience: Consumer
Length: 342 pages
Publisher: John Wiley & Sons
  Year Published: 2013
List Price: $17.99® Rating: Good

Running a Marathon For Dummies is a training guide for people contemplating running a marathon.

Recommended for: anyone planning to run a marathon: first-timers, intermediate runners, advanced runners.


Jason Karp, PhD, is a nationally-recognized running and fitness coach.

Dr. Karp received his BS in exercise and sport science in 1995 from Penn State, his MS in kinesiology from the University of Calgary in 1997, and his PhD in exercise physiology from Indiana U. in 2007. He has published over 200 articles and, in addition to this one, has published 4 books.

Dr. Karp has coached cross-country and track at the high-school, collegiate, and elite club levels. In 1997, at the age of 24, he was one of the youngest head coaches in college and led his women's cross-country team to the regional championship. He has trained elite runners and cardiac rehab patients. In 2011, he was the IDEA Personal Trainer of the Year. He is the owner of, a coaching and personal training company in San Diego, CA.


The 342-page text is organized as follows:

PART I: The Basics of Running a Marathon

  • Chapter 1: Training for the Big Race: An Overview
  • Chapter 2: Getting a Leg Up with the Right Running Gear
  • Chapter 3: Understanding the Physiology of Marathon Running
  • Chapter 4: Starting Off with Proper Running Technique

PART II: Creating Your Own Marathon Training Plan

  • Chapter 5: Aerobic Training: The King of Marathon Preparation
  • Chapter 6: Running Longer, and Longer, and Longer Still
  • Chapter 7: Getting Faster with Interval Training
  • Chapter 8: Making a Plan as a Beginning Runner
  • Chapter 9: Prepping for Your Next Race as an Intermediate Runner
  • Chapter 10: Pushing Yourself as an Advanced Runner

PART III: Going Above and Beyond to Stay Strong and Healthy

  • Chapter 11: Producing Powerful Muscles with Strength Training
  • Chapter 12: Stretching, Cross-Training, and Recovery During Training
  • Chapter 13: Recognizing (and Avoiding) Common Running Injuries

PART IV: Gearing Up For Race Day (And Beyond)

  • Chapter 14: Backing Off Before You Give Your All: The Marathon Taper
  • Chapter 15: Getting a Boost with Practical and Motivational Pre-Race Strategies
  • Chapter 16: Running The Marathon: Race Strategies and Tips

PART V: The Part of Tens

  • Chapter 17: Ten Things To Do On Marathon Day
  • Chapter 18: Running Amok: Ten Common Training Errors
  • Chapter 19: Ten (Or So) Great Destination Marathons
  • Chapter 20: Ten (Okay, Eleven) Frequently Asked Questions about Running a Marathon

APPENDIX: A Marathon Directory


Author Jason Karp, PhD, has attempted to cover training for a marathon from every angle imaginable. He addresses planning, training, physiology, gear, stretching, nutrition and hydration, race strategy, sports medicine issues, and psychological aspects associated with distance running. No doubt, this book is thorough!

However, I was confused. The "For Dummies" part of the title suggests to me that this book is for beginners. Thus, I expected that as the primary focus....and, also, a much shorter book. Neither of those assumptions are correct.

Running a Marathon For Dummies provides guidance not only for beginning marathoners, but, also, for intermediate and advanced runners. However, I certainly wouldn't use the word "dummy" to describe someone who has run several marathons before. Thus, I feel the title of the book is a bit out-of-sync with what is provided.

The specific training programs are provided in chapter 8 (beginning runners), chapter 9 (intermediate runners), and chapter 10 (advanced runners). These tables are very detailed and very explicit....much more so than other marathon training books by John Bingham ("Marathoning For Mortals"), Amby Burfoot ("Runner's World Complete Guide To Running"), and Jeff Galloway ("Marathon: You Can Do It"). But, they are also a bit harder to decipher. While I can't evaluate how effective these training programs are, based on the author's background and credentials, readers should assume that they are getting cutting-edge guidance here.

Karp also does a good job in subsequent chapters where he explains strength training, stretching, and sports medicine issues. These chapters are loaded with lots of good black-and-white photos.

The first 7 chapters of the book cover everything from the history of the marathon, to running shoes, to human anatomy and physiology, to improving your running technic, to improving your aerobic fitness. Most of this information is good, but, it should be substantially condensed. Pretty much all of chapter 3 should be eliminated as it is far too technical in a consumer book. Terms such as "fascicles," "myofibrils," and "mitochondria" are only appropriate in college textbooks. No runner needs to know the structure of the mitochondria (p. 45), the location of the tricuspid valve (p. 39), or the structural differences between Type-I and Type-II muscle fibers (p. 46) to improve their running.

I found the discussions of hydration (p. 19, 105) and nutrition (p. 106-108) during distance running to be too brief. Novice marathon runners are at risk of hyponatremia due to the overconsumption of water, thus, the statement on p. 19 "...drink at every aid station...." is too vague. While Karp does mention that consuming sodium is important, this concept should have been explained better. A list of the sodium content of different sports drinks would have been helpful. Also, while academics have no difficulty understanding what "...a 2-3% loss of body weight..." means, some consumers might. The author should have summarized how runners can weigh themselves before and after a long run to calculate their fluid losses.

Likewise, the discussions of nutrition pre-, during, and post-running are too brief and too general. Mentioning specific products would have helped to illustrate certain concepts. And doing so doesn't mean that the author is making an endorsement. Indeed, there are now no fewer than 12 different formulations of PowerBars and more than 20 different sports nutrition products from Gatorade on the market. Identifying several examples (eg., bars that do not contain fat or fiber, or, distinguishing different brands of sports drinks based on their sodium content), along with an explanation of what to look for on product labels in general, would have been very helpful for the beginning runner.

Photos & Illustrations: Lots of black-and-white photos. These are good.

Tables & Graphs: The training programs are presented in tables. Generally, these are very good, though, they are much more detailed (and longer) than the marathon training tables in other books (see above).

Documentation / Accuracy: No citations to published literature are provided. The Appendix and Index are well-done.

Picky Details: Page 27 provides illustrations of overpronation and underpronation, however, readers can't tell if they are looking at a left foot or a right foot! In the training tables, preceding a numeral with a hyphen at the beginning of a new line can be misinterpreted as a negative number.


What I Liked: The book is thorough, no doubt. Readers should be able to construct a solid marathon-training plan from this book. Chapter 4, which covers tips on improving running technique, along with black-and-white photos, is excellent. The Appendix at the end "A Marathon Directory" is a nice addition.

What Could Be Better: The book is too long. And, it's tedious reading. There is often just too much detail. The author has created more checklists than I can count. And, is it really necessary to explain every single tip?!

In general, Running A Marathon For Dummies is a solid resource. However, it is longer than it needs to be. And, as is common when academics write books for consumers, there is too much explanation and technical info. The elimination of the extraneous material would raise this book up to 4-stars.

Reviewed by: Stan Reents, PharmD 4/5/2017 8:18:49 AM

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