May 18, 2016

1975 Marathon Handbook: An Introduction

I got this book--used, obviously--for a penny. The anachronisms are plenty, and a bit amusing. They list every man who ran a marathon under three hours in 1974, explicating his time, age, and home state. For women, they set the bar at four hours, and list the same information. I won't reproduce that here, for reasons that are probably obvious. There are, however, two interviews, along with an editor's note and a 'how to train' article. I will transcribe each of them.

Generally, I wouldn't do this. I buy books, and little else. Supporting that industry matters a great deal to me, because books matter a great deal to me. But this book is out of print, and the publishing company that produced it no longer exists (although the magazine for which the editors worked--Runner's World--obviously does), so I'm not greatly concerned about receiving a note from any lawyers. Moreover, I enjoyed reading these items, and I don't think they're easily available online. It'd be a shame not to give them a platform, however small mine is.

It goes like this:
Ian Thompson--2:09:12 (by Dave Cocksedge)
Jacki Hansen--2:43:54 (by Bill Cockerham)
Making Your Own Time

Tonight, I'll just write-up the editor's note that precedes the proper articles. Ideally, I'll do one interview each of the next two evenings, and the training article Saturday. I may provide a little commentary after each piece, but I won't insert any into the actual works, or edit things in any way. That said, away we go.



It was January 1970, and I'd jumped from an established magazine, Track & Field News, to a then-smaller one with a new name, Runner's World. My first assignment was to help Bob Anderson finish a booklet on the marathon. I wondered then if there were enough marathoners and enough interest in marathoning to warrant a special publication like this.

I ran marathons but didn't see too many other people doing it. How many could there be? A thousand or so, with most of them clustered around Boston. How many races were there? Maybe a dozen, mostly on the coasts.

Bob put down my doubts by handing me a folder full of statistics he'd collected. The figured indicated that about 2000 Americans were running marathons. More than 1100 ran at Boston in 1969. Forty-six races were scheduled in the US for 1970. Those numbers sounded big then.

In early 1970, the big names in marathoning were Derek Clayton, Ron Hill and Jerome Clayton. Clayton had just improved his world best time, Hill had won the European championship, and Drayton had run 2:11. The top two Americans were Kenny Moore and Ron Daws.

We couldn't have known then what we were getting into with the Marathon Handbook. Five editions later, there are many more than three times as many runners and racing opportunities. Ten times as many Americans run under 2 1/2 hours in 1974 than back then.

Derek Clayton has retired. He said in an extraordinary retirement announcement, "I lost the desire to continually thrash myself. I can say now that I hated every moment of my training." Hill and Drayton have been frustrated in recent years, unable to match their old form. Moore and Daws are in semi-retirement, still running well but not as seriously as before.

Ian Thompson wasn't doing much running in 1969. Now he's the second fastest ever. Back then, Frank Shorter was a senior at Yale. He'd won his first national title, the NCAA six-mile, but his fist marathon was still years away. Five years ago, Tom Fleming was in high school and hadn't run a marathon. He has finished second in the last two Boston marathons.

There were no women listed in the 1970 Handbook. The number who tried marathons then could be counted on one foot. But by 1974 they had their own national and international championships, 17 of them broke three hours, and the 100th best time was almost as fast as the pre-1970 world best. Jacki Hansen's mark is 25 minutes faster than that one.

The booklet, like the sport, has expanded from its modest beginnings. Marathoning is still the central theme because the marathon is the most important long distance race. But it isn't the only one. As the marathon grows, so do the shorter and longer runs, and the race walks. We'll cover them here until they're big enough to have booklets of their own.

The marathoners could barely fill the first booklet. We had to pad it with reprinted articles to reach 52 pages. Now the marathon statistics alone go longer than that. But as the lists grow, the individual times on them aren't devalued. Just the opposite. Each new one represents a person who never before thought he or she could go so far, so fast.

Joe Henderson


Henderson, of course, literally wrote the book(let) on Long Slow Distance. It's a name he would come to regret a bit, because the point was never that the running was slow, but that it was easy, so you could do a lot of it, and sustain your (mental and physical) health. I'd say more, but you can actually read the entire booklet on Henderson's website, here. I'd recommend doing it; the entire thing is very short, interesting, and misquoted.

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