Friday, June 19, 2009

Manfred Steffny – Marathoning Book

There is a plethora of books on the Marathon and I have many books in my personal library. But one book that stands out is called “Marathoning” and is written by Manfred Steffny. It was published originally in German in 1977. I bought the English 1979 Edition at a local library sale for around $0.10. You can usually find a used copy in ebay for under $5.

This was one of the first books I read on Marathons and I liked it a lot. It reflects the running mentality of 1970s Europe, which is a bit different than the current US mentality, which is why I like it. I think his ideas are simple and solid, and not much has changed since the 1970s, as far as first principles are concerned.

Here are some ideas from this book (written mostly out of memory):

1. Regarding when to run your first marathon, he advocates a solid year of running, and weight loss. Yes, you can drag your overweight body over 5 hours in the marathon course, but why? I am amazed at the number of people who start running and immediately want to run a marathon. It is better to take time to adjust to running first and lose some weight to get “marathon ready”. When I started running I immediately declared that I was not interested in running a marathon. Of course, I changed my mind but it took 3 years or running before attempting my first one.

2. Predicting your marathon time: I first read about the possibility of predicting your marathon time based on a 10K time from this book. He has an interesting discussion on the topic, and his formulas work for me (more about this in a future blog).

3. Diet and marathon running: He advocates natural diet and losing weight. He says what when your friends say that you look bad (too thin, etc), then you are in the best form for a marathon. This is the first book I encountered the idea of running and fasting (more about this later).

4. Hydration during the race: I think his basic philosophy is like mine “Let thirst be your guide”. For top runners: Would you rather finish 2nd and well-hydrated, or 1st and dehydrated?

5. Running with different shoes (variety is good). He says something like this: My suitcase if filled with different running shoes. Other runner’s suitcases are filled with pain pills. On the subject of injuries, he is against pills, injections, etc. but prefers natural remedies.

6. Ultramarathon Running: He claims that it is easier to run 100K than a marathon and maybe you should train and run a 100K first. When I first read this, I thought it was crazy and I had no plans to run anything longer than a marathon. But since then I have run several 50K trail races, and now I know that 50Ks are actually easier on the body than a marathon, even though the distance is longer.

These and other ideas about training, pacing, etc., are found in this little gem. I recommend it to all runners.

I searched google and found that Manfred Steffny is still around and doing well, still running at the age of 68. His web site is: (use google to translate it in English). He has been the Editor of the Spyridon running magazine, the oldest running publication in German (since 1975).

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