This book has been out since May, which is around when I requested it – fortunately I was approved in time for it to be the book of the month in the Runners’ Bookshelf Facebook group. Thank you to publisher Center Street for making it available to me via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

This is in fact the running book I would have written, had I as much clout as this veteran runner, ex-editor-in-chief of Runners’ World, Boston Marathon winner who has run at least one marathon in each of seven of his decades on Earth. You have to believe this stuff from him, right?

He’s very much about simplicity – which I love – talking about how complicated running has become, when it’s really a matter of popping some shoes on and going out there. He advocates choosing the shoes that are most comfortable (but buying them from a specialist sports retailer and benefitting from their knowledge), looking at walk-run programmes, especially when starting out or recovering / ageing, setting different goals as you get older, practising with the drinks that will be available in your marathon and not trying new things during a race, and carb-loading but not troughing. Great stuff!

He does talk a lot about research, including when it is more likely to be generalisable (he likes reports from the Army and from big research institutes with big research populations) and everything he says is backed up, sometimes also from his own experience, but none of it’s earth-shattering, for example he still advocates the 10% rule when increasing your distance (only add 10% to your long run each week, no more) and taking rest weeks. Because he’s been running for so long, he has seen all the fads go past and he does talk interestingly about how opinions on some things like stretching and tapering have changed over the years.

The book is not just a guide to how to keep running forever, but also a guide to starting and maintaining an injury-free running life. He talks about injuries when they do occur very sensibly, mentioning that “you can’t go wrong by leaning in the direction of extra caution” and sharing a story of when he allowed a small niggle to develop into a major problem by not listening to his body. He reads very humble like that.

I loved the things that chimed with my own running (of course!) e.g. that when running long, everyone doesn’t have to run with you all the way, but can join in for their own bits: this is something I’ve always done with long run training but I’m not sure I’ve seen it written about before; and the mental health benefits of running side-by-side and talking about all manner of things. He’s also keen on the idea of a cuppa after a run, having seen Roger Bannister do that – fab! I also loved his descriptions of his training partners and how he loves them for different aspects of their running and training styles – very true.

Burfoot is inspiring without ever being sappy – the best kind of inspiring for me. He talks about how he’s no fan of “corny mantras” like “the hills love you and you love the hills” but advocates sensible, positive self-talk, as he’s been persuaded that has effects, and I felt that

Expect bad days. Remember the good ones.

is a great principle to run by. His advice on keeping on running into old age, which I’m sure is why many of us picked up this book, is to keep doing it, even when difficulties hit, keep doing hill reps for the cardiovascular benefit and adjust your goals. Sensible stuff but nice to have it written down in front of you.

There are some rather odd generalisations about women runners mixed in with the great advice and sensible recommendations. For example, apparently women excel in running because they are more likely than men to follow the Couch 2 5k rules when starting out, rather than “charging into running” and then breaking (I’m not sure I’ve seen a gender difference in this and I’ve helped a lot of runners start running); and women have embraced half-marathons (rather than marathons) because they can then “lead the balanced lives many aspire to” without the gruelling and time-sapping training for a marathon. This kind of implies women have more responsibilities than men and read just a bit odd. He obviously celebrates women runners and their achievements, but these small sections felt a bit weird.

But apart from that minor point, a great guide to starting – and keeping – running.

Wendy from Taking the Long Way Home reviewed this book with an author interview for her May Book Club read. Do pop and have a look!

Have you ever read the book you would have written yourself? Were you relieved someone had done it for you? What are you reading now?