Sunday, 17 April 2011


I love dipping into a book I received  as under 15 overall winner of the Manchester Cross Country League in 1964. 
                     First published in 1960. 
   Largely remembered for his association with Herb Elliott,  who of course won the 1960 1500 metres Olympic title,  Cerutty had firm views on all events in the book including the marathon.    Views which would have had readers nodding their heads in the 1960s but perhaps now raising the odd eyebrow.  
   He could not have envisaged the "marathon boom" and certainly , perhaps charity runners aside, would not have approved of today's phenomenon as can be deduced from the following...........
    BEST SUITED?  The 6 mile runner (10K)....trains at a higher rate...a better coordinated mover than  a longer distance runner....can develop all the strength needed to run 26.2
    MILES PER MONTH? Limit training to 100 miles per week.  "Above 400 per month it would appear that the pace has to be slowed down so much that the organism is not conditioned to the required speed"
   NATURAL  SPEED IS  CRUCIAL.  "For a good, easy mover a speed of  5 minutes a mile does not seem excessive to me"  But to maintain that pace for 26.2 miles, running alone may not be the answer he suggests.
   TRAIN THE DISTANCE....AT LEAST.  The  newcomer  should run & run "until he has
 mastered ....the full marathon distance"  Added confidence...."master running to 30 miles, knowing he can do so..."
   SPEED TRAINING. A lot of training at pre-determined marathon pace.  (Say 5 minute per mile)
3 mile or 5 miles at marathon pace ...recover......repeat 2 or 3 times.   "A very good workout"!
   MEDIUM LENGTH RUNS.  Our marathon man should have his "objective to be able to run 10 miles in training in 50 minutes and on occasion extend the distance at this rate to fifteen miles even if this is only accomplished in a race."
   Cerutty acknowledges that all marathon runners aren't going to run 26.2 at 5 minute pace (2:11.06) saying that the rate can be applied to each athlete according to his ability. Say 7 minutes per mile (3:03)
        But............wait for it...........he goes on...
"I would suggest that any beginner, today, (remember is was written in 1960) who is not capable of ..3 hours...would be best advised to go away and make himself strong by hard mountain walking up to 30 miles per day (presumably not every day) as well as a hard course of gymnastics and weight training"  then......"....should be able to very soon run a marathon around the 6 minute per mile rate. (2:37.19)
             (Remember these are Cerutty's words NOT MINE)
 " too many poor types (!) get an easy ego-gratification by plodding in poor form and style over the marathon distance in what amounts to really poor times and performances that tend to make a burlesque of one of the toughest events in any sport any man can compete in"
 A TIME LIMIT...." a very generous time limit of 3:30  is suggested"  Cerutty says  that a 6 minute miler wouldn't be seen running with 4 minute milers so why allow it in a marathon.
 "This is not an intolerant attitude but an appeal to place the event on a proper footing and to exclude the cranks and exhibitionists" (Nice one, Percy!)
 DON'T TRAIN ON THE ROAD.  "Little or no training would be done on the bitumen or concrete roads"  bad enough having ro race on the road(?) country roads.
 TRAIN TWICE A DAY.  "Jim Peters of England....was on the right lines....5/6 fast miles during the day. Around 10 miles hard of an evening...he ran.....phenomenal times."
 VARY YOUR PACE..."so that he can whip in a fast mile at almost any stage of the race"
 SURGING.... to be practised..."we train so we race. And we shall race as we have trained."
 CONDITIONED RESPONSE.  "learn to race faster over the last 1/4 mile " doing so in training.
 REST DAY.  ..don't develop into a "plodder".  Take Monday's off. 
 REST WEEKS.  "Occasionally do long and arduous walks in mountains with heavy packs"
 HIBERNATE.  Say for 3 days, in the ,read , sleep ,move only to a hut by the ocean or up in the mountains.
                              "One rises from them like a giant refreshed"

So there you have it.  Thoughts on the marathon from a coaching legend....1960s style.
Can't help thinking he would be shaking his head if he was on the streets of London on Sunday later than noon.
                  But  to voice his opinion wouldn't be very charitable, would it?
                        If you raced London and achieved your goal,well done!  




  1. As I progress with my "experiment of one", my own empirical observations match Percy's. I shall print this post out, until such time that I purchase my own copy of Percy's fabulous book.

  2. Fear not, Danny. I shall attempt to scan the relevant pages and email them to you.
    Did you see any coverage of the London over there? T.

  3. Arthur Lydiard had a greater influence on me.
    But like any philosophy and training, it has to be adapted to the individual and their current state.

  4. Particularly if you don't own a hut by the ocean!

  5. I like the bit about hibernating!