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Marathoning for Mortals: A Regular Person's Guide to the Joy of Running or Walking a Half-Marathon or Marathon

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Once considered a feat for superhuman athletes, the marathon is now within every mortal's grasp. Former couch potato John Bingham has joined forces with coach Jenny Hadfield to create a winning plan that works for every mortal—even you.

In Marathoning for Mortals, you'll find the courage to train, the willpower to persevere, and the tenacity to finish one mile after another. John and Jenny stick with you every step of the way, from your first insecure thoughts to your last-minute jitters to your supreme joy at the finish line. In Marathoning for Mortals, you'll find:

8 training programs to run, run-walk, walk-run, or walk the half-marathon and marathon The advice you need to physically, mentally, and spiritually reach your dreams Tips to help you customize your training, buy the right shoes and apparel, and eat the best foods Guidance for common motivational, physical, and emotional roadblocks

Join John and Jenny on an amazing transformative journey where the finish line is just the beginning.

252 pages, Kindle Edition

First published May 2, 2003

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About the author

John Bingham

55 books34 followers
aka 'The Penguin'. John Bingham became well known for his 'The Penguin Chronicles' in Runner's World where he told in detail about his development from couch potato to runner and how that changed his life.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 163 reviews
Profile Image for Jane Lebak.
Author 39 books375 followers
October 9, 2019
I picked up this book ONLY because I like John Bingham. (Now I like his wife's voice too.) I didn't intend to do any actual marathoning.

I may, though, now that I've looked over the program and read the book. Wish me luck!


UPDATED three months later: Yesterday after following the program in the book, I completed a half marathon. :-) It totally worked. I trusted what they said, and even when I didn't think I could do it, I followed their advice, and it worked.

I re-read most of the book in the week before the race, and I realized how soothing they sound, how Bingham's self-deprecating humor helped me overcome my own fear, and how their common-sense approach to running is very helpful to beginners like me. Definitely read this if you want to do any serious running.

Updated a year later: I have re-read the whole book because I'm running another half marathon this year, and a lot of things I glossed over last year make more sense now. :-) Still highly recommended.
Updated the year after that: I have now completed the marathon program and will be running a marathon in two weeks. EEEEEE!!!!
Profile Image for Jo * Smut-Dickted *.
2,038 reviews467 followers
February 24, 2014
Anything I do I do whole hog. From my snout to my wiggly tail - I'm all in or I'm not interested.

I loved the spirit of this book which will strike a chord with anyone who has ever doubted themselves in this running arena. I would actually speculate that to the person that is already super athletic and fit this book might be a bit boring and non relatable. That is not my case. I was always the nerd who got picked last for any team sports. I always wanted to be an athlete - but I didn't think it was in the cards. I'm certainly not saying I'm an athlete now but what I did not get in genetics I make up for in sheer perseverance and stubborness!

I am using the run/walk method to train and this book looked like it has the best plan for me for my 1/2 Marathon on April 27, 2014. It is doable - and a stretch at times. It is not confusing with all sorts of symbols, abbreviations, and other oddities that I cannot understand. My goal is not to come in sub anything - my goal is to finish. I already know I won't be running the whole 13.1 miles - my body would not be able to take that (at least, not yet!). I want to enjoy the race, feel good about my accomplishment, and set into place a desire to do this again (and again, and again!).

Yeah this one can get a bit corny. Who cares - it got the point across and it never took itself so seriously. I appreciate the more serious books - like Jack Daniel's running formula which is very technical, but for my first shot out the gate I needed equal parts inspiration with my perspiration. Sweats off to the Mortal Folks!
Profile Image for Leah.
61 reviews3 followers
November 21, 2008
I purchased this book as a tip/training guide for running a half marathon in the spring. I thought that Running for Mortals was more informational and the contents of the book were the same things I've read on www.runnersworld.com. However, they authors do provide many anecdotes of the emotional aspect of the race and prepping yourself mentally that I think will be very helpful. I plan on using their Run a Half Marathon training plan from the book in the next 6 months. I will hopefully be able to use the Run/Walk a Marathon or Run a Marathon plan in the next 18 months!

I highly recommend John Bingham and Jenny Hadfield's books for the beginning/no talent runners out there. Penguins unite!
Profile Image for momruncraft.
407 reviews33 followers
August 22, 2010
"You already have everything you need to be a long distance athlete. It's mind set not miles that separates those who DO from those who DREAM."

Inspiration. Advice. Wisdom from two seasoned runners. I loved everything about this book. More so, I loved their easy to read and understand training plans. The main premise of this book is to run for fun. Realize that races are uniquely YOU. You race YOUR last PR not the first place finisher time.

I find myself six-ish weeks away from my third half marathon and at the point in training where runs become work. Challenging: in terms of distance and in terms of finding the time to get them in. There are many days when I don't want to run. Where I question what the hell I was thinking signing up for ANOTHER 13.1 miles. A particular quote in one of the early chapters really spoke to me: "When you move into training mode, you accept the risks of knowing that you will have to test your limits from time to time. You'll experience the limits of your body, the limits of your mind, and the limits of your spirit."

In terms of finding the time with two young kids. A husband. A house in need of cleaning. Groceries to be bought..."Long-distance training can be a positive and constructive form of selfishness. After all, once you're at the starting line, you're there by yourself. No one can run a SINGLE step for you. No one can jump in and help you. No one but YOU can make the decisions about what to do to keep going. It's ALL UP TO YOU."

In terms of hoping to break a PR: "Goals can never be too high, but expectations can."

Ultimately, having crossed the finish line twice before I know that the post race high is worth all the struggles. The sense of accomplishment. The pride. The admiration of watching others cross the same finish line and knowing that they worked towards the same goal...and succeeded. "No one who has trained for and started and finished a long distance even is ever the same person."

The book as a whole is an easy read. Much of the information is common sense. If you are looking for a super technical training books, this isn't the read for you.
Profile Image for Mohit.
Author 2 books77 followers
July 29, 2022
I think I had unreasonably high hopes from this book. 20% of it is great but rest is skippable.
Profile Image for Surabhi.
23 reviews7 followers
October 20, 2020
“You may not be in the top tier of that race, but as a long-distance athlete, you are fitter, better trained, and more disciplined than 99 percent of the population that has ever lived. Remind yourself of that when you start to obsess about your pace or finish time.

When you stand at the starting line, you join the club. When you stand at the starting line, you earn your membership. Millions dream of being where you are. You are no longer a dreamer. You are a doer.”

“The miracle truly isn’t that you are going to finish, but that you had the courage to start—not just the courage to start the race, but the courage to start this odyssey of training and self-discovery. You’ve had the courage to find out whether you are who you think you are. And if you discovered some new strength, you learned to trust it.”

“You may find that if you’re open to it, your training and your race can become a metaphor for living. You’ve learned that control is an illusion. You can’t be more than you are, but you also can’t accept less than your potential. You’ve come to understand that real growth develops not from the stress of activity but from the calmness of recovery.”
Profile Image for Cindy (BKind2Books).
1,598 reviews34 followers
November 1, 2022
My only complaint is that I didn't find this sooner.

Let me explain. I picked up running in 2009 when I was challenged by a friend to do a half marathon with her (as in "c'mon, you can walk it if you don't want to run all the way"). So significantly overweight, depressed, and not much into any exercise, I started - at the age of 53. Never mind that at first I could only do one lap (1/20th of a mile) at the Y. I *did* finish and now I'm hooked. It took years until I lost a bunch of weight (and that was diet, my friends - the bad news is that you can't run off a bad diet, the good news is that even overweight you can be physically fit.). In the intervening years, I have not planned how to prepare - I just ran 3 to 4 days a week. I also did not get much better - my times were all mostly within 5-10 minutes of each other.

Enter The Penguin. This is a running book for the masses. If you've ever thought you might like to do this - this book is a great start. For more experienced runners and athletes who have no problem getting a program developed, this might be too basic. For me, it's just right. Thanks to this book - I have a plan and my times *seem* to be improving. We'll see in a few more weeks as I run the St Jude's Memphis half marathon. Wish me luck.

Quotes / ideas to remember:

The body you've got is the only body you'll get.

Age and wisdom are as important as youth and vigor.

If you can't be well-prepared, be well-rested.

There is no such thing as a perfect race.

The miracle truly isn't that you are going to finish, but that you had the courage to start - not just the courage to start the race, but the courage to start this odyssey of training and self-discovery. You've had the courage to find out whether you are who you think you are.

...living is a long-distance event. Every day is a training day in one way or another.

The finish line is not the end. The finish line is the beginning...Crossing the starting line may be an act of courage, but crossing the finish line is an act of faith. And faith is one of the most powerful emotions you can experience.
Faith is what keeps us going when nothing else will. Faith is the emotion that conquers fear. Faith is the emotion that will give you victory over your past, the demons in your soul, and all of those voices that tell you what you can and cannot do and can and cannot be.
Profile Image for Carianne Carleo-Evangelist.
711 reviews13 followers
June 5, 2017
I really enjoyed this book, despite still having no interest in this distance. I feel like it's geared toward runners like me and it's something I could follow, vs. something geared toward much faster runners. Also like their Q&As with mortals and case studies of same with answers from both John and Jenny where they differed. Solid read, even if not the most polished writing.
Profile Image for Colleen.
28 reviews
January 27, 2009
This book is probably a good starter book for people preparing for a first half marathon or marathon. I enjoyed Bingham's honesty as he shares his personal training mistakes with humor throughout the book and the fact that he is definitely not pretentious. I guess because the book was cowritten, some sections seemed redundant, like they couldn't decide whose paragraph to include so they added them both. I'm still fairly new to distance running and was hoping for them to go into more depth with certain topcs than they did. The book does include a variety of training plans, which is a plus.
Profile Image for Merri Su.
275 reviews
November 15, 2007
Solid advice, though a bit distracting in the switching back and forth between two authors. As an editor, I think this could have been handled better.

I like that there are lots of plans and plenty of solid advice. I'm not a first-timer, so I didn't really learn much *new*, but I did enjoy and benefit from the review. What I did learn more about was what to do after the marathon/half-marathon to recover, both mentally and physically (I especially liked that their training plans in the back of the book included recovery weeks after the big event).
Profile Image for Bill Sleeman.
635 reviews11 followers
August 21, 2012

This was an okay book - I've read a few books on the topic now as I prepare to "check off" an item on my personal bucket list and most of the advice tends to be repeated. One aspect of this book that I thought was helpful and is stressed more than in some of the others is the walk/run approach. While I have no plans to walk I know many folks do and it was good to read how some folks have worked that into their successful preparation for a marathon. Good background reading but nothing that an experienced runner might not have already seen in a few issues of Runners World.
Profile Image for Jenni.
129 reviews
April 10, 2009
I enjoyed the book. I think it will be a very helpful resource for my training. I didn't agree with everything said in the book, especially in the gear/gadgets section. In the later section of the book, the tone seemed to change. While I think the authors' love of running came through the entire time. The latter half of the book, the tone changed slightly and I got the impression they were talking more to people who weren't starting out from ground zero but to those who were already running.
41 reviews1 follower
November 1, 2013

"Are you willing to take the time to train, prepare,and change your lifestyle?"

This simple yet (as I have now learned) profound question weaves itself throughout the book. The authors take you on a journey from the beginning question, why do you even choose to run, to invaluable advice for your training and preparation. They do this while sharing personal anecdotes and testimonials that connect you to this elite club you've always admired, the long distance runners.
Profile Image for Bookish.
613 reviews141 followers
March 13, 2017
I am reading Marathoning for Mortals by John Bingham and Jenny Hadfield right now. I’ve run nine marathons over the last several years, and am training for my tenth at the end of April. I read a fair number of running books because I like to stay inspired and keep finding ways to improve. As running books go, this one is pretty accessible, and is a great way to remind myself of the basics as I gear up for my next 26.2. —Elizabeth (https://www.bookish.com/articles/what...)
Profile Image for LeAnn.
252 reviews3 followers
March 6, 2009
This was a very inspiring book that made me feel that, even as someone that runs an 11-minute mile, I could train for and run a marthaon if I set my mind to it! Includes training programs for walking, run/walk, and running both a half and a full marathon. Programs seem reasonable and, dare I say it, manageable.
Profile Image for James.
13 reviews
January 21, 2011
Great for beginners and intermediate runners who have never participated in an actual race. It had helpful information about pre-race preparation, race day preparation and during the race nutrition. After reading this and completing a half marathon I would probably want something more in depth though to take my training to the next level.
Profile Image for Sandy.
274 reviews2 followers
May 20, 2013
I'd love to say this book helped me train for my first Half Marathon. I'm two weeks away from my first Half Marathon and I didn't read this book early enough in my training!! However, I found this book to be helpful and VERY encouraging. Heck, I might even consider run/walking a full Marathon someday because the last chapter was totally motivating. Wish me luck!
Profile Image for Angel.
28 reviews
September 4, 2013
Good book for folks looking for motivation and general information. A good read for beginners or first timers, but lacks a bit of specifics on some topics, such as what exercises would be good to take up if one does some sort of strength training. Mostly serves as a source for inspiration. If you are a seasoned runner, skip this book.
Profile Image for Colby Woodis.
75 reviews2 followers
May 20, 2021
Since the shutdown happened in March 2020, I’ve really taken a liking to running. I would have never guessed that I would turn into a “runner.” But, here I am. John and Jenny convey that story well in this accessible guide to running/walking a half or full marathon.

I really enjoyed getting to hear from their perspectives and learn a couple tips along the way!
Profile Image for Holly.
693 reviews23 followers
April 22, 2012
I've obviously been reading too many marathoning books, or too many books by the Penguin. It was basically the same info I already knew, but it was still nice to have another voice say, "You know, Holly, a marathon would not be completely impossible....someday."
Profile Image for Elizabeth.
64 reviews
June 20, 2016
Good resource ... a lot of common sense stuff that I wouldn't have thought about. People are going to get sick of me over the next 20 weeks ... don't care. First marathon coming up on November 5th :)
Profile Image for Kumari de Silva.
380 reviews24 followers
January 24, 2019
The title says it all. This book is a great guidebook for the regular person who would like to become a distance runner. Yes, even if you think doing a 10k is "distance" you can learn a lot from this book. As for me, I was a runner when I was younger, but I had never gone further than 8 miles at a time and that was only the one time. After being diagnosed with Cancer I decided to take up running again.

Since I did not know if I was going to get better I made some sort of stupid decisions, like running on my ankle when it was sprained. For the record I am completely unrepentant about running on my sore ankle all the hours/miles I did before surgeries ensued because even though I eventually got better - - it's not the same, I'm not the same - and I was beginning to really despair before I picked up this book.

This book is easy to read. The authors are encouraging, pleasant and straight shooters. Through the training plan in this book I was able to run 8 miles as a grown-up! I was so surprised, this was after surgeries. Thinking it might be a fluke I tried again and again and yes, I was able to run 8 miles. So then I pushed myself to run 10 miles. It was hard but I was able to replicate that feat as well. I don't look pretty and I am certainly NOT fast, but the sense of accomplishment is irreplaceable. Good for me

I highly recommend this book for any amateur runner, most especially to the runner who is afraid to try. (Hey, if I can do it - ANYONE can.) Or the runner who thinks ibuprofen is a necessary part of running (it is not.) Also the runner who is comfortable with 5k and would like to run longer. Here's a little secret about running world: while all runners are nice, the longer the distance the more people are comrades and friendly while the shorter distances - the sprints, can be pure competition. Unless you are an elite runner (and if you are, you probably don't need this book) most people are cheering you on just for being in the marathon. They aren't going to give you a hard time about your speed. So come on! Come on out and run :)
1,444 reviews36 followers
May 4, 2018
Quite a good book. Informative, detailed, actionable, and often quite funny.

Published in the early aughts, the book contains two bits of outdated info that I caught: smartwatches weren’t around yet when they wrote, and, contrary to their suggestion to stay away from heat (hot showers, heating pads, jacuzzis) after endurance events, I’m reading interesting things these days about heat actually being good for recovery.

But, really, this is a lovely, informative, generous book meant for new endurance walkers and runners or especially middle- and back-of-the-packers of any experience level.

The book offers an array of training plans from walking a half marathon to running a full and just about everything in between, relying on perceived exertion, heart rate, and time run; long runs are still done by mileage. NOTE THAT I HAVE NOT TRAINED USING THEIR PROGRAM AND SO CAN’T SPEAK TO ITS EFFICACY.

Quite a bit of time is given over to the psychological side of becoming an athlete, which I though was particularly well handled—specifically, setting reasonable training goals, managing race expectations, and adjusting to life postrace.

A fantastic book for any runner.
October 7, 2019

We are planning on doing a half marathon next year nd bought this book. It gives advice on many things to do and what not to do. I've done other types of endurance events and can now understand why I was getting injured and hurting myself with poor training techniques. Excellent advice and examples. A real motivator at the end. I will probably re-read the last chapters again right before the event.
March 25, 2020
This book was very informative for someone who has an interest or desire to run long distance. I really enjoyed the authors personal stories and their honesty about their successes and failures. Very encouraging book. I do wish there was a bit more on nutrition during training, but otherwise very good read.
Profile Image for Nicholas.
136 reviews1 follower
July 4, 2020
This is a great book for anyone wanting to start out with distance running and encouragement that anyone can do it. The book covers many topics that someone would normally have to figure out for themselves. The biggest issue with the book is that it covers such a large time span in someone life that it’s almost something that you’d have to read piecemeal or repeat parts.
Profile Image for Tiffany Tubville.
131 reviews
January 30, 2020
Encouraging book for runners. I’ve done half-marathons but have been afraid to try the full 26 miles. However, with the different training programs given I think I could do it with the run/walk option. Good advice given for gear, nutrition, avoiding injury, cross-training, and race day prep.
Profile Image for Chad E Spilman.
265 reviews2 followers
July 7, 2021
I read this when I was getting into running and I wanted to be a better, stronger runner. It helped me strategize through the miles. I'm much less of a runner these days, but I'm much more informed of how my body reacts to exercise and running.
Profile Image for Jeanne.
507 reviews42 followers
July 30, 2021
This was a fun book that helped me finish my first marathon.
I have done 13 or so marathons now (I have sort of forgotten the count - LOL)
and hundreds of shorter races. This is a good read for non-athletic types who WANT to run longer distance events. Motivational and fun.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 163 reviews

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