Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Gear Review: Faster than Forty

I first heard about Faster than Forty by Mark Gomes and Rick Miller through the LetsRun message boards. Gomes is the 2011 USATF Masters National 800m Champion, and had been brought up on the board once before, in a post about his "NO RUNNING" program that led him to a 4:38 mile at 41 years old. (Don't worry, Faster than Forty is not about the "NO RUNNING" regimen...that came later and is hinted at briefly in the epilogue, but that's it). I checked out the excerpt on their website and found myself intrigued. So, ladies and gentlemen, without further ado, here's the Faster than Forty review!

Faster than Forty is the story of Mark Gomes, a former high school phenom and collegiate star (who may not have quite reached his potential in college), who made it his goal to win the USATF Masters National Championship 800m run. What started as a simple email among friends that proposed the idea of competing in the USA Masters Track and Field Championship soon turned into a challenge for Gomes to transform himself from a sedentary middle-aged man to one of the top masters middle distance runners in the nation. In his book, Gomes relates his experience to the readers, and also imparts some tips based on his own training.

Gomes opens each chapter with anecdotes about his running, often about his and his teammates' antics as collegiate runners. For me, this was the highlight of the book. These short stories are well-written and compelling, and I found myself constantly looking forward to reaching the next chapter so I'd hit the next story. I was tempted to go through and read them all first, and then go back and read the rest of the book, but each anecdote somehow relates to the chapter that follows, whether it imparts some type of moral or is just a related lead-in. Anyone who ran in college (or even high school) will be able to relate to these stories, and they will undoubtedly bring a smile to your face.

For those of you who are used to books like Hansons Marathon Method and Daniels Running Formula, you will certainly find Faster than Forty to be a change of pace. Gomes is not an exercise physiologist, and he takes a decidedly less scientific approach to his training. When Gomes is looking for training advice, he turns to Google, and his citations are often strings for Google searches. The scientists among you will probably want a little more evidence than the decidedly un-scientific Google searches and websites, but for people who are happier reading advice from someone who comes off as your average layman who figured out what works and what doesn't through trial and error, experience, and Google searches, and for people who want to avoid the scientific mumbo-jumbo and just want a to-the-point "here's what worked for me," Gomes is your man. At times, I felt like I was reading posts from one of the more intelligent and informed posters on LetsRun, one who had achieved success and was eager to help others reach their potential, but whose writing didn't read like a physiology textbook.

Gomes emphasizes "smart" training, keeping his volume and intensity in check in order to manage any aches and pains that crop up, including a foot injury that nags him throughout the book. He trains every day in his three year build-up, though he utilizes a lot of cross-training, calculating an appropriate "equivalent mileage" for his body and training. While this sort of advice is useful for any injury-prone athlete, it's especially important for masters runners, who are learning to manage a body that doesn't recover quite as quickly as it did when they were 18 years old. There's also some information on nutrition, as Gomes shed quite a few pounds in his transformation from slightly overweight middle-aged man to fast and fit forty-year-old.

Gomes' running log is also included in the book. Interesting to see what he did, and I'm glad he included it, though like most training logs, it's not super riveting reading.

Faster than Forty is a big hardcover with a cool picture of a well-worn pair of Nike Zoom Lanang STs on it. While there are no color illustrations (and the black and white pictures are few and far between), Faster than Forty screams "coffee table book," though to be fair, the only people who'd get a kick out of picking it up and looking at it for a few minutes are training log fanatics. Still, if I had a family room with a coffee table rather than a dormroom with a desk, this is what I would put there.

Faster than Forty is geared towards the competitive masters runner, but has information that can be useful for runners of all ages and skill levels. It's not the most scientific book out there, but that doesn't render the information any less valuable or interesting. Gomes' stories about his running experiences and his race recaps are a pleasure to read, and do a good job of supplementing the training advice and breaking up the "here's how to train" parts of the book.

Faster than Forty retails for $24.99 and is available on Amazon.

Full disclosure: I received Faster than Forty free of charge in exchange for a review. I do not have any affiliation with Faster than Forty or its authors. The opinions expressed in this review are mine and based on my experience, and do not reflect the opinions of Mark Gomes, Rick Miller, or anyone else.

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