Friday, August 19, 2005

The World of Marathons

Friday, August 19, 2005
Sandy Treadwell's book "The World of Marathons" tries to capture exactly what the reader would expect from the title: the emergence of major marathons all across the globe. While there are blurbs on the back cover from elite marathoners and a forward by Fred Lebow (race director of the NYC Marathon), the coverage of each marathon is not necessarily from the elite perspective, but rather a bit from a mid-packers. How exactly a mid-packer is defined is up to interpretation, but the focus of this book is not for a Bill Rodgers (though he did blurb the book), or, to use a more modern example, a Deana Kastor or Paula Radcliffe.

"The World of Marathons" gives a moderately detailed description of worldwide marathons. Each marathon gets its own small chapter, which includes a couple of color photographs, a course map, and race details, as well as text which covers a little bit of the race history and what the particular marathon is like. The text covers details such as crowd support, things eccentric to that marathon (free beer at one), and attempts to give a sense of the marathon. Some marathons included are: NYC, Chicago, London, Paris, Venice, Moscow, and others (including an African marathon, I believe). In general, this book only covers the big, major marathons in various countries and while some of the marathons may be rather small they are important for the country and gives a sense of how other parts of the world are trying to organize a marathon.

The primary drawback to this book is simply its age. Published in 1987, much of the information is out of date. If I was planning a trip to a foreign marathon right now, I could not trust the information included in this book. What is the Stockholm Marathon isn't run anymore? What if the organization is now poor, or that the field has shrunk by several thousand? The book just feels very dated.

On one hand this is a fairly interesting book and it gives a nice overview of some marathons across the world as well as some inside America, but on the other hand the book tries to give the impression that it is topical and has up to date information. At one point it did, but it has been nearly twenty years since publication. An American marathon hopeful will also not likely find this book very helpful because the focus is mostly on foreign marathons.

I can't really recommend this book because while it does give a nice overview of worldwide marathons, the information is twenty years old and many things about any one (or more) of the marathons may have changed and some may even no longer be running. It is a coffee table sized book and in that respect the book is okay. Just don't go into it looking for current information.


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