The following is not meant to be a comprehensive view on training for the marathon by Cerutty. Instead, it is intended to provide a few insights into ways of preparing for a marathon.
Cerutty believed that the marathon was not to be taken lightly as far too many runners do today. It is no surprise that he did not hold to a --'to finish is to win' mentality.I would quickly add here that thousands of people are being done no favors when they are led to believe that they can go from zero to marathon in 6 to 8 months. I often wonder how many people give up running after trying to run a marathon before they are ready. In fairness to them, there are lots of running 'experts' out there who teach that you can run a marathon by following what basically amounts to a 'crash' course.
The great Greta Waitz said it best decades ago--"Many of those who attempt a marathon would do better if they ran a 10k instead."
Cerutty was less diplomatic when he said this--"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." Ouch! I say this, I give credit to all who attempt the marathon, prepared or not, but, I hold to the school of thought that racing this distance should come after years of training and many miles under your legs. I've seen lots of people short circuit successful running careers at other shorter distances by getting into the marathon too soon.
Cerutty believed that a newcomer to the marathon should work towards covering the full marathon distance in training. I know that for years the staple of marathon training was the weekly 20 miler. Personally, as I look back, this didn't really work for me. I say this because the last 2 or 3 miles of the marathons I raced with this kind of training we're quite painful, to say the least. It was when I ran for 'time out on my feet' as Arthur Lydiard used to say, that things greatly improved for me in the marathon. Adding a few 3 to 3 1/2 hour runs were the key. I would quickly add that those workouts did involve some walking breaks.
Cerutty offered another suggestion for newcomers and that involved hard mountain walking of up to 30 miles to supplement their early training. It is also no surprise that he recommended gymnastic work and weight training. It's all about building mental, muscular, and overall body strength. Doing this type of preparatory strength work greatly work reduces the likelihood of getting the injuries that are all too common in marathoners.
Cerutty was also against training on blacktop or concrete. He correctly noted that doing so made a runner more prone to injury. I am well into my 5th decade of running injury free because of the fact that towards the middle of the 1980's I started training exclusively on dirt roads,trails,in parks and on hard packed sand. It's a sad fact that as you get older you will notice, as I have, friends leaving the sport because their legs, knees and backs could no longer take the pounding on these hard, unforgiving surfaces.
Coming in a few days, pt. 2 of Training With Cerutty, The Marathon. It will offer some specifics on marathon preparation.