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T D Noakes. Human Kinetics Europe, 2003, £17.95, pp 944. ISBN 0873229592
What are your favourite books of all time? Which books have changed your life? Many people include Lore of running among the answers to those questions. Approaching the 20 year anniversary of the genesis of this “runner’s bible”, Tim Noakes has released the extremely comprehensive, yet very practical 4th edition.
Unlike J K Rowling, who dices her adolescent psychology and astral physiology research into seven books and four movies, T D Noakes provides his reader with the equivalent of four substantial books within the covers of this 1277 page tome. Firstly, Lore is a fascinating historical biography of runners and running. The running reader loves to know the secrets of the champion’s mind and motor, and Lore provides almost 200 pages of unique insights into the Who’s Who of running, including Deerfoot (1861), Paavo Nurmi, Arthur Newton, Emil Zatopek, Jim Peters, Kip Keino, Bruce Fordyce, Grete Waitz, Robert De Castella, Carlos Lopes, Frank Shorter, to list just some. Noakes provides enough detail to satisfy the most diligent of trainers, yet weaves the psychological and personal insights with the training details to craft a fascinating tapestry. This part alone (Chapter 6, Learning from the experts) is worth the price of the book and is a substantial expansion and update from its popular predecessors in earlier editions of Lore.
Next,Lore provides up to date exercise related physiology and biochemistry in a manner that is understandable by those with, and without, training in the formal biological sciences. This has always made Lore unique among “running” books (it is so much more than that alone!). A particular feature of this edition is the quality of the artwork that explains the science, and the very useful case histories of how athletes have had their problems solved by sports science. In this part, an exercise physiologist outlines, for the first time, the dominant role played by the brain in determining performance in any form of physical activity.
The importance of this new model is illustrated in what I consider the 3rd book within Lore—a practical guide to training for and racing over distances from 10 k to the ultramarathon. When a patient presented asking my advice for the “Marathon of the sands” (a 7 day 150 mile race across the Sahara desert in Morocco, http://web.outsideonline.com/system/tv/mds99/), I dithered between making a psychiatric referral and lending my personal copy of Lore. It seems that the latter sufficed—an extremely happy (but thin, with big blistered feet) borrower returned the book saying it had been a crucial factor in his success. Where else does one find over 50 pages with eight different detailed training schedules dedicated to ultramarathon alone? Noakes himself acknowledges having run over 70 marathons, but given that this count credits each 92 km Comrades marathon as just one, his personal marathon experience is over 100. This, combined with his access to leading athletes and South Africa’s tradition in endurance events, explains why Lore provides unique insight for the distance minded runner.
Finally, and importantly, Lore is a practical sports medicine book with almost 300 pages devoted to the role of ergogenic aids, tips on staying healthy, and discussion of the benefits and hazards of running. This section includes a self help approach to treating injuries, discussion of the most common injuries, and cutting edge research both from Noakes’ own laboratory—for example, exercise associated collapse, avoiding water intoxication—and that of others whose work affects runners’ health.
Those who have been fortunate enough to attend Noakes’ (the Michael Moore of sports medicine (www.michaelmoore.com) international conference presentations will be aware of his attention to detail and aesthetics, and this book mirrors that care. From the historical black and white prints of runners such as Nurmi to the clear, extremely informative figures, every page is an invitation.
Examples of boxed panels that will capture the curiosity of many include “the 15 laws of training”, “animals with great athletic ability”, “physiological explanations for the superior distance running ability of black africans”. The section discussing Sir Roger Bannister’s mental approach is compulsory reading. Also, Lore has international appeal—it is for runners whether they live in Aachen or Zyryanovo or any place between.
If you enjoyed a previous edition of Lore (as I have), you must see this 4th edition with its wonderfully expanded minibiographies, detailed schedules to help you with training and racing, and the exposition of crucial scientific data that have lain unexplored for 75 years. You are unlikely to need much convincing.
If you are new to Lore, but a runner, or friends with a runner, please take my advice to examine this masterpiece. You will be very pleased you did. Lore will add to your joy of running. This edition will again enhance the lives of many readers. I have presented copies to several close friends and graduating scientists and clinicians and I know they treasure it, as I do.