What I Miss about “Old School” Marathon Training

But I’m glad that running continues to evolve; it’s a good thing.

Merre Larkin


Boston Marathon medals
Boston Marathon medals from 2009 and 2010 (photo by author)

I feel like I started training for marathons in the Dark Ages. To be fair, I didn’t. Yet I did race my first marathon in 2003, twenty years ago this October.

How training used to be and how it’s changed

Music to your ears

Photo by Ben Szymanski on Unsplash

I didn’t have an MP3 player. No iPod. (I had a little flip phone that I barely used back in 2003.)

I’d be slogging away in who knows what kind of Pennsylvania weather, with no music. Can you imagine?

We’ve moved far beyond iPods. We take our phones!

Admittedly, it’s great. I love having music now. I can design a playlist to go with the pace of my training run. It can be motivating and inspirational. I can slow myself down for an easy or recovery run, or I can rev myself up for speed work.

Music can also be like mindfulness. It can keep your mind off those training runs that feel grueling and add to the fun of those that are going well.

When I started doing marathons, MP3 players and anything on your ears were explicitly prohibited at races. I don’t know when that changed, but most people I see — like me — have their ear gear firmly in place at the start.

How-to guides

Hal Higdon’s marathon guide
Photo by author (my weathered guide)

When I started doing marathons, there were some good how-to books for running a marathon but not a ton of them. Super helpful. Hal Higdon’s was my favorite and still my go-to even though the amount of how-to marathon guides now is off the charts.

Today, you can sign up for any number of email newsletters about running and training. You can even hire a coach.

There are new technical terms to learn. I still don’t know the significance of all of them. There’s VO2…



Merre Larkin

Writer. Life coach. Educator. Marathoner. Survivor. Avid reader. Here to share, here to learn.