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Relentless Forward Progress - Bryon Powell book review

04-Jul-16

Last updated: 24-Oct-18

By James Eacott

I bought Relentless Forward Progress early in my ultra running days. I’d “run” (read: walked / hobbled / crawled / cried) my way across the Atacama on my first ultra and returned to the UK realising that I needed to add some sort of structure to my training if future events weren’t to follow a similar painful path. I couldn’t justify the cost of a coach so went on the hunt for a book. It didn’t take long to come across Relentless Forward Progress, and I’m chuffed I bought it.

Who wrote it

Bryon Powell, Runner in Chief at iRunFar. He’s been running for 20+ years and has contributed over 1,000 articles to his website since 2007, along with many other publications. Basically, he knows what he’s talking about.

What’s in it

Most seem to buy this book for the comprehensive training plans, with good reason. They are numerous, detailed and easy to follow. With 24-week plans for 50km, 40 miles, 100km, 100 miles, there’s something for everyone. Not only that, but there are variations of each plan based on running up to 50 or 70 miles per week, so you can gauge which one will best fit your life.

Understanding that few ultra runners will follow a plan mindlessly with no understanding of why they’re doing a particular session, other chapters in the book cover topics such as:

  • Basic training definition
  • Training methods
  • Body Management
  • Kit choices
  • Race Pacing
  • Running in Extreme Environments
  • Nutrition and hydration

PROS

Detailed training plans including a range of sessions (which I think all ultra runners need to embrace more) from speed work, track sessions, tempo runs, back to backs, double days, long slow runs and strength and conditioning.

Explanation of different types of training zones and what benefits working in each will bring.
The book’s balance: for example, two pro ultra runners debate the usefulness (or lack thereof) of using speed work in ultra training.

Input from pro ultra runners and what works for them.

Very readable – easy to dip into any chapter.

That it’s genuinely useful to almost every ultra runner regardless of experience.

CONS

For those who like super-high volume (90+ mpw) there isn’t a training plan for you.

The paper quality is a bit rough (yes, it’s that hard to think of something I didn’t like!)

Summary

What stands this book out from the crowd is its appeal to both beginner and experienced ultra runners. I guess professionals wouldn’t get much from it, but for us mere mortals I guarantee you’ll gain something from this book…probably an awful lot, and your enjoyment of the sport will grow.

 

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“Most seem to buy this book for the comprehensive training plans, with good reason”

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