By Jonathan Gault
January 28, 2019
In Chapter 1 of Inside a Marathon, Scott Fauble jokes that “no one really wants to document the trials and tribulations of a straight, white, male from an upper-middle class background.”
Broadly speaking, that is true. But Inside a Marathon: An All-Access Pass to a Top-10 Finish at NYC — a 304-page training log/journal documenting Fauble’s buildup for the 2018 New York City Marathon — is not geared for the masses. It is geared toward the hardcore running fan, the person who, even if they can’t quite relate to grinding out 110+ miles per week and running 2:12 in New York, can at least appreciate the effort it takes to do so.
Fauble is a good runner who ran a good race (7th overall, 2nd American) in New York, but there’s nothing unique about the buildup or the race itself. Fauble doesn’t overcome any major adversity. Instead, the book’s appeal lies in its absolute transparency — every run, every workout, the results of every blood test, all laid bare with unvarnished commentary from both Fauble and his coach at HOKA ONE ONE Northern Arizona Elite, Ben Rosario.
If that is a concept that intrigues you, then pick up a copy, because Inside a Marathon is executed beautifully. Each chapter represents one week of training, beginning with Fauble’s first week of workouts in late June and concluding with the race itself on November 4. And each chapter is structured the same way: a log of all running-related activities Fauble participated in that week (workouts, core, mobility, massage, etc.), followed by Rosario’s comments and, finally, Fauble’s comments (they wrote the comments at the end of the week and did not share their halves of the book with each other until after the project was completely written in order to not influence what the other was writing — a smart idea). Interspersed between the chapters are over 150 color photos (including a whopping 44 in which Fauble is not wearing a shirt), most of them full-page shots that really pop given the book’s near coffee-table dimensions (8.5”x8.5”).
While it’s commendable that Rosario is willing to share his workouts for this book, that is not a new development — all NAZ Elite athletes’ training logs are already available to the public on Final Surge. What is rare, however, is the insight Rosario provides into the mind of a coach. We see his obsessiveness when it comes to workouts, debating whether to bump the pace of a long run that won’t take place for another month by 10 seconds per mile. We see his adaptability — late in the segment, Rosario decides cancels a key workout, and we get a first-hand look at the thought process behind that decision. And, more than anything, we feel Rosario’s dedication to his athletes, whether it’s waking up in the middle of the night to watch Fauble and his teammates race overseas, cramping up during the Chicago Marathon while cheering for Aaron Braun, or his description of the feeling that came over him during the NYC technical meeting, the one that told him Fauble was going to have a good day.
One of the book’s greatest strengths is its depiction of the coach-athlete relationship, and the trust that is necessary for it to flourish. Fauble and Rosario aren’t always on the same page — there are a few times when Fauble is actually hurting a lot more than he lets on — but they see eye-to-eye for the vast majority of the book, and it’s neat to explore their unspoken understanding.
For the final mile rep of a workout on August 25, Rosario told Fauble and training partners Scott Smith and Aaron Braun to run somewhere between 4:40 and 4:44. But he admits in the book, secretly, “I wanted that second mile to be even faster but again, I trust these guys and I didn’t want to set them up for failure.”
A few paragraphs later, we get Fauble’s take on it.
“Before the last rep, Ben said, ‘Keep it right there,’” Fauble writes. “But I got the feeling that he would have been okay with us really opening it up.”
Fauble wound up running 4:36.
What we learn is that, during a marathon buildup, both athlete and coach must navigate a delicate balance. The athlete must walk the fine line between pushing his body hard enough to develop the endurance necessary to race 26.2 miles while not pushing so hard that he breaks down completely. The balance a coach must strike is less physically taxing, but still tricky: how to make adjustments or deliver a message when things aren’t going smoothly while maintaining the athlete’s trust and not damaging his confidence.
Another strength is Fauble’s vulnerability. He openly admits to battling anxiety, and repeatedly spells out his fears: that he is taking too long to get in shape, or that he has pushed his body too far and will not recover in time for the marathon. Even once Fauble concludes that he is in great shape, that brings its own problem: when you’re super fit, the pressure to deliver on race day is much higher. Fail, and it can feel as if you only have yourself to blame.
“It’s one thing to stand on a start line after an average build-up,” Fauble writes. “You might have high hopes, but you also probably know that you might not be good enough on the day. Conversely, when you’re checking all the boxes and surprising even yourself in workouts, excellence starts to feel like the only acceptable option. And excellence is hard.”
The book lives up to its title: Fauble and Rosario take us deeper inside a marathon than any other coach-athlete duo ever has. For the casual fan, all of those paces and splits might be overwhelming. But in our sport, there aren’t many “casual” fans. For the running junkie, it’s a treat. Four and a half stars out of five.
If you want to purchase the book, the only place you can get it is at insideamarathon.com, where you can get one (including a free autograph) for $28.00.