A couple weeks back I was browsing the running section at the book store and stumbled across Matt Fitzgerald's RUN: The Mind-Body Method of Running by Feel. I really liked Racing Weight, so I figured to give this a try. Also, judging by the title and back cover I thought this might confirm a lot of what I've suspected about the "secrets" of improving your running.
As the title suggests RUN is about finding your own path to in training rather than trying to conform to standard training schedules and "rules of thumb" concerning distance running success. But this book is not for beginners.
Actually it can be for beginners, but I believe someone who has a couple years of training behind them will benefit most from this book. That's because (as Fitzgerald explains) your mind learns from experience. Over time you have positive results from workouts, schedules, rest periods and equipment that are all stored in your mind.
Tapping into that is the challenge, but eventually you get a sense of what works for you and what doesn't - often in the form of enjoyment. Fitzgerald goes into greater detail, so a very over-simplified way of thinking about it is, if you hate a workout (say, Tabata intervals or 800-meter repeats) maybe they don't work for you. Now, you could take this to the extreme and say "I don't like long runs, so I don't need them for my marathon training." Which is ludicrous and not the point. The point is some workouts work for you and others don't. And what works for you might not for me.
A while back I compared the training strategies of Dean Karnazes and Anton Krupicka. They have two very different approaches to training, but ultimately the end is (essentially) the same. They are also at very different points in their running careers and have had very different histories with the sport of running. And that's why their strategies, while very different still both work. Ultimately the challenge is finding the strategy that works for you, and chances are you're not going to find it in the pages of Runner's World, on Hal Higdon's website
or on the shelves of Barnes and Noble.
While all those things I just mentioned are excellent resources to help guide you ultimately, you have to find your own way. You will still use training plans and traditional workouts as guides, but what works for you has to come from your own experience and RUN helps you find your way there.