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Marathon Challenge Hero

Marathon Challenge

Explore what it takes—physically and mentally—for novice runners to make it through a classic test of endurance.
Runtime: 52:36Topic: Body + BrainBody & BrainNova

(Program not available for streaming.) Can anyone run a marathon? How do you run 26.2 miles if you have trouble making it around the block? With good coaching, discipline, and lots of group support, as NOVA shows when it follows 13 generally sedentary people through a training regimen designed to prepare them for an ultimate test of stamina and endurance. Produced in cooperation with the Boston Athletic Association®, which granted NOVA unprecedented access to the 111th Boston Marathon®, and Tufts University, "Marathon Challenge" takes viewers on a unique adventure inside the human body, tracking the physiological changes that exercise can bring about.

In addition to the Editors' Picks features at left, you can read in-depth interviews and see more video in Marathon Diaries from the original program website. Learn more about Team NOVA, get Ten Tips for Novice Runners, and hear the running wisdom of Uta Pippig.

More Ways to Watch

Roger Fielding, Daniel Lieberman, Don Megerle, Miriam Nelson, Uta Pippig, Malissa Wood


Boston Athletic Association
On the Boston Athletic Association's Web site, read about the founding of the Boston Marathon, browse race statistics from past years, view photographs of the event, and more.

NISMAT Exercise Physiology Corner: Maximum Oxygen Consumption Primer
The Nicholas Institute of Sports Medicine and Athletic Trauma provides this primer on determining a runner's maximum oxygen consumption, also referred to as VO 2 max.

Marathon History
Learn about marathon history on this Web page from the Association of International Marathons and Distance Races.


This detailed article describes numerous ways to test endurance, oxygen consumption, muscle strength, and other physiological features that determine a runner's total fitness.

Born to Run
Read about the biomechanics of running on this site from the American Museum of Natural History.

RunningUSA is a nonprofit organization that offers information and support for runners of all abilities. On its Web site, find tips for training, race statistics, national rankings, and more.

Take the Magic Step
On this page from elite runner Uta Pippig's Web site, find information on running health, nutrition, and training, as well as a special section for young aspiring athletes.


26 Miles to Boston: The Boston Marathon Experience From Hopkinton to Copley Square
by Michael Connelly. Forward by John Kelly, Bill Rodgers, and Uta Pippig. The Lyons Press, 2003.

26.2: Marathon Stories
by Kathrine Switzer and Roger Robinson. Rodale Books, 2006.

The Non-Runner's Marathon Trainer
by David Whitsett, Forrest Dolgener, and Tanjala Jo Kole. McGraw-Hill Publishing, 1998.

Marathon: You Can Do It!
by Jeff Galloway. Shelter Publications, 2001.

Sports Nutrition Guidebook
by Nancy Clark. Human Kinetics, 2003.

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Major funding for NOVA is provided by the David H. Koch Fund for Science, the NOVA Science Trust, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and PBS viewers.