When I first started running just after the turn of the century (haha) I sought out some experts and tried to leverage their knowledge as best I could. That meant using the Hal Higdon (awesome running coach) Novice Marathon program, reading message boards that focus on training, and finding some locals who gave me good advice based on years of experience (“If we’re running so fast we can’t talk, we’re running too fast.”)
Around the same time, some guys at Furman University were starting to do some research on running based on science. I know…the horror! At FIRST (Furman Institute of Running and Scientific Training), what they learned flew in the face of the observed conventional wisdom coaches had been passing along for years. The result was a program featuring only three days of running a week.
Ah…there’s something worth noting there. It’s not a three days of exercise program. It’s a three days of running program. The program has at least two other days of cross-training. And the three days of running are all difficult–intervals one day, tempo runs another, and a long-distance day that doesn’t let you go as slow as you want. It’s slower for sure, but still challenging.
No easy running days.
Personally, I’m not short changing the conventional wisdom at all. I followed the Higdon programs for many distances and was very happy with my results. These programs will get you where you want to be, for sure. My only real complaints with them are the number of days I have to spend running , which really takes its toll on my knees, and the fact that there are a lot of slow/easy miles involved, which is against my natural tendency is to try to race every day. Granted, it takes some restraint on my part to run these miles without going hard, and there are some valuable lessons to be learned there about patience and restraint that can really help on race day. I haven’t learned those lessons as well as I’d like, but I know the lessons are there.
But this weekend I grabbed a copy of Run Less, Run Faster at the library and gave it a really quick scan. It looks like a really thick book, but lots of the pages are calculated pace tables, so only a small part of that material will apply to any one person. I’d read the Runner’s World article about FIRST a few years ago, so I was already familiar with the basic concepts and reasoning laid out in the book.
I was a little disappointed that the marathon programs in the book start with a 13 mile run on week one and feature five 20 mile runs. That’s probably a great program if you’re coming into the training in marathon shape, but I was looking for a beginners/not-quite-ready-for-marathon version. A web search turned up this schedule, which seems like it was part of the FIRST program…I’m just not sure why it’s not in the book.
Right now I’m working on getting ready for a 10k test in mid-July to determine what my predicted marathon pace will be and hopefully squeeze every second I can out of my finish time. This is so I can go into my next 70.3 with the best running base possible and fix what’s ailing me there. This, so I can (hopefully) convince myself I’m ready to tackle the 140.6 distance. Lots of miles ahead of me.