Saturday, May 30, 2009

Marathon Training: A Different Approach

A good friend of mine (Dena) asked me the other day if I had ever posted on the Furman marathon training program. I'm so glad she asked, and I'm so surprised at myself for not having written about the Furman approach to marathon training sooner. I even have a copy of the book about the program Runner's World Run Less Run Faster signed by Ray Moss one of the authors. His inscription reads, "Train hard for life and win all your races." Now that's a good mantra! I'm even considering the Furman method for my Marine Corps Marathon training which will start in July. Funny how something can be so close that it could bite you and you're still unaware, so thank you Dena for reminding me!

In the forward for Run Less Run Faster, Runner's World executive editor, Amby Burfoot, talks about the time-stressed lives we lead and how that affects the goal of all runners: "to run the best we can with the limited amount of time at our disposal." Burfoot goes on to say that Bill Pierce, Scott Murr, and Ray Moss (all colleagues at Furman University in Greenville, South Carolina) have developed a proven, efficient marathon training system—FIRST (Furman Institute of Running and Scientific Training) also known as the 3Plus2 Training Program.

The key to FIRST is less running. Don't be fooled into thinking that less means easy. In this case, less means more. Not more miles, but instead, more focused and intense workouts. It sounds odd but runners using the Furman approach train less and 16 weeks later they're running faster. A couple of my running buddies (Less and Fred) have used FIRST and stand by the program. They both agree, though, that the program is not easy and the workouts are hard, but that the program works.

So enough lauding of FIRST; how does it work? Well first of all there's a different philosophy that's the basis of the plan. The plan places quality over quantity, intensity over frequency, and fast running over accumulated mileage. Nitty-gritty-wise, the plan consists of three quality runs each week and two cross-training workouts. The three runs are comprised of a speed workout (track repeats), a tempo run, and a long run. The three workouts work together to improve endurance, lactate-threshold running pace, and speed. Also, FIRST differs from most other plans in that it has you running the longer runs at a faster pace. This helps prepare runners for both the physical and mental challenge of a 26.2-mile race.

The plan is meticulously laid out in the book Run Less Run Faster. The authors have managed, however, to present the information in a very user-friendly manner. The three weekly workouts are based on the runner's current running level (this is all detailed in the book). The other great thing about the book is that it provides training plans for all 16 Boston qualifying times. Need to run a 3:10 to qualify for Boston? There's a plan for you. Need to run a 3:3o (that's me)? There's a plan for you. There are separate training plans for men and women.

I'll keep you posted on my training and let you know how it's going. I think my friend Dena is going to use the Furman plan too. Wish us luck!!

27 comments:

Sheila said...

I hope you enjoy this program. I've used it to train for my last two marathons: L.A. 2008 and Boston 2009. It helped me get a qualifying time for Boston when I ran L.A. I'm using it now to train for a 5K PR. I really like the format of the book and the training schedules.

Recently I was on the RunnersWorld.com forums, though, and someone asked about this program. They got mixed feedback and then someone else groaned that it must be time for the monthly FIRST thread (or is it FURST?). Anyhow, apparently some people who've tried it didn't like it. But for me it was great.

RunnerDude said...

Hey Sheila! Awesome! First-hand experience! Yep, I've heard some complain too. Think it has to do with the intensity of the workouts, but hey, that's what you sign up for if you do the plan. The book calls if FIRST. Stands for Firman Institute of Running and Scientific Training. Guess some may use FURST for Firman University....? Thanks for sharing your experience with the program. I'm excited to get started now!

Dena said...

Thanks for blogging about this, Thad. I feel more confident in the plan knowing you may use it. I'm going to borrow the book from a friend this weekend. I have some questions on the cross-training days. For example, is a trail run allowed? I'd really hate to give up my trail runs but they wouldn't meet the threshold for any of the 3 main runs. Also, must cross-training days still be aerobic or does strength training and/or yoga count?

HEATHER said...

I had heard so much about the FIRST program that I did buy this book. I'm about to start this plan in two weeks, I'm trying to BQ at the Baltimore marathon in October. I really hope to get the same results I've heard from everyone else!

Amanda said...

I have only run a few halfs so far, but am going to be running my first full in November and am still looking at different plans. I like running fewer days a week, I feel like I run a much higher risk of getting injured if I'm running 5 or more days a week. I am definitely going to get this book! Do you think it would be an appropriate way to train for my first marathon?

DP_Turtle said...

I read "Run Less, Run Faster" over the winter and couldn't wait for spring to start the FIRST program. I'm 2 weeks into it now and am diggin' it so far. It's definitely challenging, but the 3 days of running per week are good for my 47-year-old body.

I've blogged about 2 of my workouts so far. (Links below). RunnerDude, how about you blog yours too? It would be fun to compare our notes along the way.

http://www.turtlesagainstcancer.com/2009/05/the-first-first-run/

and

http://www.turtlesagainstcancer.com/2009/05/first-speed-session/ (I will say my second speed session was a breeze compared to the first one!)

RunnerDude said...

Hey Dena!According to the book, it wants you to choose cross-training activitite that "complement your running." What that means is you need some good cardio but that gives your runnig muscles a break.It also says these are non-weigt-bearing activities. So, sounds like trail running wouldn't count. You could probably still do your strenght training and your yoga but it wouldn't count as your cross-training. You could do somthing like 30-45 minutes of the elliptical and then do some strenght training. Hope this helps. When you get the book it will explain it better.

RunnerDude said...

Hey Heather! We'll have to keep each other posted on our progress with the program. I'm looking forward to getting started. I ran Baltimore a few years back. Great race!

RunnerDude said...

Hey Amanda! Chapter 3 in the book is devoted to the New Runner. You're not a new runner, just new to marathons. They recommend new runners have a strong base before starting the program. Sounds like you'll be fine with the program.

RunnerDude said...

Hey DP Turtle! Glad to hear you're digging the program! Checked out yor sites. Pretty cool! Look forward to following your progress!

Mel-2nd Chances said...

once i finally get the go ahead to start running again, this is what I was looking to use for training, since it's apparent that my body doesn't like this 5day/week running. i have no outstanding time goals, and will never be fast enough to qualify for Boston... I'd be happy just to keep my body injury free to continue running... so while I've heard that this plan is tough, I still think my body will appreciate it more. My chiro trained for and successfully completed 4 marathons using this plan :)

Paul and Beth said...

A nice review, I might look this book up. I'm certainly very time poor, but for some strange reason want to run further. I've started track runs, they're over quicker and hurt more... but i can see the difference already!

Jo Lynn said...

A fellow blogger is using this book's program. She says the workouts are kicking her butt! Good luck with it. ;)

acey said...

anyone have any luck finding this in a public library?

thad, i just saw a pic of ben and lucy on your page! ben told me about your blog in the first place but I think I'd forgotten yall knew each other!

were you running on the greenway this morning by chance?

RunnerDude said...

Hey Mel! Hope you get that go-ahead soon! I think this is a good plan for you, but just ease into it. No matter what plan you try you need to come back slowly. You'll be back to running like normal.

RunnerDude said...

Hey Paul and Beth! Yep, those track workouts are killer but they really make a difference. In '07 I was really good about doing a weekly track workout and had some of my best 5K times and it helped my endurance in distance runs. Last yeat I didn't do as much speed work and I could really tell it. So back comes the speed work for '09!

RunnerDude said...

Thanks Jo Lynn!

RunnerDude said...

Hey Acey! Yep I know Ben and Lucy. both are good guys. Well, Lucy's a gal, but you know what I mean. LOL! Yep, ran on the Greenway this morning. Probably passed you and didn't even know it. Next time trip me or something and say Hi! LOL! We run every Saturday morning at 7:30 for an 11-miler. Next Saturday I won't be there though, I'm running the Hickory Half Marathon. Hope to meet you soon!

robison52 said...

I had tried the "Run Less Run Faster" program for my training of the 2008 Boston Marathon, but doubt I'll use it again...Why? Because I love to run too much and really don't care for the crosstraining. I'd rather run more as that is my strong suit.

RunnerDude said...

Hey Robison52! Hey, I know what you mean. I'm a runner through and through too, but I'm going to give it a try. Wanting to qualify for Boston. Hoping this method will get me there! Happy running man!

Dena said...

(Not the Dena you're referring to in the post) I'm training for sprint triathlons this summer but was struggling to figure out how to train for an early fall half marathon at the same time. I will definitely have to check out this book. It sounds like the two training plans are compatible.

RunnerDude said...

Hey Dena! (the other Dena, LOL!) Welcome to the blog!! Yep, I think you can easily adapt FIRST to what you want. I've not done sprint triathlons yet, but hope to one day. I'm running the Hickory Half Marathon in Hickory, NC next weekend. Just found out that miles 4-9 are uphill. Yippee!!!

NoMeatAthlete said...

This is the program (modified) that I am using to qualify for Boston in the fall. I love the idea behind it, but I must say that I got injured (IT band) using this program before, and I'm just recently recovered.

The point is to avoid injury by running less. But I found that I really missed the easy runs in between workouts that I had been accustomed to. Somehow I feel like they really help my body get itself back into balance after workouts. This time, I'll do 1-2 of these easy runs instead of the cross-training FIRST recommends.

RunnerDude said...

Hey NoMeatAthlete! Good point! I think you always have to use any plan as a base and then make modification based on your own needs. Hope we both make it to Boston!!!

acey said...

saturday morning, did you ask a girl with an nc marathon hat on if she ran the race? or were you with a guy that did?

we gotta get ben back out there...i was going to come run with you guys if he had come.

RunnerDude said...

Hey Acey! Nah, that wasn't me. I was out there, but don't recall that. I did meet someone who has been reading the blog, Julie. She runs with Janes on the Run and she came over and introduced herself and said hi. Funny how small the world is!

Kalani said...

Hi runnerdude,
I'm a "lurker" from another site, but I've found some really interesting and helpful things on your blog! Love the Core workout exercises!
Also, I've never heard of this FIRST training, but it looks promising. I've ran several 1/2's, and two fulls, after taking time off to have my son, I trained for the Gasparilla marathon, but got injured during training (IT bands in both knees) and couldn't run it. Now, my knees are all healed, I'm working on my strength training and I've started training for the Marine Corps marathon coming up in October. What I found most interesting about the FIRST method is that I actually graduated from Furman and never heard of it! Of course, I was NOT a runner in college!
Now, I actually use galloway method on my long runs.
Anyway, thanks for sharing the info on the FIRST training and keep us posted on your progress!
Good luck!
Kalani

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