FIRST: less means faster

I plan to run the Quad Cities half-marathon Sept 27, and once again I am training using the FIRST approach. That’s Furman Institute for Running and Scientific Training, whose method was popularized by a Runner’s World article which later became a book, Run Less, Run Faster. My goal this year is modest, given that I’m about 15 months past an Achilles injury that kept me off the road for almost two months: finish under two hours, and don’t get hurt doing something stupid while training.

“Run less, run faster” probably appeals to every runner. Now read it as, “To run less, you gotta run faster.” Still interested? Here’s more about the program and the book as well.

FIRST training uses a 3+2 pattern: three runs and two cross-training sessions per week. One session of speed work, one tempo run, and one long run. Cross-training can be swimming, biking, or other cardio. The program is 16 weeks long with a two-week taper. You pick a race pace based on a recent race result, and different runs are 20, 30, or 60 seconds faster or slower than that pace. Not unusual, when you compare it to other training programs (Higdon, etc). The speed, however, is unusual, and it’s what makes FIRST demanding. For example, this week speed work was 10 400m intervals. Last week, I ran three 2K intervals. Running those long stretches at a fast, sustained pace is a challenge. I find the tempo runs even more difficult: “hard but controlled,” as FIRST describes it. Given that my partner Doug and I usually run Tuesday, Thursday, and Sunday, the tempo is also challenging because of the cross-training: tempo runs come at the end of a three- or four-day stint of exercise. Not a big deal? It can be, that last mile or two.

FIRST is also unusual because weekly mileage is low compared to other plans. (That’s less true for the half-marathon training than the marathon.) A typical week is only 25 miles, maybe 30, including warmup and cooldown periods. Sometimes I miss all the running associated with marathon training. But I’m not sure I can handle another marathon. And frankly I don’t miss those 20 mile runs much at all. Mixing it up is better for me: biking helps conditioning in ways running doesn’t. Swimming is even better, though I haven’t been in the pool enough this year. I have had trouble doing 3+2 every week, as my exercise journal shows, but I’ve only missed one run, a ten-mile long run while we were in Michigan. The bike trainer has helped; I just get on it and go, no prep needed.

After the QC half, Doug and I plan to run a 10K on the track, then use that result to start another 16 week cycle. At that point I’m going to re-read Run Less, Run Faster and take another shot at hitting all the workouts in a 16-week plan. Then it will really be time to see what FIRST can do for me.

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One Response to FIRST: less means faster

  1. cbd says:

    Long run today 15 miles 2:12:00, even split, half-marathon in 1:55:10 (8:47/mi). Cold at start, warmed up at 4mi, pretty hard wind on way back. No soreness until 12.5mi.

    So, 46 miles of running in the past week. That’s the most in a long time. Now begins my taper down to the race.

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