Last August we published a three-day-a-week marathon-training program developed by researchers Bill Pierce and Scott Murr called the Furman Institute of Running and Scientific Training program, or FIRST plan. After 16 weeks on this no-frills program, 13 veteran marathoners improved on their most recent times by an average of almost 20 minutes at the December 2004 Kiawah Island Marathon in South Carolina.It was the August issue where the FIRST program was written about by Amby Burfoot.
Avid readers are aware I have been running the FIRST program since September 2005 and doing quite well with it. I took my 5K PR down twice since I started and in addition ran PR's on 2 courses, bettering the previous year's time by almost 2 minutes in both cases. My mileage this year has been averaging over 20 per week and over 7 per day. The speed/pace day (Tuesday), the tempo day (Thursday) and the distance day (usually Sunday) have combined to bring my fitness level to a point where I was in my 20's. (Note, regular readers may recall that I am in my 50's now.)
The Pacers switched the long run from Sunday to Saturday this week, in advance of the blizzard and it was a good thing they did so. This was my second run at 13 miles since 1978 (the first was last week). We ran the same time as last week but this one felt so much better. After ensuring the group at the back of the pack knew the course, I used Vine St to catch the front pack. It felt good to be able to pick up the pace and catch them. It felt even better to be able to stay with them for the remainder of the run. It felt still better to feel that if the push came to it, I could still have found another gear.
So the FIRST program works. If you have not looked at it closely, I would encourage you to do so.
Only three days to run per week?
Yes, but the days are quality runs.
What kind of mileage can you reach?
Look at the marathon plan, they peak at 32 miles in a single week and then look at the results!
What about the results?
13 marathons improve their times by 20 minutes and in the second test, 14 of 17 marathons run PR's.
But I need the longer mileage?
You think you do, but you would better without it!
Why is the program successful?
Let me ask you this: Have you ever seen a home without doors or windows?
Good, I did not think so. Did you ever get hurt from resting?
Good, I did not think so.
What is the secret?
The secret to the program is proper rest. A big house doesn't do you any good with out a door to get in or out, or windows to open and let in the light and breeze. So the logic goes with the FIRST program: The days you run, you run quality. The days you rest, you are better prepared to run quality the next time you lace your shoes.
So it comes down to your choice: high mileage, multiple days, with results that depend upon staying healthy or three days, quality mileage, results almost guaranteed. (Nothing is ever a guarantee, even if they say so... there is no such thing in life as a real guarantee!)
This issue of Runner's World has a half marathon plan according to the FIRST program.
I also crafted a 10K plan and a 5K according to the FIRST program. Both were of shorter duration and based upon a fitness level of about 20 miles per week. If you need any modification to these plans for your own goal, let me know and I would be willing to craft one for you.