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Wednesday, December 19, 2012

3plus2 Marathon Training (aka FIRST)

The Plan

The Furham FIRST Training Plan.  Popularized in the book "Run Less, Run Faster" and lots of favourable press in Runner's World.

The plan is quite simple:
- 3 quality runs per week
- 2 cardio cross-training workouts per week (NOT running)

(I hate the name of this book, though... you may run less, but you don't workout less, and the higher intensity should make it no walk in the park!)

Is it Better?

There is evidence that people improve on the plan.  However most of these people didn't follow a very solid plan beforehand... so all that tells me is that quality runs create quality runners, even on less mileage.

But - there isn't really any evidence that it is superior to an all-running plan that also emphasizes quality.  That may produce even better results, but they haven't really compared them in studies yet.

For me, as a cyclist and occasional triathlete, it's very appealing.  It means I can spend my winter doing a lot of good running without abandoning my bike.  I've basically done this before (carried over triathlon/multisport training into marathons) but not with a real plan or this much focus, so I'm cautiously optimistic this will hit the spot and I should see some solid improvements!

My Plan

I am trying my best not to augment the plan too much, but there are a few races I have planned and I just want to make sure everything jives together.  I am adding one week to the plan for that, and slightly shifting a few other things, but very close to the original (95%).

The other aspect of it is that by week 4 they have a 32km run planned.  It's at a slow LSD pace, but I'm not there yet, so before diving in I am working on establishing a decent base.  I was doing 20km+ just a few weeks ago, so it shouldn't be too problematic, and I still have a few weeks.


Their definition is very broad.  Anything cardio pretty much counts... swimming and biking are my main options.  I'm a little concerned that biking uses similar enough muscles that if I go really intense it would impact the runs, so I will keep the intensity in check.

Training Paces

This is where I am having some difficulty...

The book suggests certain paces based on a goal time.  Except it also suggests a goal time based on 5k pace.

My 5k pace predicts a time quite a bit quicker than my marathon experience suggests, so I'm going to go with what I think is reasonable for the marathon.  But this messes up some of the paces for the speed workouts... they seem slow for me.  (Edit: tried first work-out, NOT TOO SLOW!  I'm good, I'll go with the book!)

In the interest of keeping to the plan, I'll stick with the paces the book suggests for my target result (3:35 for a full marathon), but might give those track workouts a little extra mustard.  Really, it's tricky to get the paces just right at the track anyway - 3:55/km vs 4:05/km over 600m isn't a huge difference.  I'd rather be a little quick and closer to pushing that VO2, as long as I can finish the workouts OK.

Target Race: Toronto Marathon

May 5th.  3:35 or bust.

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