I'm currently training for the Toronto Marathon in May, using the Furman FIRST plan.
The key features of this plan are
- intensity rather than mileage
- cross-training (with intensity!) rather than easy runs
There is no mailing it in, no easy or recovery runs. Every one of the 3 runs per week has a purpose and prescribed pace. Even the LSD is done quicker than a typical LSD pace, getting faster as the weeks go by.
At first I was hitting the paces with relative ease, but as the weeks wear on the training has been breaking me down!
Track work: These have gone generally well. They hurt and suck of course, but are rewarding at the same time.
Tempo runs: Hit and miss, but most of the misses have been on account of conditions rather than my own conditioning. I was a couple seconds off target pace on my last run (4:37/km when goal was 4:35/km) but the sidewalks were really icy so that cost me time. I ran in the snow the week before that and missed my pace by a few seconds as well. Not going to lose sleep over it!
Long runs: Good, but tough. I'm surprised how bagged I feel by the end of some of these runs - the pace is well off my planned marathon pace, yet they really take a lot out of me. A big difference between 32km at the end of a hard training week without a taper and race day, though, so I remain optimistic!
Cross Training: I've been alternating between bike workouts and the rower, depending on how my legs feel. Both are great workouts, although my normal bike fitness really isn't there... but I can still eek out a strong cardio workout.
All in all I have enjoyed the plan so far, and doing those long runs early in the program gives me more confidence that I won't be fading as badly in the closing kilometers! If I can get that licked it'll all have been worth it.