Run Less, Run Faster - The First schedule

In the next few months or so, Im not going to have as much time to run. I've been reading quite a bit about the FIRST training programme and the book Run Less, Run Faster.

I was wondering if anyone else has tried it, read the book and what you think of it?

Im hoping to improve my times while training like this, rather than just stay fit.

Also what were you doing for cross-training? Im hoping to either fit an easy run or do circuit training, preferably circuit training.





  • Hi Ian!

    I have trained for four marathons using the FIRST schedule and it works really well for me.  The down side is with each session being a 'hard' session, running can become a bit of a grind/burden.  But if you are doing an easy session anyway, this could be a 'just for fun' session.

    Which FIRST schedule are you using, the first time marathoners one, or the getting quicker one?  I used the improvers one (even for my first marathon), but I had been running for a couple of years and had a good running base.

    I didn't do any cross training for the first two marathons because time was too tight.  I still got GFA qualifying times.  Third time round I did 10 more miles a week as an easy run, and it did seem to make a difference, but I never got to test it out as I had to pull out of my third marathon 3 days before, after a nasty fall.(NOT to be recommended: I had done every run on the schedule!) With my fourth marathon I did four runs a week, again one extra easy session, , but barely got above 40mpw, and this was my PB, of 3:32 at this year's FLM. 

    I am a 44 year old female, and don't think I am particularly gifted at running.  But I do have the discipline to stick with a schedule, come rain, wind, or dreaded mile repeat sessions!!  If you are good on self discipline, I am sure FIRST will work well for you too.

    I think the main thing to be gained by the cross training is having a better aerobic base.  If you already run a lot of miles a week, you should be beginning from a good starting point, and FIRST should just build on this.  The LR is fairly fast by a lot of peoples' standards, but is quite manageable with the speed you get from the LT session and speedwork.  Just make sure you have a day or two off afterwards, because not getting to the start line is a common marathon training problem.

    I can't comment on the book, as I've not heard of it.  I think an excellent aerobic base is important for marathon success and a lot of people get this by a lot of slow miles.  A somewhat smaller aerobic base , but more long repeats and working on increasing Lactate Threshold (as per FIRST) clearly also works well for marathon training.  Combining the two is probably what the elites do, but would probably mean the average mortal died of fatigue/injury long before race day!

  • Lol... i'm amused that the person above claims to have never read the book... but is still referencing training programs from within the book.
  • Hi Runner-Bean and thanks for your reply.

    Its good to hear you've been using it and for a long time too.

    May I ask what times you have done in your marathon's since using it?

    I have'nt decided which schedule I am going to use as Im not sure if Im going to do a marathon next year or not. My wife's expecting our first baby anytime now so Im not sure how its going to work out at the minute. I'll definitely be running still but I want to improve my times rather than just run, so it depends if I think I can beat last years 3:29.

    Im hoping to get by with circuit training on the other days as I'll be able to do that in the house.

    How long do you tend to be running for in each session?


  • Paul,

    Have you got the book then?

  • Tom.Tom. ✭✭✭
    Run faster!!!!!

    My Dad once told me that an expert was someone who spent his whole life learning more and more about less and less, until eventually he knew everything about nothing!
  • I have got the book, it's very well written and comprehensive..
  • I haven't got the book, but read about FIRST in RW and found the schedules on the Furman Institute website.

    The three marathons I have run were: Cardiff  October 06 (3:39), Stratford April 07, (3:35) and FLM this April, on just 10 weeks of FIRST, due to injury (3:32).  I did all the training for Leicester in October 07, but had to pull out, as mentioned above.
    (I envy you your 3:29.  I will not be happy till I dip under 3:30, but as I said I am mid 40's and female, so FIRST has served me well so far!)

    Have you kept a reasonably long LR since your previous marathon?  I think it really helped me keeping a Long Run of 16+ miles at least once a fortnight , between marathon schedules.  I then basically had a good endurance base, and another 16 weeks to do plenty of 20+ mile runs and work at the speed. With the FIRST schedule, the speed sessions were prob max an hour, the tempo sessions about an hour and a quarter, and the Long runs about 2hrs45mins to 3hrs or so, but that's only once a fortnight.  It really is a good schedule to fit round family life.  I have four children and that is exactly why I chose it for my first marathon.  It worked so well that I decided to stick with it, though tried to enhance it for Leicester by adding extra miles , extending the LR's to 22 or 24, etc.  (The only cross training I did was loading and unloading the weekly shop into and out of the car!!)

    Babies do have an uncanny knack of turning your whole world upside down, but if any schedule is going to be manageable, FIRST should be.  Intervals in the dark could be an issue though in the winter, if you're training in the evenings and don't have access to a lit track.  I struggled with this, given that FIRST is very prescriptive on distance/pace.

    Good luck with your training whatever you decide, and with the baby too!!!  I loved having my children, but it was far too many years of full time motherhood which drove me to take up running in the first place!!

  • Paul,

    So have you been following the book?


    Very good times for your marathons, especially on 3 days a week training. Definitely shows it works, consistently too!

    An hour or so twice per week plus a long run should be possible for me.

    Thanks again. Im really looking forward to our baby coming. Im sure I'll enjoy it!

  • I'm afraid I haven't. Just read it as an interesting piece of reference material. I'd say it was ideal for anyone prone to injury, with limited training time or anyone whose performance had plateaued with running alone.
  • Hi,

    I'm running my first marathon, berlin, next week.  I've been using the FIRST training program.  Decided to go with the intermediate one.

    I did all speed work on the treadmill (work in city, no access to track etc), did the tempo run after work on way home, getting off train a couple of stops early. (with back pack.. ouch) and long run on a sunday.  So that's the 3 main runs.  I also generally did one more run home after work and one more treadmill session, but these were 'easy', as is allowed on the schedule.  And if I had free time I'd occasionally go to the gym for a couple of hours on the saturday and do some swimming / resistance.

    In my opinion you'll deifnitely need a watch with GPS / pedometer.  It is quite easy to get obsessed wit hrunning 20 miles at exactly MP +15 or 15 miles at MP +10 etc, etc.  I have an extensive spreadsheet with my training record!!

     I'd definitely recommend it!  good luck.

  • "but these were 'easy', as is allowed on the schedule."

    This isn't strictly true. The programme recommends that you run only 3 times a week, and cross-train using NON-weightbearing activities. Therefore supplementing your 3 key workouts with easy runs is not appropriate.
  • So is circuit training suitable?
  • Possibly... depends on the type of circuit training!

    The book is based around the idea of triathlon training helping to improve running times. So ideally, the cross-training should be swimming or cycling, but rowing works too. Personally I find the cross-over between running and cycling to be the most direct, but that's just me.

    What in particular interests you about circuit training? If its the weight-lifting aspect, you could always do additional strength-training on top of the 3:2 programme recommdended by FIRST/Run Less, Run Faster.

    Something like:

    Mon - 60 mins cycling, 35 mins Upper Body weights
    Tue - Key Run 1
    Wed - 60 mins cycling, 35 mins Lower Body weights
    Thu - Key Run 2
    Fri - Off
    Sat - 20 mins swim / Off
    Sun - Key Run 3
  • Paul,

    Thanks for that.

    The main reason I want to do the circuit training is I'll be able to do it in the house. My wife is due with our first baby any time so thats the main reason I want to follow this schedule. Its going to be mainly bodyweight exercises for the circuit training, like press-ups etc.

    I've got no chance of doing any cycling, infact I've more chance of running 5 times per week instead.


  • Hi,

    According to my verson of the FIRST Training PDF download (intermediate, marathon), it is allowed to do easy runs on the days between the 3 Key runs.  It is however important to leave a gap of at least one day between each key run.

  • I like it, I'm using it to train for my first marathon. I find running 5 days a week too much, doing a couple of days cross training keeps things interesting and means my running sessions are higher quality. I usually cycle but sometimes run for the cross training.

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