Hello fellow forumites,

I have just completed Chester Marathon, for which I trained 4 x a week. The training went well and I got round in 4:27. 

I have now entered the Manchester Marathon for next April and I am considering using Furman's FIRST marathon training plan as I like the idea of training 3 days a week, it will fit in better with family life. 

Does anyone have any success stories/horror stories about this plan? It does seem pretty gruelling! 





  • MillsyMillsy ✭✭✭
    It does say include 2 x cross training sessions per week so you are in effect still training 5 days a week.
  • I don't know about that plan but you can certainly get round a marathon on three runs a week.  You might not be quicker than your first marathon but if you're not worried about that and the plan fits in with life then there's no problem.

  • I'm not sure if this is the plan for you as it does specify that it's to make runners that are already pretty quick go even faster. Unless knocking an hour off your PB really is your goal.

    But yes, it is possible to run a marathon on 3 runs a week on a less gruelling plan. 


  • I think it depends on your goals, and what the three running sessions in the week are.

    Certainly if you look at something like the P&D Advanced marathon trainign schedules they are effectively three sessions per week with an additional two recovery runs. If you like, you're effectively replacing the recovery runs with cross training / cycling, swimming, etc. I'm sure you could argue all day long about the relative importance of recovery runs versus other non-running cross training sessions, but my intuition tells me the difference over a 16 week period would be marginal, assuming you get the most out of the 3 sessions and don't skip the cross training.

    If it works for you, then do it.

  • 100% yes you can run a marathon on 3 sessions a week. Never done it mind. Ran my best on 4 a week.

  • Every run 'counts' on this system.  Instead of easy runs, you do cross training.  The plan would still work if all you did was 3 runs per week.  Unless you thrive on mega miles, chances are this will work well for you.

  • Porky, I followed this  plan this year so will give you my insights into it:-

    Can you run a marathon on 3 x runs a week? Yes, I ran VLM in 4.07 and then Edinburgh 4 weeks later in 3.58 (that's another story). Previous PB was 4.27....

    Is it easy to follow? No, it becomes very boring and rigid as you miss the easy recovery runs to just "do as you like", without trying to follow the pace it sets - imo!  

    Why do it then? I had previously suffered a fractured bone in my foot so didn't want to be running constantly and putting additional stress on the bone so I could run the Marathon. Also, work / family etc etc....

    Would I do it again? No, I really felt it took the "enjoyment" out of running and half way through I felt the runs were all becoming a chore?

    Downsides? As above. Also I missed a couple of weeks through colds / travelling etc and felt it more difficult to get back into! It is also too easy to change your "rest / Xtraining" days into "rest" days.

    Upsides? I ran a half Marathon very comfortably about 1/2 way through the plan so would potentially do it for next half, once I have achieved Marathon time goal....

    Additional comments? If you follow it - stick to your pacing on Marathon day - I set off far too fast at VLM and blew up badly. Was a bit more conservative at Edinburgh and got the sub 4 I wanted but still went too fast and suffered again in last few miles - but you know that anyway, one day I will learn!!

    Hope that helps you and good luck  image



  • in short yes

  • I agree with Miggito, I did it for Edinburgh a few years ago and ran 3hrs 48mins, but every run session is hard and pushes you, so the long runs lose their enjoyment and you miss the enjoyment and ease of the recovery runs, having to push hard on the cross training. I adopted it as I was struggling with injuries at the time, so 3 runs a week let my body recover and it did get results but you lose some of the pleasure of running.

  • Yes my.asics.co.uk that's your plan sorted. 

    my first two marathons were in 3 days a week. 

  • 15West15West ✭✭✭

    I considered this plan but after asking similar questions on this forum, and also reading other related threads, decided that it didn't sound much fun. Sometimes a nice easy mid length run reminds you why you run in the first place. But - as others have said, it can be done.

  • I started out using this plan for my f.i.r.s.t. marathons but had  a bit of trouble keeping to the programme . I've now taken out one of the sessions and replaced it with a brisk two hour walk.   


  • I trialled a couple of weeks of this. Firstly, get in your head from the beginning that it is 5 sessions per week. The 2 cross training sessions are not optional. So does 5 sessions fit with your lifestyle is the question?

    Try out the sessions - all 3 are intense workouts, heavily structured. I struggled with the pacing on the intervals as my speed work is out of balance with endurance on all the calculators. That would mean either failing to hit the targets every week, or concocting my own paces. As 15W says, some of the more enjoyable runs can be those easy paced runs - they don't exist in FIRST.

    It just wasn't for me and I preferred to put my own plan together.

  • I know what you are talking about Also-ran but don't think this is it. The three runs and two cross training is in the RW book "Run Less, Run Faster". Makes a lot of sense for runners who are becoming less able to handle 5 or 6 runs a week. 

    This plan is just a straight 3 runs.

  • If we are talking about FIRST, then "Run Less, Run Faster" is the same, except they have revised the 2006 plan that is linked to by the OP. It is a Runners World/Rodale publication authored by 3 guys from the Firman institute.  The book would have the cross training as part of the plan. The 2006 web article is very bit wet as it says "encouraged to cross train on two further days"

    When I looked at it , I couldn't quite see where gerneral aerobic development would come unless you did the cross training days.

    If I was going to do this I would used the revised 2012 publication.

  • Don't know about that plan particularly, but I have just trained on three days a week for this years kielder marathon, which was my first. I got round and would happily follow my schedule again. I can't even entertain the usual plans of 4, 5 days a wk as I do a very physical job every day and it's too much. I don't do any cross training, as I say I do a very physical job. I also have two children ( one who has complex needs ) and my hubby works very odd shifts. Three days a week for me works brilliantly, I'd use my plan again to train for further races. I thoroughly enjoyed the mix of interval sessions in the week with long runs on a weekend. Hope this helps. 

  • I'm a believer in the 3 runs a week approach... Helped to to break 3hrs in NY back in 2011. It basically just cuts out the junk miles and keeps to quality over quantity.

  • I followed their half marathon plan back in the spring and am thinking of using their full marathon plan next year. It can be a bit rigid as another poster mentions but I generally enjoyed it and felt I improved as a runner by following it. This feeling was supported by significant PBs (for me) in both the half I was training for and a 10k race the following month. Whether it'll be as effective for a marathon I really don't know.

    The three scheduled runs are indeed all intense workouts but I really enjoyed both the tempos and long runs. The intervals were hard going (as I guess they should be) and I had to miss two of these sessions due to the legs being very stiff and just did slow recovery runs in thier place. Some weeks I also converted one of the cross-training sessions into a slow 6 to 8k run and will probably do something similar if I decide to follow their marathon plan. One of the things I like about the plan is that the training paces are based on recent race times rather than the time you want to acheive in your target race.

  • I have followed sort of an adjusted version of the First beginners program for my five marathons with good results. I just added one extra 30 km (18-19 miles) run to the program. Often I even just did two runs a week and let key run # 1 out. Instead I did boxing two times a week.

    For my next marathon, Rome in March 2014, I am thinking about following the full program. But I have also get hold of the Shades marathon program which seems a bit less demanding than First. I shall compare them soon and maybe I mix them and make up my own three days a week program.

    If you want to find out about Shades there is a long thread in the Training forum. PM the user "Shades" to get the program.


  • From the other end of the telescope, I've used FIRST's 5km plan with some healthy success. Now working on the half-mara plan. Did the first long run yesterday.

    I had viewed the paces as brutal in the past, but the HMP and I guess MP runs are that little bit slower, so it's not all bad.

    You do need to do the 2 x-training sessions (remember it is 3+2 sessions). Last year I also squeezed in some quality bike sessions instead of easier sessions and injury visited. Ensure the x-training is easy paced or follow the plan.

    AgentGinger has the crux of it.

  • I am very tempted to take the 3 run approach purely due to work commitments but VLM will be my 3rd time only marathon and desperate to achieve a PB this time.

    My 2010 experience was with Bronchitis/ inhaler in tow, finished it but so disappointed so this time I want to as prepared as I can be and in tip top form.

    Will a 3 run approach work I wonder .image

  • Im also looking for a 3 run plan for VLM, it will be my third marathon but I have issues with a collapsing foot and tight itb, I have recently taken up OW swimming which I will continue throughout the winter, so want a plan I can incorporate lots of swimming!

  • I ran my first marathon in 2007 using FIRST and as I had never done anything before it was the structure I liked. Result 4,36.

    From that point till today have always run 3 times a week but always faster than I should. Its not structured to the same level but every week will include a long run at marathon pace and a 10k at close to race pace, but for me due to work/family it works. I will never be fast but over the years now have a pb of 3.41, (29 marathons/ultras)

  • Going to try First as convinced, due to history of injuries, that I can do no more than 3 runs per week. In fact last week I started getting cocky and did following.

    Sun - 15 k 1:20

    Wed - 6k 32:00

    Fri - 5k 24:00 (pb)  All above on cushioned treadmill

    Sat 5k 27:02 This was first run outdoors in years and was a Parkrun event. Due to traffic got there late, no proper warm up and result was grade 1 calf strain.


    Lesson is at my age I need to be careful/not stupid , follow a plan and do plenty of stretching, strenghtening and warm up properly.

  • FIRST is not a plan to follow if you get injured easily. You must do the 2 days of cross training to get some recovery or easy sessions in.

    Remember that the shorter the session the longer the warm up too. Heal well!

  • http://www.halhigdon.com/training/51151/Marathon-Marathon-3-Training-Program


    I used this as a base for 3 runs a week - at 58 and first and only marathon it suited me well, didn't get any injuries - didn't do the bike either, but did do 2 strength/conditioning sessions each week, which I think helped enormously.

  • ShedboyShedboy ✭✭✭

    Im doing the hal one...did my first run today 24 week plan for london.  Aready one run behind but did run 7 on sunday so not freting.  Anniesophie how did it go for you?

  • I did FIRST for my first marathon in Brighton last year (April) - didn't quite manage all the cross training, then did a varied version for an autumn mara.

    This year I trained for Snowdonia with pretty much a club speed session on Mondays, a mid-week hill session (8 miles usually) and a long run Saturday mornings, with very little else other than a bit of cycle commuting (max 15 miles some days, 8 others). The marathon went really well image

  • I did London this year, and considering it was unusually warm,  congested, and I made the classic mistake of going out too fast, I was really pleased to do 4:33:33. I'm very tempted to do another one to get sub 4:30 but not sure yet, this running lark gets really addictive!

  • I'm glad you posted this. I've done two half marathons and am toying with the idea of a full in May 2014. Problem is that I don't have a lot of time to spend training. I don't know whether it's better to stick to the half (and go for a PB) or give the full marathon a whirl on 3 days a week training. I'm guessing I'd have to be prepared for a pretty slow time though?


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