Marathon on 3 runs per week.


Does anyone have their magazine to hand and could post the web address for the institute (FIRST I think) that has produced and researched upon a marathon training schedule on 3 runs per week?

Thanks, Amanda


  • The Furman Institute of Running and Scientific Training. I've no idea how it works correctly as it seems a hotchpotch.

    The Joe Beer Tri based plan is more interesting imho.
  • Thanks Gumps. Tell me more about the Joe Beer one please. Basically I've become v injury prone and need to find something that will get me marathon fit on less miles...

  • Amanda, they have only introduced the people and the intended structure of the training in this months magazine.

    Thinking about it more, the Joe Beer one may have similiarities in that is probably has the 3 runs a week plus swimming and biking.

    It's perfectly possible to get marathon fit by IM training - at least two people PB'd at teh marathon in the build up to IM Switz last year including one who was probably in around 3hr shape if he had raced it rather than running a controlled pace.

    Good luck!
  • Thanks Gumps. Checked out the web site and downloaded the plan and it looks ok and makes sense. Just don't think my leg will take the mileage I used to do and I guess traditonally expect to have to do to reach maximum marathon performance. 3 days a week of quality running and plenty of swimming and biking sounds like my future and not a bad way to get IM fit...

    Do you think it's feasible to utilise the 18 week running plan for IM Germany and hence not run a marathon in the build up?

  • Hi Amanda, I'll be interested to see how the FIRST/RW one pans out, as I'm the RW guinea-pig this spring. It's based on a simple enough theory - that if you swap the recovery runs for rest or cross-training, you'll do just as well.

    My guess (or is that my hope ;-) is that it will work. If the cross-training sessions are harder than recovery sessions, as FIRST suggests, then you'll be doing more overall quality work than you would be in a normal marathon schedule.

    Obviously in your case if you have Ironman aspirations, then a triathlon schedule like Joe's makes better sense.
  • Hi Sean. It will be very interesting to hear how it works out for you and I'm def going to use it as the running training element for my IM. I already work pretty hard in the pool and on the bike so my only concern would be that almost every session I do will be a quality/tough one and although the swim and bike ones are less physically "damaging" I just wonder how mentally fatigued I'll become.

    I guess I still see myself as a runner rather than a triathlete so pure running plans appeal rather than tri specific ones.

    So have you commenced week 1??

  • Oh yes, three miles at 10K pace this very lunchtime, I assumed with a mile either end. Thinking of 10K pace, one thing I'll miss is build-up races; the schedule doesn't have any, but I feel I ought to stick to it for the sake of science.
  • So it's not really a 3 runs a week plan, more a 3 key (hard) sessions a week plan?
  • Agree - if you're doing it then it's gotta be 100% to really test the theory. Could you do some of the long runs at races though? Say something like the Folkesworth 15 and Stamford 30k? As long as the pace is as set in the schedule?
  • Gumps, it's only three runs a week, plus two cross-training sessions.

    But you're right, it is the three key runs
  • Flicks open mag.....

    Run 3 times per week and do 2 hard x-training sessions (I assume on non-running days). So train 5 days per week.

    Doesn't sound like the pushed for time kind of plan to me. Although with maybe the exception of Thursdays run onweek 8 you could fit it in at luchtime, if you have a track near by for Tuesdays seesions.

    Obviously this plan will get you around a marathon but I wouldn't hold out for a pb. As I've never trained properly for a marathon then getting a pb on this type of training was simple enough although I was x-training a damn site more than twice a week and running long every week (16+).
  • Hi Sean,

    I'm probably just being pedantic, but the First to the finsih training programme I have found states "Runners are encouraged to either cross-train or complete easy runs on other days of the week."

    I guess you are doing the cross training rather than hte running?

    I'm really interested to see how you get on.

    Good luck.
  • Count - not sure it's a pushed for time plan rather than a try not to get injured one...or at least that's the appeal for me and my dodgy old leg !!

    Interesting stuff for sure...
  • Sean - I am trying the FIRST philosophy for FLM (unless I chicken out and use Shades's programme plus two days x-training).
    But what do they mean by x-training? Does it include weights? If so, does that mean circuit-training style? Or the sort of stuff where you do three sets of 10, 12 or 15 reps etc? Or is it just biking, rowing, and stairmaster stuff?
  • Cheers Gumps. Did you find your schedule on the web? I think that in its first year, FIRST allowed runners to do as much or as little extra running as they wanted, but from 2004 they were strict about the three days. The RW article takes this line.

    Count, I agree, it's probably best for people who don't want to face the injury risk or boredom factor of running 5 or more times a week. Though by the sound of it last year's FIRST runners were pretty feeble about their corss-training and still got a decent cluster of PBs.

    Amanda, good idea about using the races as training, especially if the training is to be quite strictly paced. I shall have a rummage in the race diary.
  • DustinDustin ✭✭✭
    Interested to read this.

    A V40 friend of mine dropped his running from 6 runs a week to 4 runs plus two gym sessions. His mara pb went from 3.10 to 2.49....
  • The secret is being properly rested for you key sessions. I think this is where the tri guys have once again been ahead of athletics and swimming. Where it's better to drop a session when tired etc than just bash out the hours / miles because you think you need to.

    The problem with hal-higdon and other beginner programs as they don't often stress the need for recovery. IMHO a 30 min recovery run is a waste of time, sure you can brag about logging an extra 25 miles a week but be too tired to do your KEY sessions properly. Obviously if you've built up to accept this type of milege then fine.

    Just my 2p's worth...but bottom line is if you want to be a better runner then you'd be better of running, it's a case of listening to your body and being flexible with your training rather than ridgidly following a plan just because it's written down.

    now that I think about it, shame you didn;t have a test case where a runner is properly coached to see what results came out of it.
  • Snapstinget, the article says 'cross training, such as cycling, strength training, rowing or elliptical training'. I'll be aiming for cycling and rowing, maybe with a bit of weight training.

    I guess that high-impact activities with rapid changes of direction, such as squash, might not be a great idea as the emphasis is on reducing injury risk; and minimal-activity classes like yoga might not have much effect on your marathon time (except by reducing injury, perhaps) - but I don't get the impression that there are hard and fast rules beyond common sense like this.
  • Thats exactly what my programme looks like, but with alot more running padded round it. I think the key may be in the slightly faster than traditional long runs, and the 10m tempo runs. And if it's such a good plan why did neither of the sports scientist authors break 2:45?
  • Rob,

    I found it here:

    It appears to be a 2005 version.
  • Good luck Sean with the 3 runs a week thing. As I have posted on a few other threads, last year I did a 3:07 marathon (Below par mind you - illness) and a 1:20 half marathon on 3 runs a week (one tempo/intervals, one long, and one marathon pace) and 2-3 HARD CV Gym sessions a week too. The half marathon time is quicker by two minutes than anything I have been able to do by training with running alone.
    This year I will do the same - although I am planning to put one extra recovery run in to see if this has any extra benefit.
    As you state above I think the real key to this plan is making the gym sessions much harder than a recovery run would be. For example nearly all my evening gym sessions work out with my HR regularly being around the same as my 10K / half marathon HR, and quite often mentally and physically (In terms of the 'burn' in the muscles) the sessions feel harder than most of the running sessions.
    And whilst initially feeling shattered the body seems to recover very quickly - presumably because of no/low impact exercise minimizes muscle tissue damage - yet you cardiovacularly are getting a running equivalent workout. Rightly or wrongly this allows me to have 5-6 hard sessions a week whereas if I ran exclusively maybe only 3 sessions.
    One possible drawback of this plan though is that because nearly all sessions are performed with the 'hard session' attitude, mentally it can be very tough to do it week after week. For that reason quite often during the course of last year I would have blocks of 3 or 4 weeks where the gym sessions would be much easier and focus on weights to relieve the mental tiredness that would ensue. I would add though that these didn't come during marathon training itself.
  • Very useful info, Go-KL, thanks. A couple of years ago (when I was allowed a turbo trainer in the dining room), I managed to add a decent bike threshold session each week, and enjoyed the variety. But I didn't keep it up for 16 weeks for sure, so motivation will really be a key factor.

    Sadly I may not break 2:45. so MikeB may remain disappointed.
  • Have you tried the bedroom? Mines allowed in ours.

    Sean - are you going to have threads and links for each of these training methods?
  • Just moved house - we now have a cellar :) No excuse for not using the turbo down there. I'll aim to keep this thread updated, especially as I reckon I'll need a kick in the pants every now and then. And I'll talk to the others about publishing their programmes and starting threads. It'd be a nice idea
  • For FLM last year i only Ran 3 times per week and off the back of it i managed to PB at all race distances from 10k up

    [please note ... im not very fast]

    I find if i run more than three times per week i end up injured

    My runs were -

    - Hardhill or speed session
    - Steady 5-9mile with a few sprints etc thrown in
    - long run ranging fro 15-22 miles

    PS - I cross-train a lot
  • I will be following this thread with some interest. I am just starting on the Hal Higdon schedule so interesting to read the theories on junk mileage. I think its a fair trouble is I am a terrible schedule addict and find it hard to ditch these miles.

    Training for Lochaber and this will be my 4th marathon so will try to listen to my bod a bit more and not force myself out on 'recovery runs' when I am tired.

    Good luck with it Sean!
  • I'll probably use this schedule in training for Washington in October. Is the schedule in the US version of the mag? It would be good to match up with a few runners aiming for the same event.
  • junk mileage is right! i tried that back in my first 2004 marathon 30 min run mon,speed session on a tueday,30 min on wed,hill work on thur,day off fri,long run sat,off sun,hard to keep to always getting injurys and on and on.Now i bike to my local pool swim 60 lenghts on monday,core work on a tue,30 min run wed,kickboxing thur, weights on leg area fri, day off sat,long run sun 20+. its much easy to keep too,more fun! and getting PBS in 10ks,10 milers,half marathons, and im well on track for a 2:45-3:00hr on my marathon this april thats 1hr 22 mins and 17 sec knocked off. this is done on a 2 runs a week although in two weeks time friday will be turned into a speed/hill session bang 3 runs a week it works for me......
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