As part of my Master Plan 2011 planning, I read, Run Less, Run Faster: Become a faster, stronger runner with the revolutionary FIRST training program, by B. Pierce, S. Murr, and R. Moss.
With the results of their research and testimonials from people who have successfully used the FIRST program, I don't know how anyone could read this book and NOT want to sign up. It seems the majority of people who follow this program, from new to seasoned runners, set personal bests. And I don't mean setting a PR by shaving off a few seconds. In the case of marathoners, people who have shaved off 10, 20, or more minutes!
It's a pretty intense program that involves running three specific workouts each week and supplementing with at minimum of two days of cross training that can be either cycling, rowing, or swimming. The idea is to train with purpose and specificity - you don't just log lots of junk miles.
They also provide guidance on drills, weight training (body resistance strength moves that you can do from home without equipment), stretching, and nutrition. It's all very practical and accessible. Perfect, I think, for the runner who wants to excel but also maintain balance in life.
There were many testimonials from people who are like me (time-limited, injury prone, like speed) who had great success with this program. However, I don't think this is a plan for new runners even though they say it is for anyone. Maybe I'm being too judgmental but you need to have a pretty good base built up before starting the half or full marathon programs and you need to be comfortable with running prescribed workouts exactly as they have indicated.
I really can't wait to start! I will be starting on March 7th (though that will be based on how Jan/Feb training goes) with a half marathon program then I will transition to a full marathon program to prepare for the Portland Marathon in October. I'm so curious to see how I manage the workouts and how I perform on race day(s).
I have to admit, though, with the speed that you build with this program, I also want to use their program to train for a 5k. I love that distance for the speed and would have a lot of fun focusing on SPEED and POWER just to see what I can do. POW!
Maybe that will be a post-marathon goal?
This is probably boring but I really recommend this book. It's a unique and interesting approach to training that is a nice alternative to the many high milage plans out there. It's a pretty quick read, too. In fact, I would recommend skimming the first chapter at the bookstore. If it doesn't grab you at that point, I don't think it will. If you're like me, you'll be headed to the check-out after Chapter 1.
With that, I leave you with a quote by S. Murr to consider the next time you are reaching the end of your training program and are resisting the taper or wanting to cram in some extra miles. This lesson was learned by Murr after a poor performance at Boston due to having trained too hard, too close to the race. It's all about balance! (Rest and Recovery, Pg. 119):
"It is better to be 10 percent undertrained than 1 percent overtrained when you step to the start line."