A good friend of mine ( Dena ) asked me the other day if I had ever posted on the Furman marathon training program. I'm so glad she asked, and I'm so surprised at myself for not having written about the Furman approach to marathon training sooner. I even have a copy of the book about the program Runner's WorldRun Less Run Faster signed by Ray Moss one of the authors. His inscription reads, "Train hard for life and win all your races." Now that's a good mantra! I'm even considering the Furman method for my Marine Corps Marathon training which will start in July. Funny how something can be so close that it could bite you and you're still unaware, so thank you Dena for reminding me!
In the forward for Run Less Run Faster, Runner's World executive editor, Amby Burfoot, talks about the time-stressed lives we lead and how that affects the goal of all runners: "to run the best we can with the limited amount of time at our disposal." Burfoot goes on to say that Bill Pierce, Scott Murr, and Ray Moss (all colleagues at Furman University in Greenville, South Carolina) have developed a proven, efficient marathon training system—FIRST (Furman Institute of Running and Scientific Training) also known as the 3Plus2 Training Program.
The key to FIRST is less running. Don't be fooled into thinking that less means easy. In this case, less means more. Not more miles, but instead, more focused and intense workouts. It sounds odd but runners using the Furman approach train less and 16 weeks later they're running faster. A couple of my running buddies (Less and Fred) have used FIRST and stand by the program. They both agree, though, that the program is not easy and the workouts are hard, but that the program works.
So enough lauding of FIRST; how does it work? Well first of all there's a different philosophy that's the basis of the plan. The plan places quality over quantity, intensity over frequency, and fast running over accumulated mileage. Nitty-gritty-wise, the plan consists of three quality runs each week and two cross-training workouts. The three runs are comprised of a speed workout (track repeats), a tempo run, and a long run. The three workouts work together to improve endurance, lactate-threshold running pace, and speed. Also, FIRST differs from most other plans in that it has you running the longer runs at a faster pace. This helps prepare runners for both the physical and mental challenge of a 26.2-mile race.
The plan is meticulously laid out in the book Run Less Run Faster. The authors have managed, however, to present the information in a very user-friendly manner. The three weekly workouts are based on the runner's current running level (this is all detailed in the book). The other great thing about the book is that it provides training plans for all 16 Boston qualifying times. Need to run a 3:10 to qualify for Boston? There's a plan for you. Need to run a 3:3o (that's me)? There's a plan for you. There are separate training plans for men and women.