Hey gang! Laina here. So, I just finished my second marathon this past weekend in St. Louis, MO and wanted to share with you guys my journey back into the distance racing game with a quick review of the training style I followed this time around. First, let me start by saying that I am by no means an expert when it comes to training – I simply want to give you my personal feedback on the approach that I had success with as a somewhat seasoned runner. But first, let’s take a look back to my first marathon and what drove me to finding a different marathon program for this recent race.
» Pittsburgh Marathon, May 2014 «
My first marathon began as a triple dog dare my brother and I decided to do together a few Christmases ago my senior year of college. We both gifted each other our registration fees for the upcoming Pittsburgh Marathon and jumped right into it. However, when it came to our training, we came across some challenges. Many of the beginner marathon training programs we researched showed us having to run 6 or 7 days a week, bulky midweek runs, little or no cross training, and upping the miles on Saturday long runs a little too quickly (in our opinions). As a collegiate runner with my career cut short due to overuse injuries, obsessive eating issues, and a year long battle with plantar fasciitis, I rolled my eyes at these plans that seemed excessive and overworked.
So, we did what any good sibling duo would do and together we winged it. We had zero goals for finish times. Just as long as we could run as comfortably as we could, and cross the finish line we were going to be happy. AND WE DID! Both coming in under 4.5 hours – we were pumped!
One Bachelor’s Degree, two big moves, and three years later…
Here I am finishing my second full marathon this past weekend at the 2017 GO! St. Louis Marathon.
After college, I moved to play around in the Rocky Mountains for a year, and then accepted my first NPS ranger gig in Springfield, IL around March of 2016. With such a drastic change in environment, I immediately felt “stuck in the midwest” – a very loving phrase for a region with almost no hills, few forests, but luckily lots of flat rails to trails that cruise on for miles. Running quickly again became my greatest escape and this January I decided to take another shot at running a marathon.
This time around, I had a much bigger base built up than my first marathon. Prior to starting marathon training this January, I had already been running at least 3 or 4 days a week, with a 10-12 mile long run every weekend. So, when I decided I wanted to give longer distance racing another shot, I was looking to find a training program that meshed well with me physically and mentally. That’s when I came across the FIRST Marathon Plan.
Some of you may be familiar with the Runner’s World article titled, “The Less-Is-More Marathon Plan”. It’s a good read, and I highly encourage you to check it out for yourself with the link above! The plan was developed in the 1980’s and released it’s first launch in 2003 with success by Bill Pierce and Scott Murr of the Furman Institute of Running and Scientific Training (FIRST).
The gist of the program is a “run less, run faster” approach. It’s an 18 week training plan that has you running 3 days a week, optionally cross training for 2, and resting for 2. As a semi-novice marathoner and a 20-something “commitment phobe” this sounded right up my ally! The 3 running days a week varied in pace and length, and I had a ton of fun with them. Early in the week, I got to relive my high school glory days of doing fast repeats ranging from 400 – 1600 meters. Because I didn’t have access to a track, repeat days were a little more challenging with the ups and downs of my favorite neighborhood and city park routes. Instead of a mid-week “sort of long run” like most beginner marathon plans include, the FIRST program incorporates tempo runs based on your current 10K pace. These mid-week tempos ranging from 3 – 10 miles always seemed to kick my butt, but built the endurance I was needing for my weekend long runs. The third and final run of the week was, of course, the long run (my favorite). However, instead of taking it easy and running at a slower pace, this program had you running 60-70 seconds slower than your current 10K pace, which felt like the perfect balance.
On days when I wasn’t running, I was able to rest and recover fully from my long runs (taking the 2 full rest days) and used my optional cross training days to practice yoga and utilize my $10 Planet Fitness membership.
Overall, I would have to say, I am completely over the moon with this program. Throughout my 18 weeks, I felt rested, recovered, and didn’t acquire a single injury (Praise the Lord). It felt easier on my body than training I’ve done in the past where I was averaging 50-60 miles a week and usually gritting my teeth at only have one (never guaranteed) rest day per week. I never felt overwhelmed by looking at my training week ahead, and felt genuinely excited to do my workouts. It allowed me to have more down time and was much easier to adapt my vacations and work schedule around my training as well.
As far as my results go, I was happy with them. Above all, my goal is to always be able to finish a race healthy. Check. I was aiming to finish this race in 4 hours or under, but managed a solid 4 hours and 4 minutes instead. Am I bummed? Not exactly. I was able to fall back in love with running, train safely and efficiently, and shredded a full 13 minutes off of my first marathon. I’m putting it down as a win in my book!
I would definitely recommend this to anyone who is looking for a different training approach, whether you’re an avid 5K-er about to take the plunge, or a seasoned ultra runner. As I said before, take a look at the Runner’s World article linked above and give it a read. Let me know your thoughts. In the mean time, I’ll be resting and rehabbing for a week or so, and making my next move out to Santa Fe, NM. Happy Trails!