Run More... or Run Faster or.. Just Run.

Interesting article in the NY Times about maintaining running fitness. In a nutshell:

To do your best at a given sport, train for that given sport. This is why triathletes are total studs in my book. It's also why most (though not all) elite runners run more and cross-train less.

However, the article also says that you can mitigate some of this conclusion by running fast on the days you are running. This is exactly what the FIRST plans calls for - running three times per week - hard. While you won't get the maximum aerobic benefit from cross-training, you'll heal up your legs enough to beat them into a pulp during those three workouts. (Obviously, I'm paraphrasing.)

As mentioned before, next time around, I'm going to try and split the difference a bit. Here's my plan in a nutshell:

1) Go from 5 workouts per week to 6.
2) Do 3 hard runs - long run from the FIRST plan, interval and tempo workouts from Fitzgerald.
3) Go to 2 easy/base runs and 1 XC day - this, too, is Fitzgerald.

I might massage this a bit - allow for a second day of XC if it gets to be a bit much. Either way, it'll be at least a 25% increase in days running.

Ah, I almost forgot.. what am I training for? The more I thought about it, the more I liked training for the marathon. And the more I looked at the kids' swimming schedules for Jan and Feb., they're not that awful. And then I remembered how when I did Harrisburg, I told everyone that was my plan if all went well, and all went well and I only registered a few weeks before the race again.

So, I'm doing the same thing again. The month of December is all about slow trail running, building a strong, aerobic base. The first weekend in January, though, I'm beginning an 18 week plan with a goal of going 3:09 at the Delaware Marathon on May 18. Just like before, that's the plan, if everything goes according to plan. And if not, I'll have a strong base ready for Steamtown in the fall.


  1. Hey there,
    Just to chime in, I ran my best marathon ever (3:39 which qualified me for Boston at last) the first year I took up triathlon. I started training in early Sept for an early Dec. race. I did 1 long(ish) ride per week, around 3-4 hours, swam once or twice per week, and did the following workouts:
    1) tempo run, 60-80 minutes
    2) track workout, 8x400-1200 (variable depending on week)
    3) long run on weekend.
    4) an occasional additional, easy run

    I also did some strength training twice per week. When I got to the taper period, it was the first time in my marathon training history where I didn't even feel the need to taper. I felt refreshed, uninjured and ready to go. I think the consistent long rides helped my body get accustomed to being on the road for 3-4 hours without having to do super long runs.

    Anyway, everyone is different but that is what worked for me... And I had tried many other methods over 10 years of marathon racing.

  2. Anonymous9:59 PM

    I'll be interested to hear how you do with the increase in volume. As you know, I'm going to be doing the same thing, although it sounds like I'm going to rely more on the Fitzgerald plan than you are, and I'll also probably go with 5 days rather than 6, at least for my spring half-marathon training cycle. Enjoy the base training!

  3. Thanks for the NYT article link, I was really surprised how fast plasma is lost. How do the interval and tempo workouts from Fitzgerald differ from FIRST?

  4. Anne-

    Your experience mirrors mine from this past year - a good marathon built around 3 hard runs. Frankly, I'm a little scared that the results won't be as good this year with more mileage. However, I'm hopeful that more miles might help me through the "wall" that I hit hard at mile 22. In short, I'm curious to see if running more when I'm recovered less can make me stronger at the end of the marathon.

    If I had the time to do a long ride, I think I'd use that, too -- that's a nice move. :)


    The easiest way to describe FIRST intervals/tempo compared to Fitzgerald: I had several FIRST workouts that I failed to achieve the desired result by the 75% point... if the plan called for 4 intervals, I was only able to complete 3 at the given pace. If the tempo run called for 4 miles at a given pace, I was only able to do 3 at that pace. On the Fitzgerald plan, I was wiped at the end of the workout, but I was able to COMPLETE the workout... Once I'd failed to complete 4 or 5 FIRST workouts, I was worried that I was really creating a deficit of fitness, which is why I switched to Fitz...

    As always, your mileage may vary, but that's what I found. I've read of other people who can handle the short FIRST stuff but struggle on the long run, which I never did.

    Yup - I'm curious about more mileage, too. Not a lot more, but a bit more.


  5. i just got my new schedule ... i've got more mileage and 3 hard days mid week. 2 cx days and one long run. i thought it was going to kill me, but i think it may do just the opposite & actually do what coach wants ... make me stronger & faster. i'm going to check out that NYT link. thanks for sharing!

    love the marathon training. its a bit addictive, huh?

  6. Zanne,

    That's a bear of a schedule, but the good news is that it's an honest one.... you'll know going into the race that you're as ready as can be.

    That's the thing with a marathon schedule... it's so - relatively - long that I can't see the point in going too easy... it's a decent chunk of your life, ya know, so goferit. :)


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