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Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Review: Run Less, Run Faster

Davida recommended that I read Runner's World Run Less, Run Faster as part of our discussions about my running goals and what I want to do with my running. I read it over the course of a week or so, and here are my thoughts.

A little bit of a summary: This book is a training program developed by the Furman Institute of Running & Scientific Training (FIRST). The premise of the book is that you can run your optimal race time for a specific race simply by running only three days per week. The idea behind it is to basically make certain that you are never running "Junk Miles" -- miles that serve no purpose other than to rack up your weekly mileage total. Each run listed in the FIRST training plan has a purpose. Each run works on either speed or endurance, and all of the runs have specific goals. The book contains many, many (almost too many) testimonials from many runners who have tried the program. It also contains a lot of text regarding the science behind the training method, and why it works. Of course, much of the book is devoted to explaining the plan, and describing what should be done for the different types of runs. There is a chapter for each of nutrition, cross training, injuries and strength training, as well.

Speed and Pace Gripe
First, I have to start with a major gripe that I have with this book. The book goes into analysis of what types of goal paces are recommended. The goal pace is chosen based upon a race time (much like how Jeff Galloway does a race prediction based upon Magic Miles). When I reached this section of the book, I happily turned the page to find my 5K time on the chart. Let's see... my 5K Personal Record is 34:49... Let's find that on the chart... Oh, the chart only goes up to 30 minutes. Hm. Ok, well, my half marathon best is 2:37. Let's find that on the chart... Oh, the chart only goes up to 2:19. Of course. Let's try full marathon PR (5:52). Oh, the chart only goes to 4:51. So, using this book, I had no way to determine my predicted race time.

Thank goodness Jeff Galloway has a prediction chart. But, still, over and over, every chart in the book, from determining paces for tempo runs to repeat pace times, the charts never went high enough for me to find my target pace. Ever. In the whole book.

At first, I was like "Ok, well, I'm slow. I know that." But, then I just kept getting more and more irritated by it. Why couldn't they have just shown a few more lines? Don't people like me read these books, too? Wouldn't I be an ideal candidate of someone who'd want to "Run Less and Run Faster??" I thought I'd give them a pass if I could get the data on their website. In their defense, they did have the higher 5K numbers for the training paces charts on the website, but the Race Pace Predictor was still too fast for me. I mean, really, why wouldn't it at least be on the website?

Honestly, that's a big deal to me, and it frustrates and angers me. They could have left out one or two runner testimonials and included this information. It almost renders the book useless, except that I have so many other resources to get it from (see the McMillan Running Calculator, for example). This made me want to return the book. After all, it clearly wasn't meant for me.

But, barring the uselessness that the included tables and charts, lets talk about the merits of the book.

What I Like About the Plan
I definitely love the idea that I can run less and still get faster. This book is suited for those of us who don't have hours upon hours to devote to running. If you want to focus more on overall fitness, cross training, or even just on your job or family, this is a plan for you. The best part, though, is that according to the science and results that others have seen, you can focus on these other things without sacrificing your PRs and pace. In fact, you can still improve. That's great news!

I mean, I've always kind of felt that just running for the hell (junk miles) is just wasting your time. With a goal in mind, every run should reflect that goal. I've been doing this since early 2008 anyway, just not with the kind of structure and discipline that this plan uses. I'll use Cardio Coach, or do some hill training, track work, or just sprints here and there, but I don't always follow a "training plan" per se. One reason for this, though, is because I am a Galloway Runner, and Galloway runners tend to not focus on speed (as speed is not what Galloway is about). If you read Jeff's book, Running: A Year Round Plan, he does have some speed work built in, but I've always kind of felt that his speed work (composed of Cadence Drills and Acceleration Gliders, mostly) are, well, lame. Jeff puts his repeats mostly on the weekends, which interferes with what I need to do with my group for long runs. I like the idea of doing "real" speed work with Tempo Runs and track work on a weekly basis, during the week. I'd love to get my group hyped up about this and meet them at a track (although going to tracks sometimes intimidate me).

What I Do Not Like About the Plan
My dislikes about the plan come mostly from my own personal experiences and how I have to mix this plan with my Galloway Training Program that I remain pretty committed to. First off, the book insists that you should do your long runs at a pace that is very close to your training pace. This isn't doable for me because I am a Galloway Group Leader, and tends to be contrary to the whole "Run Injury Free" motto that Jeff Galloway follows. My question would be, can I still do the tempo/track work during the week, but leave my Saturday schedule as it is? I guess I can try.

My other issue is that sometimes I want junk miles. Sometimes I want to hang with my friends and enjoy a run. I run at my running store every Tuesday and Thursday, and I'd have to give up one of those days in favor of track work with the FIRST plan. Not so fun.

The idea of going to a track every single week is bothersome and inconvenient, so I'd wonder if there were non-track workouts that I could substitute. I wonder if I could do a track workout every other week instead, and maybe do hill repeats every other week. This would work better for me. Like so many training plans that I read, this book stuck so closely to the plan that they didn't really leave any wiggle room for substituting things or offer guidance of how to do so.

So, what did I think?
In general, I liked the book, and I think I'm going to borrow some of the advice and modify it to meet my training needs this summer/fall. However, I am still aggravated and bothered by the lack of slower pace times in the charts and flexibility in the plan.

1 comment:

marathonmaiden said...

i kind of like the idea of running less and running faster. but i'm sure a mileage junkie that i'd rather run MORE run FASTER hahaha.

thanks for the review though! :)

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