Our marathon training guide is inspired by the book Runner’s World Run Less, Run Fasterby the great minds at Runner’s World. This book explains the FIRST “3plus2” training program. In short, FIRST (Furman Institute of Running and Scientific Training) conducted a study that had participants follow a 16 week marathon training program where they followed a specific plan of running just 3 days a week and cross training 2 days, hence “3plus2”. The results? Despite skepticism, the two participants the book follows, Scott Infanger and Aaron Colangelo, cut approximately 15 minutes off their previous marathon times enabling Aaron to break 3:10 and Scott to qualify for the Boston Marathon.
Typically training for a marathon is associated with a necessity to run most days during the week and putting in overwhelming weekly milage. In reality, most people who have the desire to run a marathon either a) just don’t have the time for it, or b) end up injured or burnt out. So obviously the results of the “3plus2” program spread around the running community as an attainable way to train for everyone, from people who just want to finish, to people who want to qualify for Boston.
Now we haven’t done very many marathons (me just one-not counting the Ironman, and Lance 2), but the results were disappointing. Injured and burnt out, we were not able to break our goal time of 4 hours–even though our paces from shorter distance races showed we technically should be able perform at or better than that pace.
So when I came across this book while reading Runner’s World, I thought it would be perfect for us. Read it. Loved it. It gave us confidence that would could reach our goals by putting in the 3 key workouts that the book specifies, and leaving 2 days to cross train.
Here’s our disclaimer- We do not follow the plan exactly. Our plan is inspired by the book. We do 3 key workouts, but not the exact distances/times the plan specifies. However we highly recommend this book–and it’s not just for marathoners! In addition to marathon plans, there are 5k, 10k, half marathon, and Boston qualifying plans. If you love to follow plans to a tee, or if you want a framework to build your own like we did, get this book!
So here’s what we do:
Speed Intervals: Start with a 10 minute warm up and then do 3 x 5 min speed intervals. Each interval involves 2 minutes of walking for recovery and 3 minutes of running at or above 5k pace. Finish with a 5 min cool down. Vary the speed intervals with each workout. We do this on the treadmill, that’s why we use minutes as opposed to distance.
Pace/Tempo Run: Warm up at your marathon pace and then do a tempo run comfortably hard, slightly slower than your 5k pace. We hold the tempo pace for at least 30 minutes. Cool down with your marathon pace.
Hill/Long Run: This run should be done at or below your marathon pace. This run is done to build strength and endurance. For us, our long run just happens to include ridiculous hills (check out the Garmin data here) Your doesn’t have to have hills–unless you are training for a hilly race.