Before I review the FIRST plan let me briefly explain what it is. The focus of the FIRST plan is quality not quantity which loosely translates to more intense runs but less of them, this is also supposed to decrease your risk of injury. Under the FIRST plan you run only 3 times a week - when I heard this I was all over this plan like hair on soap. There are no easy runs, you run one speedwork session, one tempo run and one long run. Where are the easy runs? They’re relaxing on the beach somewhere with a Corona, changing their latitude.
The schedule calls for Tuesday and Wednesday to be your speedwork and tempo runs consecutively... on back-to-back days, and then your long run is either Sat or Sun. I should note that after being too physically exhausted to complete my tempo run the day after my speedwork, I amended my schedule to be Monday, Wednesday, Saturday, instead of Tuesday, Wednesday, Saturday. On the 4 other days of the week the plan calls for 2 to 3 cross training days to maintain fitness.
Results/Review: You've probably all read my Denver Half Marathon race report, so you already know that I achieved my goal using the FIRST plan. I am faster now than I was before I began training and I have run longer than ever before. I also did not get injured during this time, but who can say whether or not that is attributable to the FIRST plan or whether that was just dumb luck. Knowing me, the latter sounds more likely.
Given these results you would think that I would be willing to endorse the program and sing its praises, and you’d be correct. However, I will add that you'd better be mentally tough if you plan on doing the FIRST training. There is some real speed involved in the workouts and I consistently failed to complete all the miles in a workout at the required pace, often having to slow down towards the end. During a couple of the runs I even outright quit and walked home. Hey, I’m not proud of it, but it happened. This frequently created nagging feelings of failure and doubt which are even evident in my goal setting post when I predicted a time of 2:06 for myself.
Prior to running the Denver Half Marathon I was actually prepared to write a bad review of the FIRST plan due to the fact that I felt the runs were too demanding and too unrealistic. However having had some time to reflect on my half marathon and comparing my running in June with my running today, it is painfully obvious that I am faster now than I was then. I am a better runner today, and you simply can’t argue with a plan that helps you accomplish that.
For more, see the FIRST Half Marathon Training Plan at Runner’s World.