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UH60guy

Hal Higdon vs. FIRST plans

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I recently used Hal Higdon's Intermediate 2 plan to complete my first marathon in March. The next one I'm scheduled to run is the Marine Corps Marathon in October, so I have a little down time to get a new plan together. I was thinking of trying the "Run Less, Run faster" approach through FIRST this time, but was wondering if anyone has any experience or thoughts on the matter?

 

Hal Higdon got me to the finish line, but pretty much right where I started pace wise. I just finished a half marathon at 9:00 pace when I signed up and began training for the full. Trained and ran it pretty much right on 8:45 per mile and finished at 3:49, beating my goal of 4 hours.

 

Now that I've caught the running bug, I'd like to get my time down to 8:15 (or even 8 flat?) per mile if I can. I'd like to do a 5k at a fast pace (next NF challenge goal), and that leaves me 15 weeks solely dedicated to the marathon (plus 3 overlap with NF challenge running). I think those 18 weeks should be plenty of time to get my speedwork in.

 

I like the thought of this FIRST plan of only running three days a week because it lets me hit the gym a little more, but I hesitated when I started wondering if I would be putting in enough mileage to be successful. Has anyone tried this program or a similar one? Any recommended programs

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I've only done the Higdon plan for the half marathon, like you I don't know if running 3 days a week is going to be putting in enough mileage; I'm using a plan to build up to 30 mpw that has me running 6 days a week, one of those days is a really really light recovery run

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Honestly, I personally wouldn't go for either of those if you're serious about improving your time - I'd actually suggest reading Pete Pfitzinger's Advanced Running and scaling back some of the plans in there.  It's a seriously useful book, especially if you're planning to stick with the distance and be able to keep making gains in the longer term.

 

That said, it does recommend very heavy mileage - I'm a fan of that, but then I'm a person who puts in 70km/week when I'm not even training for anything -  if you're looking for running to eat up less of your free time then I don't think the FIRST plan will really hold you back for the near future (but I do think it becomes weaker and weaker as you get more and more competitive).  In other words, if one plan works better with your lifestyle, go for it! :)  You can always mix it up later if you don't like the results.

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especially if you're planning to stick with the distance and be able to keep making gains in the longer term.

 

Well that is one thing I think I forgot to mention. I do intend to make running a regular thing and would like to get my pace up in the long term, but I think the USMC Marathon in October will be my last full- at least for a lengthy time (never say never). While I loved the challenge and feeling of accomplishment, I didn't like dedicating 2-3 hours each weekend day to a single fitness goal of running. I think my future involves more half marathons- they're still challenging and I can work on setting new PRs, but they don't require as much of my life dedicated to just running, and will allow me more chance to get into some weight lifting at the gym.

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Ah, in that case I withdraw my recommendation of Pfitzinger - it sounds like you should just go for whichever program fits your lifestyle. Most of the popular plans will push you enough to improve at this stage, and if your longterm goals are at the shorter distances I don't think it's worth worrying about the details for this one race.

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Cool, thanks for the input. If the FIRST will work for the near future, that might be the way to go. I guess I can't overcome the mental obstacle of believing it will be enough. Maybe the only way to overcome that thought process is to just try it and see for myself!

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I haven't tried either but my thoughts :

nothing beats mileage for improving efficiency and performance but the FIRST plan come close enough for someone at your level. It basically replaces any easy runs with cross training so the key runs are still there to get a running specific stimulus and the cross training gives your running a break while still working your cardio. This means less running stress on your body so you can theoretically push the key runs a little harder.

So long story short, I wouldn't worry about the minimal mileage as long as you are doing biking/rowing/swimming type cross training.

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I did enjoy the program- it gave me confidence, goals, and it got me to the finish line exactly at my goal time. I would highly recommend it if you can alreday run at or near your goal pace. I'm just not sure how well suited it is to improving on my time. He does have some ten miler and shorter plans as well, could be worth a look for you.

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Well it is 20 weeks until the Philadelphia marathon. I did my 10 miler at just under a 13 minute mile, and think that without much additional training could get to a sub 2h half. There is a half in mid September that I'm probably going to be doing with friends, and I see no reason to stop training afterwards, so I might use this as a template. Then I will take the winter off of running. Really. Honest. *twitch*

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I'm going to try the FIRST plan for my Chicago marathon training - ~20 weeks away!!!!1!!one!

 

I did Disney in 5:38:12 so hopefully I can improve on that

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Awesome! Be sure to let us know how it goes. I'm working on a 5k improvement for the current challenge, but will switch over to FIRST in late July. Realize that's only 6 weeks of your 20 away, but I'd love to hear what you think of it as you go.

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I'm going to try the FIRST plan for my Chicago marathon training - ~20 weeks away!!!!1!!one!

 

I did Disney in 5:38:12 so hopefully I can improve on that

I would LOVE to know how this went. I think I'm about to use the FIRST plan for my first marathon.

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Well, my feedback may or may not work for you, but here goes.

 

Background: I used Hal Higdon's plan to train from running my first half marathon to running my first full in four months time. I hit my pace goal on the full marathon TO THE SECOND, but I felt I might have been able to push harder in training. I tried the FIRST lately working towards the USMC marathon, but had to drop that goal because of an impending baby due the same date. Instead, I ran a half marathon on Labor Day midway through the program. I ran it just fine, but didn't notice any time improvement.

 

This is just my personal opinion, based on only exactly one data point race on each plan (and different race lengths too), but I'd recommend the Hal Higdon program. I ran more days per week, and really felt like I was training for something. It built my confidence up a lot more too. With the FIRST program, I met my time goals, but only running three days a week didn't help the mental game. I didn't *feel* like I was getting ready for a marathon, though my body probably was. It kinda felt like I was just running every now and then on a whim, even though it was a specific program. If my head wasn't in the game for the MCM, I can bet I would have hit the wall somewhere.

 

If I train again, I'll use the Higdon plans. The only difference is I may set my pace goal a little more ambitious early on, and give it the full four months or so to see if I'm hitting my times. But I can't argue with a plan that got me through a full marathon less than a year after I had never run more than five miles in my life, and hit my pace exactly to the second.

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Chicago is in the bag and I did it in 4:42:02 which is almost an hour over my Disney time. A couple of things helped #1 weather, Chicago was MUCH better running weather than Disney. #2 training the FIRST method has you go to 20 miles at least twice - though that last 10K was HARD. 

 

I think I'll use a hybrid plan next time around (if I do another Marathon anyways) as the speed and faster pace of the FIRST plan did get me used to running faster over a period as I managed to do the first 15 miles without significant a break/pause in pace but not running much makes it hard mentally as you're not sure you're training enough ... also I might try to go to 22 or 24 miles at least once next time around.

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I have run 7 marathons and the last few using the FIRST program.  I find it really works for me because I am able to fit in the required training while only running 3 days a week.  But for it to work for you it is important that you don't miss many running days, especially the long runs.  Because it is only 3 days a week, I found that the times I have only missed a few days over the 16 weeks it was a GREAT program. If you miss more than 10% or so of the running days, it may not work for you.  And I would stress that you try hard not to miss any of the 20 mile runs. Five 20 mile runs may sound like a lot but your last 2 are SO much easier and faster than the first couple you can really see the plan in action.  The FIRST plan has also been a much better predictor of finish time and kept me much healthier.  

 

So if you do not have the time to run 5 or 6 days a week or have issues staying healthy once you run over 40 miles a week I would strongly endorse this program. 

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I have run 7 marathons and the last few using the FIRST program.  I find it really works for me because I am able to fit in the required training while only running 3 days a week.  But for it to work for you it is important that you don't miss many running days, especially the long runs.  Because it is only 3 days a week, I found that the times I have only missed a few days over the 16 weeks it was a GREAT program. If you miss more than 10% or so of the running days, it may not work for you.  And I would stress that you try hard not to miss any of the 20 mile runs. Five 20 mile runs may sound like a lot but your last 2 are SO much easier and faster than the first couple you can really see the plan in action.  The FIRST plan has also been a much better predictor of finish time and kept me much healthier.  

 

So if you do not have the time to run 5 or 6 days a week or have issues staying healthy once you run over 40 miles a week I would strongly endorse this program. 

 

Did you do all/most of the cross training workouts as well? 

 

FWIW, I started the FIRST plan for my March 1st marathon this week. Since this is my first marathon, I won't have anything to compare it to. I finished a half in October in 1:41:41, which supposedly translates to somewhere in the 3:32-3:35 range for a full, depending on which internet calculator you believe. We'll see how it goes. I'm planning to stick very closely to the prescribed runs and cross training workouts. (I'm doing an exercise bike for all of the cross-training.)

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Did you do all/most of the cross training workouts as well? 

 

FWIW, I started the FIRST plan for my March 1st marathon this week. Since this is my first marathon, I won't have anything to compare it to. I finished a half in October in 1:41:41, which supposedly translates to somewhere in the 3:32-3:35 range for a full, depending on which internet calculator you believe. We'll see how it goes. I'm planning to stick very closely to the prescribed runs and cross training workouts. (I'm doing an exercise bike for all of the cross-training.)

 

I have not done the cross training, although I know they would be helpful and make the prediction even more accurate.  If this is your first marathon and you already did a 1:41 half your biggest challenge will be not to go out too fast. AND to get the race day hydration/nutrition plan right.  Good luck!

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