I love laying out a new training plan.  There’s something incredibly satisfying in looking ahead to the next big goal lurking out there in the mist, and then breaking it down into an actual executable plan of action.  As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve been using the Run Less, Run Faster plan all season, with solid results.  I bought a used copy of the book, which is by Bill Pierce, Scott Murr, and Ray Moss years ago.  My copy happens to be signed by Scott Murr to the previous owner with an inscription that reads something like, “To Tom, stick with it for the long run,” which Tom obviously didn’t.  

The story goes that the idea behind their training plan came during a stint when the authors switched from running to training for a triathlon.  They reduced their running mileage significantly to accommodate their swimming and biking, keeping the overall training volume about the same, but found their their running times actually improved.  After doing some studies on other athletes with similar results, they concluded that by alternating focused, quality runs with (non weight-bearing) cardio cross training, the body was better able to recover between running workouts.  (You can hear an interview with Scott Murr discussing RLRF on a recent Paleo Runner podcast here.)

The plan is somewhat unique in that you start by selecting your goal race time (with some guidance on how to choose something reasonably attainable), and work backwards from there.  Each week of training includes an interval run, a tempo run, and a long run.  Add in your two cross training workouts and that’s it.  The specific workouts to be executed are hyper-detailed with distances and paces for every day, all specifically attuned to get you to the goal race pace.  The book itself is largely a collection of these tables that map out paces at various distances.  Happily, RLRF is now an app, and by plugging in a recent finish time it will generate a personalized training plan pretty much instantly.

The approach appeals to me for a number of reasons, not least of which is that I almost feel like I have a coach when I’m following it.  I also appreciate that at 6AM, I don’t have to make decisions about what I’m trying to accomplish with my workout.  I can easily tell if I’m on track for my goal or not, and by the time I get to race day, I know what I can expect from myself.  I’ve also been able to break through mental barriers that I never thought possible.  Tempo runs in the 7’s?  I would never have even thought to attempt it, except that my google calendar told me to.  The only real complaint I have about the system is that I hate cross training.  Up until now in fact, I have been doing more of a RMRF plan.  Every time it said cross train, I did an easy run.  I know. I really tried to do it properly a few years ago, but I found that I really missed the easy days.  When you’re only putting in “quality” workouts, you don’t get the chance to space out and watch the scenery go by.

I am now, however, trying to craft a bulletproof plan to get me to the finish line of the Baltimore Marathon in October, and I’m willing to consider desperate measures.  Like cross training.  In my first and only previous attempt at 26.2 (for which I also tried a Run More, Run Faster plan), I ended up too injured and overtrained to race.  I know my biggest challenge in facing the marathon is getting myself to the start, strong physically both and mentally.  I feel like I’m ready, and that this is my year.  I know that in order to do this, I’m going to have to train holistically.  I’ve been thinking a lot about what a mind-body training approach might look like.  It’s got to help me continue to get mentally strong, but without pushing myself to the breaking point.  I think it may involve some regular massage.  And maybe I can even make friends with a spin bike in the process…



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