Thoughts on Run Less, Run Faster Marathon Training Plan

18 Nov

While training for the Wineglass Marathon I adopted the Run Less, Run Faster (RLRF) training program about three weeks in.

What is the Run Less, Run Faster training program?

The Run Less, Run Faster training program was developed by FIRST – the Furman Institute of Running and Scientific Training.  There have been studies done that you can read about however it is built on the premise that runners can successfully train for events by running three quality runs a week.  Quality is key here – every work out has a prescribed pace and a specific goal.

More information on the Furman Institute’s website is available here.

What do you need to use the RLRP training program?

In my opinon you need the the following things to help you be successful during the RLRP training program for a marathon:

  • Buy the Run Less, Run Faster book (not an affiliate link). I bought it on Kindle which was just fine.  The book is really the go to resouce for the training plan. It is a quick read and gives you the detailed training plans that you need.  It also explains the theory behind having three quality runs a week and the purpose of them. There are 5k, 10k, half marathon and marathon novice and intermediate plans included.  The book also provides detailed pace charts – based on your most recently race time it gives you paces for your speedwork intervals, tempo runs and long runs. These paces are extremely important to the plan.
  • A decent running base. Before I started RLRF I was running 4 days a week and incorporating speedwork, hill work and tempo runs. I think that some experience with these types of runs would be helpful and having experience running regularly is a must.
  • A recent race time. Since your training paces are based on this, it is obviously pretty important.  In the book it says you want to use the longest distance you have done that is closest to the distance you are training for. So for my plan I based in on my most recent half mrathon time.  You can simply use a 5k time if that’s all you have though.
  • Optionally, you can use an app for your phone to easily access your workouts for the week without having to reference the book. I downloaded it and found it to be helpful.  I still referred to the book often to double check speedwork paces and get additional information as needed. The android app is here, and the iOS app is here.

What are the pros of RLRF?

  • Running only 3 times a week. Though you may spend well over an hour running at one time, the frequency is lower which is nice.  I felt like I had plenty of time in the other 4 days to incorporate other types of exercise and to rest and recover.  My legs never felt sluggish starting a planned run because 90% of the time I had an opportunity to rest my legs (from running at least) the day before.
  • It is a pace based training plan.  It is based on your abilities and your running history. I found the paces to be challenging but doable. The worst feeling is when it feels like a training plans paces are all around impossible. I did not find that to be the case with this program at all. I felt challenged but it always felt doable. It always felt awesome when it was done too. 🙂
  • Constantly varied workouts. Most of the weeks in the marathon plan follow a pattern of one speedwork, one tempo run and one long run. You can switch up the order in any way you would like. The speedwork and tempo runs vary from week to week in their lengths and paces which really kept things interesting. The long runs follow a more traditional pattern of building up mileage and cutting back every few weeks, but there were still perscribed paces.

What are the cons of RLRF?

  • Minimal support for cross training, including strength training. While the plan recommends two days a week of cross training, the only types of cross training recommended are swimming, cycling and rowing.  I have found weight training in the form of BodyPump to be hugely important to my fitness level. So I simply kept going 3xs a week as I did before I started the plan. On weeks when the mileage was especially high I would reduce or remove the weight on my bar for the squats and lunge tracks. During taper, leading up the race, and the week after the race I drastically reduced my frequency of attending BodyPump and cut it out all together the week of the race (this was under the guidence of the owner of the gym I attend).  So while FIRST does not recommend weight training, I found it to be helpful for my purposes. Obviously that may not be a one size fits all solution but if this program is something you are interested in, I would suggest that you adjust to find something that works best for you.


In closing, I felt the Run Less, Run Faster program was a great running plan for my 2nd marathon. I plan to continue using these plans as I train for half marathons (and maybe shorter distances) in the future.  I managed to cut 23 minutes from my first marathon so I do think there is something to be said for this program helping me become stronger and more comfortable at running at a faster pace.


2 Responses to “Thoughts on Run Less, Run Faster Marathon Training Plan”

  1. Smitha @ Running with SD Mom November 18, 2014 at 2:22 pm #

    Thanks for this post. I have been wondering about this program.


  1. Runner’s World Marathon For Mortals Plan Review | Diary of a slow runner - January 5, 2017

    […] runDisney plan (since I did it as part of the Goofy Challenge) and for my second, I used the Run Less, Run Faster plan. I felt that the Galloway plan really did prepare me to simply finish my first 26.2, and the RLRF […]

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