Training Plans

Here is an overview of the world of training plans.

HIgdon.

Hal Higdon offers free training plans on HalHigdon.com for the 5K, 10K, Half Marathon and Marathon, for the Novice, Intermediate and Advanced Runner. He has 13 different Marathon training plans, including some fun ones, like Boston Bound and Multiple Marathons. Each plans has a nice text description of the different types of workouts, and an 18 week calendar. Interactive versions of the Higdon plans are available through TrainingPeaks.com for $30-$40.

We would recommend the Higdon Novice and Intermediate plans for a new runner who training for the first time or who wants to finish a marathon with a smile. Beyond that, Higdon is a gateway drug to Pfitz 18/55. For a more experienced runner, the Higdon plans lack the detail and sophistication of other training plans.

Pfitz

The Pfitz plans are available in the Advanced Marathoning (now in its Second Edition) by Pete Pfitzinger and Scott Douglas. While there are copies of the plans floating around on the Internet, there is not a web site dedicated to distributing and supporting the plans. The plans are titled by the number of training weeks and the maximum weekly mileage, where you see plans for 12/55, 18/55, 24/55, 12/70, 18/70, 24/70, 12/85, 18/85, and 24/85, along with plans for multiple marathons in a short period of time. The Pfitz approach is known for Mesocycles (four week training periods focused on a specific type of fitness; endurance, LT, speed), a weekly speed workout, and a challenging mid-week Medium Long Run. Pfitz 18/55 and 18/70 are popular with runners looking to qualify for the Boston Marathon.

Daniels

The Jack Daniels plans are based on the VDOT scale he created to assess a runner’s fitness level. By looking up a recent race time using the VDOT tables, you can determine your current fitness (defined by a number from 30-85), and then use this number with a second table to determine your training paces for Easy, Marathon, Threshold, Interval, and Repetition workouts. The VDOT paces are similar to the training paces generated by the McMillan Calculator. While there are various web site where you can calculate your VDOT, the Daniels training plans themselves are only available for a fee ($40-$80) on the Daniel’s web site, or in Daniel’s book, Daniels’ Running Formula.

FIRST

First, let’s get the entire title in here. Runner’s World Run Less, Run Faster, Revised Edition: Become a Faster, Stronger Runner with the Revolutionary 3-Run-a-Week Training Program. Developed by the Furman Institute of Running and Scientific Training (known as FIRST), the program can be easily summarized — rest, run intervals, cross train, run sustained tempo, rest, cross train, run long run. You do three quality runs and replace all of your GA and recovery runs with rest and cross training. I have a couple of issues with the basic premise. First, I actually like running, so the idea of running less doesn’t make sense to me. It would be like a book called “Play Less Golf and Still Win the Club Tournament.” Why would you choose do your hobby less? Also, I have serious reservations as to whether the plan actually works. No matter how slowly you run the first 20 miles, the final 10K of a marathon is difficult and you are running on tired legs. Most training plans try to prepare you to run on tired legs to give you a fighting chance of enjoying the race. My concern is that the FIRST plan is setting people up for an awful finish who then tell all their friends that it was the worst thing they ever did and that they won’t ever do it again.

Hudson

Brad Hudson, coach to elite runners, has developed training plans based on his specific-endurance training principles — developing the endurance needed to maximize performance at a particular distance race. The Hudson plans are available in his book, Run Faster from the 5K to the Marathon, which provides three marathon plans topping out at 50, 59 and 87 miles per week. Each plans contains a wide and interesting range of progression runs, Fartlek runs, threshold runs, hill repeats and Long Runs, with extended Goal Marathon Pace (GMP) sections. Fasten on your seatbelt.

Hanson

The Hanson Advanced Training Plan is available in the Hansons-Brooks Distance Project’s book, Hansons Marathon Method and for free online on the Hansons-Running web site. Their approach offers a different perspective on marathon training, by doing away with long runs and high mileage weekends — and instead focusing on moderate-high mileage spread throughout the week, and quality. Running easy days are mixed with paced speed, strength, and tempo workouts. Take a look at their web site, and you will be struck by a number of things — including the lack of a progression of Long Runs, and the emphasis on speed, strength and tempo. Really very cool. That, and the Weds off day. As someone who runs lots of long, slow miles, this approach might be considered the opposite of the RunningRepeats plan, but that said, I really like it for its forthright approach.

Moose

The Moose Plan was developed by Rbbmoose from the Runner’s World Marathon Race Training (MRT) Forums (RIP). A 2:40:00 marathon runner in his 50′s, Rbbmoose came up with a real-world plan that works for him, and given his success as a runner, it has caught the attention of many slower, old runners. Perhaps it will catch on. I like the Moose Plan because you run really, really slow five days a week, and because of its brutal simplicity. The Moose Plan is available here for free.

MON TUES WEDS THURS FRI SAT SUN
10 recovery. GMP +2:30. 10 recovery. GMP +2:30. 13 MLR @ GMP. 10 recovery. GMP +2:30. 10 recovery. GMP +2:30. 10 recovery. GMP +2:30. 20 LR @ GMP +1:00.

Other training plans are available for a fee from TrainingPeaks.com, as older runners and coaches try to cash in, and monetize their names.