Book: ‘Run Less, Run Faster' in marathon training

Who doesn’t want to run less and run faster? FIRST says it’s possible with their training programs. Photo: G. Widman/GPTMC

NEW YORK, August 1, 2012—It’s that time of year again: marathon training season. More than 500,000 runners will finish a marathon this year, and more will begin training for one, many targeting the rash of fall and winter races all over the U.S. I’m no exception. This year, I’m running the 2012 Philadelphia Marathon on Nov. 18. In 16 weeks, I’ll be at the starting line in the City of Brotherly Love, hopefully prepared to tackle my fifth tango with 26.2.

In order to do that, I know what I have to do: train right.

This year, I’ve chosen to run with the Furman Institute of Running and Scientific Training, better known as FIRST. They recently published a revised edition of their book Run Less Run Faster brought to us by Runner’s World. Coming in at 300 pages, it’s a tome on all things running including how to set realistic goals, how to plan for year-round training, and other gems about nutrition, strength-training and conquering your first Boston Marathon qualifying time. Most importantly, the book shares a variety of training programs from the 5K to the marathon aimed at both newbies and seasoned runners looking to set personal bests.

The FIRST program believes that three key runs combined with two days of cross training are all any runner needs to get stronger and faster. With weekly track repeats, tempo runs and time-targeted long runs, FIRST aims to improve your leg speed, lactate-threshold pace and endurance. And with two weekly aerobic cross-training sessions, FIRST aims to improve your cardiovascular endurance, while avoiding running burnout.

No more junk miles, no more plodding shuffle jogs to get all that mileage in. FIRST preaches quality over quantity to optimize training time. What’s more, they say it makes for faster race times.

I believe them. I trained with FIRST for the 2010 ING New York City Marathon with great results. But I’m giving their updated 16-week marathon training program another shake two years later to see if it was just a fluke or if running less really does lead to running faster for me.

As a runner with arthritis in one knee, I find that the right amount of running actually helps my joint stay lubricated and feeling good. When I don’t run enough, my knee starts to get achy. And when I run too much, it also nags at me. It will let me tolerate a lot—I ran three half-marathons in three consecutive months this winter with no problems. But I know that the demands of marathon training far outweigh that. So picking a program like FIRST, where I minimize time pounding my knees sounds, perfect to me.

I also completed my second triathlon in June to a huge personal best. I actually enjoyed mixing cycling and swimming with my running workouts, even if I didn’t do quite as many as I should have. So I love the idea of rounding out my cardiovascular fitness with cross training instead of more miles on the ground.

So here goes. It’s time to start the 16-week training countdown to marathon Sunday. I’ll post regular updates on my training and the FIRST program as marathon Sunday nears. I’m cueing up “Gonna Fly Now,” the theme from Rocky. Come Nov. 18, I’ll be ready to rock Philly with Run Less, Run Faster by my side.

Karla Bruning is a veteran journalist and running nerd. She has completed four marathons, two triathlons, trains with the New York Harriers and is a member of New York Road Runners. Follow Karla’s “Notes From a Running Nerd” at, Facebook and Twitter@KBruning.

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Karla Bruning

Karla Bruning is the host of On The Run, a TV and web show from New York Road Runners. Her work has appeared in Newsweek, American Athlete Magazine,,, The Philadelphia Inquirer, San Francisco Chronicle, Orlando Sentinel, and two dozen other outlets including ESPN2, Universal Sports and ABC in New York. She and her work have also received mentions from The New York Times, Runner's World, Fox Sports, Canadian Running, The Baltimore Sun, and PBS among others. She also covered the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver for The Washington Times.


A former Newsweek reporter, Karla has won a Fulbright scholarship for American journalists and reporting grants from the Scripps Howard, Carnegie and Knight Foundations. Karla holds degrees from Amherst College and Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism.


When not pounding the pavement as a reporter, Karla is pounding the pavement as a runner. She has completed seven marathons, four triathlons, trains with the New York Harriers and is a member of New York Road Runners. She is a writer, editor, and on-camera reporter dedicated to covering the sport of running from a runner’s perspective. Find Karla on, Twitter@KBruning, Facebook and Google+.

Contact Karla Bruning


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