, Salem, MA


January 15, 2009

Marathon training programs come in many shapes, sizes

On The Run

Jay Kumar

We are in the midst of a seriously cold stretch. Not just chilly, but teeth-rattling, mind-numbing, stay-inside-your-nice-warm-home-unless-absolutely-necessary cold.

This weekend, when most folks will be getting their exercise at the gym or just blowing it off to stay warm, a dedicated bunch will brave the arctic temperatures to get their long run in.

If you're training for a spring marathon, you've got to do those long runs. And 15 miles on a treadmill is just torture.

Marathon training programs are as varied as marathon runners. There isn't one correct way to train for a marathon. Depending on your goal and ability, you can find a program that works for you.

The Furman FIRST program ( recommends that you do three quality runs per week: a tempo run, speed work, and a long run. On the other days, runners are advised to cross-train (swim, bike, etc.) on two or three other days, with one day of rest. The idea is that you minimize wear and tear on your body while maximizing the quality of your training.

In studies conducted at Furman University in Greenville, S.C., the Furman Institute of Running and Scientific Training found that runners improved their race times when they followed the program. I tried it for the first time in 2006, and it really has worked well for me. I've had fewer injuries (knock on wood) and my marathon times have improved considerably. That said, it's not for everybody.

Author and running expert Hal Higdon ( has developed an extensive series of training programs for novice, intermediate and advanced runners. His programs recommend running anywhere from four to six days per week, incorporating speed work, tempo runs, hill work, and long runs. Higdon doesn't advocate running more than 20 miles for a long run.

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