Back to the drawing board....

It's been 10 days after SCMS. 10 days of no running. The only form of exercise was swimming on 3 occasions. Itching to put on the running shoes again.....

However, the "rest" is crucial. Not only for recovery from injuries (ITB Syndrome and Plantar Fasciitis), but it is also a good time for reflection....

My training for marathons since Oct 2009 until the recent SCMS had been intense. Generally, running routine is as such: 5 day running week with at least one hill repeat/ tempo runs on weekdays, and finish off with a long run in the weekend. Through out 2010, I have signed up for more races than I could remember. Although all this may have contributed to better PB (from 4:20 in Borneo Marathon Oct 2009 to 3:41 in SCKL Marathon June 2010 and then 3:17 [PB] in Beijing Marathon), but it came at a huge price. I have incurred more injuries than ever. First it was the Plantar Fasciitis, then recently in Penang and Singapore, ITB Syndrome. And my muscles are constantly fatigued.

This got me thinking if there is a better way to train with lesser risk of injuries. This simply cannot go on. It will inadvertently cut short my running career....

Coincidentally, a couple of books that I mail ordered from in November arrived yesterday. It was a godsend. I am half way through one of the books and realize that this could be the solution to my dilemma.

The book is called RUN LESS, RUN FASTER by Bill Pierce, Scott Murr and Ray Moss.

(It's customary to first finish the book before writing a review on it. I know. However, I have chosen to blog about it now because I feel that the points made are relevant and it will benefit runners with similar predicament as mine. Ok, ok, I admit it. I just can't wait to share it!)
What's the book about? First of all, it is written by people who have done research on what they are talking about. (not just speaking from experience) And with credentials and scientific facts to back it up. Their FIRST (Furman Institute of Running and Scientific Training) philosophy focuses on training with purpose. Favoring quality over quantity, intensity over frequency, and fast running over accumulation of miles. It's a 3+2 program where there are just 3 running sessions (track repeat/tempo/long run) interspersed with 2 cross training in a week.

This goes against the training that I have been accustomed to. But it makes sense because to be truthful, (Confession time!) I have had weeks when I was too busy to train. As a result, I had to skip some runs. But during those days when I could train, I did tempo and pushed myself hard. Naturally I thought I could at least do some quality runs since I could not afford the time. Yet some how, it produced some results. I have previously spoken to Eric, a fellow runner who is aiming for a sub 4. He has asked me how I could improve my PB within such a short time (within a year). I didn't think at that point that my training was any different compared to theirs. But now, after reading the book, I realized that there may be some truth in it. I have "field tested" it without even knowing it.

In the book, there are lots of positive comments from the runners who have benefited from this program. I am not through with studying it yet but I am sure it will benefit me since I already had some first hand experience of it. I just need to hone in more on the track repeats/interval training and tempo.

One chapter mentioned about setting realistic goals. It's an important point to grasp because very often runners get into the trap of setting too high a goal just to end up hitting the wall. The book provides a table of calculation/prediction of your marathon time based on your 5K or 10K time. For example, if your 10K time is 45 minutes, then you should be capable of a marathon time of 3:30.The issue is when one desires to do a PB by setting an unrealistic goal, i.e. if you want to achieve a 3:15 (based on your 45 minutes/10K time) when your predicted marathon time should be 3:30, you are more likely to run too fast in the initial half ultimately leading to exhaustion and a slower/disappointing finish. I think this point is obvious because most of us make this mistake. Introspectively, I have found this relevant to me, reflected in my  poor performance in the recent Singapore and Penang Marathons. It was indirectly a result of setting unrealistic goals. (Of course, it was complicated by many injuries too.)

All of us have different focus and purpose when it comes to running a marathon. Some are not bothered by the PB. Some just run for the fun of it. But for those who bother enough to think about their finishing time, this book will help you improve that. I have the idea that if you train by running slow, even if you accumulate the weekly mileage, you will still probably be a slow runner. Your endurance might be great but you would lack speed and most likely your marathon time will remain stagnant. If you want to improve on your PB, then, it is time to turn up one notch by training to improve your speed. It makes a lot of sense. The FIRST program focuses on that.

Well, having said all that, I still need to field test it more to give you my final conclusion. So, in the next few months, I am going to stick to the program as closely as I can. If this is for everyone as the book claims, then it should pretty well work for me.

If you are interested to try it out, why not get yourself a copy from, put the theories to test. After all, if you are a working adult like me - with family/job/etc to juggle with daily, this program may be your ONLY option. If it works for you, why not let me know too.....


  1. Francis...
    you trained so hard?i thought u are a born runner..minimal training but good results.Where can u get time to do 5 running/week?
    As for the can summarize for us..tell us the important points of it.
    No time to time for everything.Aiya!

  2. Nice sharing...!

    By the way, do they mention 'nutrition'? I believe many of us (slow runners) probably neglected this as 'we run because we like to eat like pig'...:) I think it is probably time for us to re-think that 'training and eating' as one package.

    Now, most articles on 'nutrition' are written in the context of mat-salleh food. Really like to hear your experience on diet + supplement in the context of Malaysia (best, chinese)... something like 'Malaysian Nutrition Guide to Boston Marathon'...:)

  3. Good point! Yes, there is also a chapter on nutrition but I haven't reached there yet. Too busy calculating/drawing up a schedule for training based on the FIRST program.
    You are right in saying that we often neglect our nutrition because we think that we are burning so much, and that we can cut some slack on the choice of food.
    Essentially it is 70% carbo (unrefined); 10-20% protein and 15% fat (no trans fat); I think that is the same in most books on running nutrition. As for localizing the food choices, rice to me is my main choice of carbo since I am not so much a bread/pasta person. The rest, just take care not to overindulge in the fatty stuff like nasi lemak, particularly too much protein like eggs and KFC etc, I think we should be OK ;)


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