Run Less, Run Faster

by Jodi

Last year at this time I was in the early stages of marathon training, following  a plan that required running high mileage six days a week with no room for cross training.  My body wasn't ready for it and I fractured my foot ten weeks into training.

My post-injury running was middle distance focused on time with friends instead of pace.  This summer Carissa and I switched to triathlon training.  The diversity that swimming and cycling added were a welcome change mentally and physically to my exercise routine.

It has been nine months since I've challenged myself to run farther or faster.  While I was resting I read an interesting book called Run Less, Run Faster (RLRF) co-written by Bill Pierce, Scott Murr, and Ray Moss.  The basic premise of the training plan is quality over quantity.  The authors advocate running three specific, pace-based workouts per week.  Combine two cardio cross training days and you have their 3plus2 training program.

When Carissa suggested a winter race I was ready to say yes.  We signed up to run races in Scio - the town I lived in during junior high/high school - on February 1st.  Carissa is running the 10k.  Devon and I are running a half marathon.

There is a RLRF app for smart phones that makes training really simple. **It took me a while to find the app because it's called FIRST.**  Once I located the app, I paid $2.99, entered my personal data, and the day of my race. VIOLA! A sixteen week customized training plan with specific paces popped up tailored just for me.

The training plan seems like a perfect fit for me right now.  I can still - in theory - train for a triathlon AND build speed and stamina in my running.  (Not that I've stepped foot in a pool since September, but I like to think that one day I actually will.)  I like the flexibility that the extra cross training days offer. I can swap out cardio for yoga, a strength training class, or a run with my friends.  Hooray for choices!

The only thing I was worried about was being told how fast to run every time I laced up my shoes.  EVERY.SINGLE.RUN with RLRF has a very specific and focused pace associated with it based on a runner's current fitness level.   I didn't take the time to test my current fitness level - (not recommended according the bright red warning that flashed across the app when I was setting it up).    I just put in a race time that would make me really happy and hoped for the best.  Carissa and I both were skeptical that I would like such specific and fast workouts.

But surprisingly I do.  On paper the paces look completely intimidating.  They are very challenging, but doable if I approach them with focus and resolve. Time after time I finish my workout with the intense satisfaction of knowing I pushed myself to the limit and lived to do it again two days later.  Even the days when I come in over pace feel really gratifying because I know I gave my best effort.  The big unexpected WOW factor here is that most days I am actually hitting the prescribed pace or coming in under.  It has been totally shocking to see the numbers I'm clocking.  I really didn't know I could run this fast.

I'm learning so much about myself as a runner by following RLRF.  I'm paying attention to my splits, weather variables, and how my nutrition plays into my ability to cover longer distances at a faster speed.  The knowledge I'm gaining is making me a better, faster, smarter and more confident runner.

Here are some examples.  I didn't realize how hesitant I was to add mileage until I ventured out of the middle distances and ran fourteen, hilly miles.  I didn't hit my projected pace but I gained confidence that my foot is fully healed.  That hurdle of "can I run longer than ten miles at a time?" was overcome.  A huge victory in my book, even though my pace left room for improvement.
You know I was SO tempted to go past that sign.
The following week I ran the fastest fifteen miles in my running career.  I tested out a pacing strategy that Devon told me about.  For the first time ever I ran negative splits, finishing 19 seconds per mile under my projected pace with my last mile being the fastest.
after I finished a fast 15 miles
Last week I set up a mock half marathon course on terrain that mimics the Scio course.  I wanted to test the negative splits pacing strategy one more time and get 13.1 miles under my belt before race day.  Again I surprised myself.  I held a steady pace for the first six miles then dropped the hammer for the last seven.  I was able to hold the pace, finish with negative splits, and was only 34 seconds away from beating my previous personal half marathon record.  On a training run!  WHOOP WHOOP!

The most compelling aspect of RLRF (in my opinion) is the fact that this plan works for any runner no matter their experience or pace.  Any runner can experience the euphoria of accomplishing things they didn't know they were capable of as long as they train at pace equal to their current fitness level. Who doesn't want to feel like they can conquer the world?
post 13.1 crazy euphoria face
I've blown up Carissa and Devon's phones with one happy post-run picture after another.  We send each other "you can do it" text messages on the days we run and rejoice in each other's victories when we finish.  We pray for each other's ailments, for our kids and our marriages.  The odd thing is that Devon and I have yet to actually meet in person but the camaraderie of using RLRF together has cemented a growing friendship.

RLRF is also teaching me to be focused and smart.  I pay attention to what my body and my watch are telling me and adjust my running accordingly.  I'm training to run a 1:38 half marathon in Scio and would be thrilled if I hit that pace.  But just as important to me is running a smart race - not going out too fast and building speed as the race progresses.  I really want to run a race with negative splits and RLRF is teaching me how to do that.
this was my toughest track workout.  I almost quit on it.  Twice.  Such great satisfaction to finish it out.
Today was my last long training run before we race next Saturday.  I ran eight hilly miles with sore legs and shoulders from a strength training session I did yesterday.  The first four miles were the same as the fourteen miler from twenty days ago.  I couldn't believe the improvement both in my pace and in the effort exerted to attain it.  Every step of the fourteen miler felt hard and required total mind and body effort to keep the pace.  Today's effort was focused but not difficult and I ran noticeably faster.

January 4, 2014
January 24, 2014
Mile 1
Mile 2
Mile 3
Mile 4

RLRF works.  Twenty measly days have made a huge difference in my pace, stamina, and confidence.  Even if I bonk on race day and don't perform the way I want to, I'm a believer.  I just may finish what I started last year and run the Newport marathon this May.  But I don't want to get ahead of myself.  Remember my 2014 goal?  Take it one goal at a time.  I am ready to race.

Sole Sisters have you used RLRF?  If so, what have your results been like?


  1. Thanks for the recommendation. I've read the book and really wanted to implement the training program, but knowing they have an app will make it so much easier!

    1. Hi Bethany. Good luck. The app made all the difference in the world, especially since it is all so specific with pace.