Run Less, Run Faster Book Review

Do you ever wonder if you could get that time goal by running only a few days a week? 

Run Less Run Faster Second edition by Bill Pierce, Scott Murr, and Ray Moss claims that yes, you can.

The Furman Institute of Running and Scientific Training or FIRST based this book on their research and the idea that [Run Less Run Faster] “prepares the runner to reach goals with targeted work; less is more.” The book was originally published in 2007, with a second edition released in 2012, and a third edition published in 2021. This review will discuss the 2012 edition. The FIRST 3plus2 training method posits that 3 targeted training runs a week plus two easy cross training days will reduce the risk of injury while developing running speed by running less frequently — “Quality over quantity with individualized training goals for every run.”

Run Less Run Faster covers a wide range of running concepts and general running knowledge including: rest and recovery, creating an annual training cycle, performance factors like weather, injury, nutrition, and other considerations like strength and flexibility. However, much of the book is dedicated to explaining the FIRST 3plus2 training method using dozens of tables, charts, and training plans that allow the reader/athlete to apply it to their own running journey. 

As a running coach, the book itself offers a lot of information useful to runners of all levels. Each chapter includes a Q&A section, containing many questions I receive from my own athletes and on social media. The straightforward, logical answers serve as a good starting point for runners of all stripes. 

However, the FIRST 3plus2 method seems a bit too good to be true. Following the instructions to design a training plan for myself, the runs seem much more challenging, with higher intensity for longer distances than I might safely execute. While training paces seem within range of my ability, each run is much longer by 30-40% than I actually have time for (as a middle of the pack runner, the 10k/half marathon runs would take me 75+ minutes most days). Runs are listed in distance rather than time, and based solely on an algorithm of paces more aggressive than I’ve seen in other resources. 

Every chapter ends with an athlete’s testimonial, that frankly felt a bit smarmy — like something from the Shopping Channel. It feels forced, and this could be the chink in the armor of an otherwise worthwhile book. As a training method, the idea only just appeared in 2005, and while the authors state that some athletes do reach their goals but others don’t, the testimonials were — as expected — high praise from those who succeeded in reaching their goals. 

My recommendation for the book itself? It is a worthwhile read for the Q&A sections, especially for the novice to intermediate runner who might still be learning how much they have yet to learn. Adding it to a running library will serve as a reference for many concepts to help with training. The running workouts themselves are at the very least diverse and intriguing, and even if an athlete doesn’t incorporate a full training plan, it offers great ideas to mix things up and try new workouts. 

As for the FIRST 3plus2 method itself, I would be very careful to utilize this method for my own training, and even more so for my athletes, many of whom run in the middle of the pack. The 1) lack of easy running (I disagree with the concept of “junk miles”) in favor of cardio cross training, 2) the recommendation against yoga, pilates, or regular strength building, and 3) the regularly long and intense training runs raise a few too many red flags for me as a coach and athlete. 

If I were to rate Run Less Run Faster, I would give it a 7 out of 10. The general running information is worth reading, but the training philosophy may not be the best method for every runner, and athletes new to the sport might think carefully before diving into this method.   

What do you think? Have you read Run Less Run Faster? Have you tried this training method for yourself? If so, what did you think? Please share your thoughts below.

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Heather Jergensen

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