A change

I’ve been meaning to post this since before Christmas but then everything kind of got in the way. So here you go now!

I am an organised person, I like a plan and without one, I would struggle to get myself out of bed early in the pitch black and cold to exercise. It has to be a relatively structured plan, I have to feel that I “have” to get that workout in or else the likelihood is it just won’t happen!

So when I came to thinking about my first marathon, knowing next to nothing about them (other than that they are hard), I knew I had to find a training plan. I wanted one that allowed me to cross-train so I could keep up some semblance of cycling and swimming fitness over the off-season while improving my running. For that reason, the plan that appealed to me was the FIRST plan – which I first came across on Amanda’s Run to the Finish blog.

FIRST in this context doesn’t mean a plan for your first marathon but the Furman Institute of Running. It involves three runs a week: the usual long, slower than marathon pace run (maxing at 20 miles); a tempo run at a pace slower than 10k race, varying from 10k upwards; a interval run of about 1 hour.

I got started and for the first month I loved it. My interval paces were just slower than my 5k PB, I would hop on the treadmill, watch some TV and get those intervals done. The tempo run felt great and I was enjoying running further every week.

Then two things happened. One – the temperature dropped. This made it much harder to run fast and it took me a lot longer to warm-up.


Two – I started feeling pain in my hip, the same pain I suffered from in the summer, meaning I was limping even when walking and any kind of fast running was out.

I think this pain was due to running longer intervals on a treadmill. In the summer I was regularly running intervals lasting 4-5mins at fast (for me) speeds on the treadmill, and a few weeks after leaving it behind, the pain disappeared. Again, it started kicking in this time once the treadmill intervals increased.


I tried intervals outside but found it impossible to keep to a prescribed pace, especially when I had to do them in the cold and dark before work.

So I was faced with an issue – stick to the plan(ish) and push through trying and failing every week to nail that interval run. Or change it up slightly.

I did some more research. I found this incredible webpage setting out a really detailed comparison of many different marathon plans. From what it said I realised that perhaps the FIRST plan hadn’t been for me, a first time marathoner with only a year’s experience in running.

Now I am combining the Hal Higdon plan with the FIRST plan. I have loosened up slightly. It’s okay not to follow one plan exactly. It’s okay not to make your own plan and follow it exactly. I am doing the Hal Higdon long runs and choosing based on how I feel between a tempo run or a marathon pace run for my second run. My third run will be shorter – around 4 miles – and I will try to throw some fartlek sprints in there so I get some speed work done. I am still sticking to just three runs a week but with lots of cross-training. I’m confident the general fitness cycling and swimming bring, plus the reduction in impact on my joints, will help me to the marathon I want – one where I run, and have fun!

lunch time run

P.s Janathon Day 13 – 8 miles run to work



  1. I think you’ve definitely done the right thing and overcome a potential mistake that lots of people make when training for their first marathon; relying excessively on one particular plan due to assuming that the plan knows their bodies better than they do. There is no ‘one size fits all’ approach to a marathon, and I also suffer from a lot of issues when trying to run on a treadmill at all, let alone doing speed intervals on them! The conditions at the moment are a nightmare, and whatever gets you through the winter is the best approach to take.

    You already have a very strong cardio base with your cycling and swimming, and I have no doubt that this will stand you in good stead for your marathon, regardless of any potential adaptations that may need to be made to your training plan šŸ™‚

    • Thank you Jess!! Quite a relief to hesr someone as experienced as you say that. I have read about your problems on the treadmill and general leg problems – in fact i keep meaning to go back and read your old blog posts as I occasionally feel like i am running with a “dead leg” – i also have scoliosis – v mild now, just the remnants, but was more pronounced as a teenager. Oh the difficulties of bones.

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