Book Review: ‘Run Less, Run Faster’

Posted by Filed Under: Book Reviews, Books, Reviews

Article Summary: A review of the Runner’s World book “Run Less, Run Faster” by Bill Pierce, Scott Murr, and Ray Moss


run less run fasterI first heard about Run Less, Run Faster and the FIRST training program in a brief Runner’s World article in early 2007 and was intrigued by the training concepts presented. The article discussed a relatively new training program, scientifically proven over a few years and hundreds of runners, based on running three days a week with integrated cross training on the off days. This short note lead me to the Furman Institute of Running and Scientific Training and eventually to this book (although at the time of my initial interest the book was not yet available). The concepts presented in this book, while not revolutionary, are definitely a departure from the classic “more miles is better” philosophy and the book has really changed the way I view my approach to training.

Run Less, Run Faster is a quick and easy read (only about 300 pages) that delivers a wealth of solid information at a level that is easy to understand and quickly allows the reader to put in to action the concepts and methods outlined. The book is broken down in to four main sections plus one bonus section:

  • Section I: The FIRST Approach
  • Section II: How to Follow the FIRST Training Program
  • Section III: Performance Factors
  • Section IV: Supplemental Training
  • Bonus Section: Getting to Boston

This format allows the authors take you though the basics of the program clearly and concisely. The reader will quickly come up speed on the 3plus2 method, the 3 core workouts, and correct pacing for all of the prescribed workouts.


Section I lays out the basics of the plan, steps for new runners, and information on setting realistic goals. In reality, this is just a brief overview of the rest of the book—an introduction to the concepts explored in much more detail further on.

Section II dives much deeper in to the training program. The reader gets a full description of all of the core running workouts, what they aim to achieve, correct paces, and how to run them correctly. In addition to a detailed description of the program, there are plenty of pace charts and training plans to help the reader plan their specific training program. Finally, the authors provide important information on rest and recovery as well as year round training tips and tricks.

Section III covers a few topics that are common to all running programs. These topics include, running in hot and cold weather, training with and avoiding running related injuries, and basic nutrition information. These are all very brief sections but they include enough information to be helpful.

Section IV covers one basic topic—strength training for runners. The reader is given a clear plan that is fairly simple and easy to apply. No expensive weights or benches are necessary and the program, as delivered, should not take an excessive amount of time. A nice addition to any runner’s training regimen.

The last section of the book outlines what is necessary in terms of paces, training, and effort to qualify for Boston. It is broken down into the various age group qualifying times and gives the reader a few guidelines to look for to determine if a Boston qualifying run is possible based on past performance. I really appreciated the realistic view of what is necessary in terms of my current performance to qualify for Boston. Overall, this section is a nice addition to the book.

To me, this is a well written, well documented, and scientifically proven method to run faster on less miles. I am currently using the plan outlined in the book for my training plan for the 2007 Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon, so far the paces, distances, and volume of training have been just right. I really appreciate the change of pace from day to day and the inclusion of various forms of cross training, it really makes the program fun and interesting to work with.

Have you read this book? Why not click on our five-star rating and leave us a comment to let our readers know what you think of it?


Available on Amazon

Runner’s World Run Less, Run Faster

Price: $16.95 (US)/$21.00 (CAN)

  1. jank on June 29th at 6:52 am

    By an amazing coincidence, my lovely wife Melissa is using this exact book to train for Hartford. Hopefully, she’ll post her thoughts.

    I’m a big fan of this book. For years, whenever I’d read a running, biking, or triathlon book (with no obvious success), Missy’d ask me “So, what’s it say? Run? Run faster?”

    It’s a lot funnier to me now…

  2. Mark Iocchelli on June 29th at 8:08 am

    Although this book has its fans, it certainly also has its detractors – mostly from the elite side of the sport. Many elite/sub-elite runners, coaches, and other running researchers have outright panned the book. Here is an example of the stuff I’ve been seeing.

    I’m not personally wanting to get into a debate over the merits of high versus low running volume but I think it’s important to state that this book, and the research it’s based on, is not being well recieved in some circles.

    Perhaps others will want to wade into the issue in a debate on CRN?

  3. Aaron Engelsrud on June 29th at 9:51 am


    Actually, mileage wise, I would guess over the course of the entire program (16 weeks) the weekly mileage is not much different from most conventional plans (At least for an average, mere mortal, runner like me). I’d never be able to do 100+ miles a week – that’s not even realistic, I don’t have the time nor the drive. As is stands right now, I am in the 2 week of a 16 week program and looking at a 15 mile long run on Sunday. There are 5 or 6 20 + mile runs in this program vs. 3 or less in most conventional plans. In the end, my mileage will end up being very similar. What is very different is the intensity of my training – there are no ‘easy days’ – no junk miles. Everything has a point.

    Only time will tell if this works or not, I guess I’ll find out. Honestly, I didn’t even realize when I wrote this review that there was a controversy at all – the plan just seemed to fit me well. Like most things, I believe there is more than one way to achieve results. Even the experts can’t agree on a ‘best way’.


  4. Blaine Moore (Run to Win) on June 29th at 11:13 am

    I used to run the super-high mileage (averaging 85 miles per week over the course of the year, including my off-seasons) and it worked well for a while, but any time I go much over 50 miles per week multiple weeks in a row now I seem to get hurt.

    Then again, I am running times on 40 miles per week that my friends can’t manage on 60 or 70 miles, so something must be working for me.

  5. Melisa (Irish Blue) on June 29th at 12:23 pm

    I just received this book in the mail a few weeks ago. A coworker of mine used it to train for a marathon and loved it.

    I haven’t finished the book, but it seems to make sense. Each run has a purpose…speed, tempo, long. It seems like a very targeted approach.

    I don’t think the mileage is really much less than the traditional Hal Higdon type plan.

    I am running my first marathon in October using Hal Higdon’s Novice Plan. If that goes well, I hope to use the FIRST plan next year.

  6. ff_jeff on June 29th at 7:23 pm

    Funny as I write my latest post about this book and flip through CRN I come across this article. I have read this book and plan to use it to run Detroit. I’ll be keeping and update on my blog. I just ran Ottawa using the book “advanced marathoning” 55 mile 18 week program. I shaved 40 minutes off of last year. So we’ll see if improvement is in the works this time! With 5X20 milers and way intense runs I’m sure I will cut alot more time off!

  7. Aaron Engelsrud on June 29th at 10:09 pm

    Wow! I’m glad so many people are as excited about this program as I am! I’ll be keeping track of my progress and writing about my experiences over at my blog –