I have two impressions to share about the FIRST half marathon training program.
As a program I love it. I do not place fault for my fading over the last two miles of last weekend's half marathon on FIRST. The blame is all on me for pushing my pace oblivious to the mile-long incline waiting for me before hitting the finishing sprint. That being the case, I believe FIRST had me fully prepared for the hills I was expecting, and doubly so because I did relatively little hill training. After finishing the hill portion I was prepared for I was actually a little surprised that was it. I credit the speed workouts I did according to the program for increasing my VO2 Max and allowing me to breathe a little easier (NOTE: I've not had my VO2 Max measured either before, during, or after using the FIRST program, so this is anecdotal evidence). I never lost my breath going uphill, even as people around me dropped back left and right. The mid-pace 5-6 mile tempo runs probably didn't hurt either.
On the other hand, yesterday I did my first run post-half marathon. I backed up 6 weeks to give myself a training lead-up and to hopefully maintain my fitness for my next half marathon in Pittsburgh on May 3. I ran 3X1600M intervals, and while it was challenging and a good workout I kind of felt like I graduated high school but was still hanging around the building. No one wants to be that guy.
So I loved FIRST, but don't know if I should be holding on to it and picking it up at mid-points in the program. Maybe I should let it go for now and find another way to stay in half marathon condition.
At any rate, based on my experience with the half marathon training program, I will definitely use FIRST to train for this year's marathon in Las Vegas on December 6. That's a 16 week program, whose first long run is 13 miles and which includes FIVE (!) 20-mile training runs. People who train for and run marathons are out of their ever-loving minds, for sure. Luckily, there's a FIRST "first marathon" training program that starts at 8 miles and works its way up to one 20 mile run a few weeks before race day. The question is do I want to finish the Las Vegas marathon, or do I want to perform there?
I have until about mid-July to decide, but I guess either way I have to stay in shape to run 13 miles just in case I completely lose my mind and choose to perform.