Bill Pierce, Professor and Chair of the Health Sciences department and co-author of Runner's World Run Less Run Faster, joined the Furman faculty in 1983 and has chaired the department for more than 25 years. During his tenure as chair, the Health Sciences major has grown into one of the most popular on campus. Pierce led the department through curricular changes to its present emphasis on wellness and health sciences and oversaw the $10 million renovation of the Physical Activities Center.
Pierce is co-founder of the Furman Institute of Running and Scientific Training (FIRST). FIRST promotes running as a healthy physical activity by providing training based on scientific principles and research. Pierce, listed as one of 10 marathon “supercoaches” by Runner’s World magazine, has made hundreds of presentations on fitness, wellness and running. He and FIRST have been featured in articles in the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Business Week, Men’s Journal, Runner’s World and many other newspapers and magazines across the country.
Pierce has been actively involved in promoting wellness in Greenville as a co-founder of community-wide health promotion programs Greenville Walks, Get Fit Greenville and Activate Greenville, year-round healthy living awareness programs that preceded the present coalition, Live Well Greenville, a partnership of dozens of public and private organizations that aims to make Greenville County a healthier place to live, work, and play.
Pierce serves as Furman’s Faculty Athletics Representative and is the Past President of the Southern Conference.
The West Virginia native was a highly recruited two-time all-state basketball player who attended Davidson College on a basketball scholarship. While at Davidson, he played on nationally ranked basketball teams that won three Southern Conference championships. He also was a successful half-miler on the track team. Pierce’s post-graduate athletic accomplishments include leading his Master’s basketball team to the National AAU Championship at age 40. He has captured many age-group awards in his 250 road races, including 37 marathons.
Pierce was graduated from Davidson College with a bachelor’s degree in Political Science in 1971. He earned a master’s degree in Sport Studies from West Virginia University and a doctorate in physical education from Virginia Tech. In addition to his years at Furman University, his past professional experiences include teaching positions at Bluefield College (VA), Clinch Valley College of the University of Virginia, and Idaho State University. His wife, Marianne, is the Senior Associate Dean and Professor of Business Administration at Furman.
In 2003, I co-founded with colleagues, Dr. Scott Murr and Dr. Ray Moss, the Furman Institute of Research and Scientific Training (FIRST). FIRST promotes running as a healthy physical activity by providing training based on scientific principles and research. The aim of the Institute is to assist runners of all ages and abilities achieve their goals and potential. FIRST has chosen to focus on helping average, not elite, runners reach their competitive potential while avoiding injury and burnout.
The principal finding of our research and underlying concept of the FIRST training approach is that runners need to emphasize quality over quantity. Most runners measure their training by the number of miles run, rather than how those miles were run. Our “Training with Purpose” programs provide structure and specific workouts tailored to the runner’s current fitness level. Another important finding of our research, which is incorporated into the FIRST training program, is the benefit of cross-training workouts to increase fitness while providing quality recovery from running workouts.
Our research led to the publication of Runner’s World Run Less, Run Faster, which has been a best-selling running book since its publication May 15, 2007. The book has been translated into German with the title of Lauftraining mit System and in Portuguese with the title of Treine Menos, Corra Mais. The Institute has received messages from thousands of runners using the FIRST training programs detailed in the book.
My running research prior to establishing the Institute focused on the effects of aging and pacing on marathon performance. This research led to multiple publications and presentations and a desire to formalize with my Health Sciences colleagues a structure for continuing to investigate the variables influencing running performance. We made it a priority to share our findings with runners through public lectures, popular running publications and running retreats and clinics. Hundreds of runners have traveled to Greenville to have their fitness and running evaluated and to learn how to train efficiently.
We have appeared at major marathon expos – Boston, Chicago, and New York – describing the FIRST training programs and promoting our book. FIRST has been featured in articles in the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Business Week, Men’s Journal, Runner’s World and many other newspapers and magazines across the country.