As you all know back when I first set the goal to Boston Qualify, I decided to use Hansons Marathon Method to get me there.
I sat down and planned out each week making sure I knew every run, every workout and every pace that I would need to hit throughout the training. In case you missed it originally, here was my original plan:
I think it is important to note that during my training I did add in a few weeks so I didn’t stick to the Hanson’s plan 100%. However, overall 95% of the training was exactly what was written out in the book.
I remember looking at this plan in the beginning and being scared out of my mind. I could not imagine hitting the paces that it was asking me to. It scared me. Really scared me. However, I knew that just like before you start any training you simply have to take it one day at a time.
How Hansons Breaks Down Training
There are two different levels of marathon training from Hansons. While I have not done the beginner, from what I have heard it basically starts slower and eases you into the speed work, tempos etc. Since I had just come off about 8-10 weeks of 10k speed training I felt like I would be okay with starting out on the advanced plan.
There are three main days in your training weeks:
The first half of marathon training will focus around speed workouts. These are to help you get faster. Plain and simple. In the beginning they can seem tough, but they work!
After you have completed the speed workout phase, they go into strength workouts. This slows the pace down to just below mararhon goal pace, but pushes out the intervals longer. It works to get your body used to going harder for longer.
The tempo run was often the most dreaded run in my training, but hands down is probably one of the biggest confidence builders. The first tempo run is 6 miles and you work your way up to 10 miles by the end.
Don’t have a panic attack when you read that, you can get there!
Hanson’s does a long moderate effort long run every other week during training. These long runs do not exceed 16 miles (more on that in a little bit.) Every other week you will run your long roughly about 40-45 seconds slower than goal marathon pace.
The weeks in between consist of 10 mile slower runs.
The rest of the days in the training are easy days. It is vital that you take these days easy to stay healthy and to allow your body to recover in between the tougher days. Trust me, you will want these!
What I Discovered By Using Hansons
You will be OK capping your long run at 16 miles.
This is probably the most common question I get when people find out that I used Hansons to train for my marathon. To be completely honest, I was nervous about this up until the day of my race. It is engrained in so many of us that we must get at least one or two 20 mile runs if we want to have a good race.
The reasoning behind the 16 mile cap during training is to help keep you healthy. Hansons does not believe in going over a certain percentage of your total mileage for the week in the long run. They DO state that due to the cumulative fatigue that they stress so often in their training, these 16 mile runs should mimic the last 16 of a marathon instead of the first. Another reason they have you run them at a moderate effort pace instead of they typical slow long run.
I never went over 16 miles during my training, and I had no problem completing the 26.2. The long run is not your most important run. Trust them, they know what they are doing!
You are going to be TIRED.
Cumulative fatigue is no joke.
I knew going into training that it always leaves you tired; however with Hansons Marathon Method they aren’t playing around. Some weeks of course were better than others, but overall your body gets pretty tired if you aren’t careful. Nutrition, taking your easy days easy and stretching and strength work are vital to stay healthy.
I can’t say I was always perfect throughout the training, but I learned the importance even more when following this plan.
Focus on your tempo run and workouts.
In my previous training cycles, I was convinced that the most important run was the long run. I focused my entire week around this run and all the others were just fillers. Even though I had always trained for completion and never for a time, this was still my mind set when I first started.
The most important runs to getting your time goal with Hansons are the tempo run and your workouts. I think the tempo run trumps the workouts a BIT, but you need the workouts to get faster.
The tempo runs can be extremely terrifying at first. I never know how I would be able to complete 10 miles at marathon pace, but it happens! I started with 6 and then worked my way up to 10. Keep working at it and you will get there!
Tempo pace won’t feel easy.
This is such a common misconception. I remember after my first tempo run (and even many others throughout the training) I said my my husband, “how am I ever going to be able to run this for an entire marathon when it is hard during my shorter tempo runs in training?”
His response was always: tempo runs aren’t going to feel easy. I don’t know if it is the adrenaline going through your body, the rest leading up to race day, proper fueling or what but marathon pace on race day felt SO MUCH easier than it did during those tempo runs.
Don’t be discouraged if your tempo runs feel hard! I wouldn’t say any of them felt EASY. The last 10 mile tempo I did was probably the strongest one I had, but by no means was it easy.
Adapt when necessary.
Hanson’s is a plan that will tire your body out and sometimes you have to know when to adapt. There were a couple easy runs on my schedule that I cut down because I could tell my body needed it.
You really have to be aware of your body while doing this training plan and be able to recognize the difference between the cumulative fatigue that they talk so much about and when your body is warning you to step back.
Majority of tempo runs should be outside.
As you probably can see from my training I mix up training between outdoors and inside on the treadmill. I really do believe each serves its own purpose, but some days I will just prefer one over the other. However, when it comes to tempo runs I try to make sure 90% are done outdoors.
The main reason behind this is that it helps you to learn what your marathon pace is going to feel like. The treadmill can force you to go that pace, but I never really learned what it felt like until I ran it outside. During my marathon I was able to look at my watch less because I was comfortable in knowing what my pace felt like. It takes some time, practice and sometimes a few mistakes to learn your pace but if you keep at it, it will come.
Being mentally tough is so important.
I think this training plan does a great job at helping you to not only increase your physical strength but also your mental toughness. Many of these workouts and tempo runs, and some days even your easy runs will allow you to work on mentally being able to dig deep when it gets tough.
I believe this helped me so much during my marathon. Even though I happily never hit a wall, I had to dig pretty deep during those last 2 miles when I could feel my legs were starting to lose steam.
Mental toughness is just as important as your ability to run the pace!
Would I recommend Hanson’s Marathon Method?
Short answer: Absolutely!
Long answer: Hansons Marathon Method 100% worked for me. I needed to cut a huge chunk of time off my previous marathon, and I knew that it would require lots of speed and tempo work to get there. The mileage caped at right around 63-65 (depending how much warm up and cool down you used during your workouts). This was higher for me, but I knew it only had 2-3 weeks of this and it gradually built up to it.
The reason there are so many training plans and running coaches out there is because not every plan works for everyone. For example, I can’t do the same plan and workouts as my husband without getting injured. That’s just how it goes. I can modify his workouts for myself, but I have to train differently.
Hansons Marathon Method is tough but effective. If you are someone who likes to have things spelled out for your, paces already determined, no guessing games and are goal driven then this is a great plan! It got me to where I needed to be and I can say without a doubt that I felt the strongest I ever had in a marathon.
If you are thinking about trying it out, go for it! I highly recommend it, but make sure you know your body and are ready to adapt if needed.
Do you follow a training plan?
What did you use to get to your best PR?
Wow-thanks for your candid review of Hanson’s Marathon Method! Will you be using it again, when you train for Boston?
Thanks for this detailed recap. You convinced me to try the Hansons method a few months ago, so I went out and bought their half marathon book. I’m injured at the moment, so I haven’t yet started the plan, but the principle of it makes sense. I’ll probably use the method for my next next half marathon (not the one coming up in Feb).
Bookmarking this post! Thanks for sharing your experience!
I’m following Run Less Run Faster this training cycle, and I found the premise interesting because it basically uses all the same principles as Hansons, it just replaces all the easy mileage with cross-training. I think it’s really awesome you were able to stick to Hansons the whole way. My body just isn’t cut out for that kind of mileage, I think.
Thanks for the recap of the Hanson’s Method. I’ve been really curious about it, I’m running the Charleston Half Marathon and a few other half marathons. I think tempo runs are highly effective for getting faster and it has helped me a lot, even though I haven’t raced my half yet, I’ve hit PRs on long runs and at shorter distances.
It’s so awesome that you were able to stick to the plan and build your mileage up to 60+ miles a week without getting injured too. A lot of people criticize the long run of “only” 16 miles but most other plans don’t have people run this many miles a week, either, and clearly the program worked well for you! Congratulations again on Kiawah and your BQ!
I am totally doing this method to train for my marathon in April. I will let you know what I think of it after I get through it!
Hansons is what I used to get my marathon PR last year. It was the hardest training plan I ever used, but the mileage was spread throughout the week so well that it was never lopsided. Using the plan was the first time I ever ran a 200+ mile month and never had a run longer than 16 miles.
I love their philosophy when it comes to training and think everyone could adapt it to their running. And they should!
I will absolutely keep this in mind if I ever decide to go for the 26.2. I will also look into to see if he has other distance training plans. I’m focusing on my 13.1 this year and by the end of the year I hope to take a full hour off of my first 13.1 that I ran in November. Thank you for sharing.
Awesome review! I was so intrigued by your success with this that I’ve started the Hanson’s Half Marathon Method. I’ve loved reading the book and I look forward to seeing if it prepares me for a half marathon PR! I’m a little worried about running 6 days a week, but like you said, take the easy days easy!
This is so great! I am 5 weeks out from my marathon and I’ve been doing the Hanson’s method. You seriously hit everything square on the nose… I have literally said to my husband, “how am I supposed to run a whole marathon at this pace when I can barely hold it for a tempo/workout?!” But it’s so encouraging to read this and know that it works. Last year I ran my marathon in 3:42 and I’m trying to BQ at the Wineglass marathon and I’m aiming for a 3:30. Fingers crossed! Thanks for the encouraging post!!
Keep it up!! Trust the plan and you will do GREAT!!! Let me know how it goes!
Sara, thank you for the Hanson recap. I am two weeks out from Steamtown and am completely physically and mentally exhausted. This will be marathon #13 for me and I’ve never run so much in my life. I need “Cumulatively Fatigued” on a tee-shirt! But I’m really hoping to shave 7 minutes off of my PR (4:37) and your story is simply amazing! Any advice on the final 2 weeks? Do you feel like this at the start? Thanks so much!
I COMPLETELY understand how you feel! While I have been using Hansons to a point this time, I am both mentally and physically exhausted. I felt this way for this marathon as well as when I did Kiawah! I think that is part of the taper – you need to let you body rest to a point to get you ready for race day.
The only advice I Would have is to stick to and trust your training! I always have a really hard time doing this, but you’ve put in the work and now you need to enjoy it. That’s what I always tell myself – the training in the hardest part, the race is the FUN! Yes, it’s painful but always make sure you enjoy it!
Relax, be proud of yourself for all the work that you’ve put in, and stick to your race plan on race day. I had a plan and regardless of what those around me did I knew I had to do MY plan.
HAVE FUN!!! Please come back and let me know how you did! I’ll be cheering for you 🙂
I am a huge fan of the Hansen’s plan. I dropped almost 1/2 hour off my marathon time and qualified for Boston on my first try thanks to it! I was a burned out marathoner going through the motions when I discovered it in a Running Times article many years ago. It completely transformed running for me. Like you said, it is NOT easy (especially the speed work) but it is remarkable how much more fit you’ll become.
I LOVED it for my attempt at my first BQ. It really made me SO strong! Glad you have had success as well with it!
Thank you for this!! I ran my first marathon this year in 3:58 so I would need to PR by nearly 30 minutes to qualify for Boston. Thanks for giving me hope that that is not an absolute insane idea. However, I don’t know if I’m ready to run 6 days a week yet because I LOVE my cross training so I actually only run 3 days a week. But maybe one day!!
You’ve got this!! That is such an amazing goal and I know you will get there!
Sara, after searching the internet and finally reading your bit about “the race not feeling as hard as the tempo runs”, I sigh of relief was made! I too am using HMM to get my BQ. I’ve never ran a marathon race before but went to college on a CC scholarship so I have somewhat of a running background. (Never in LONG distances though).
I agree with almost all of your blog. Tempo days, for me, were super easy, but that’s perhaps because of my speed background. For example, my easy days I’m at around 160 HR (max is 196), but my tempo days are around 170!! Explain that! I have no idea why but for some reason my body chills once it gets into a speedy rhythm. I love your bit about the easy days. I remember in college EVERY FREAKING RUN was fast. Mainly due to a pack of immature college kids with testosterone issues and always wanting to finish first was the reason, but it killed me and drained me like no other. I lost interest in running and eventually tore my achilles, ending my career in college and forcing me to walk away from the sport for the next 6 years. Finally everything is pretty much healed and I’m resuming the training I was meant to do nice and easy. If I feel tired, I stop. I realized that if my motivation to run isn’t there, it’s better to just go super easy rather than pushing myself and having a bad time. So many times people push themselves too much when they try a workout regiment and what they find is that they are subconsciously relating a “bad experience” with their activity; which, in this case would be running. If you’re not feeling it, relax and have fun. That way you’re more likely to get up and run the next morning, exactly like you stated in your blog.
Really was fun to read, God bless you and your training in the future. Please pray for me on February 7th as I seek 3:05 for my BQ!
I am doing week by week review of the Hanson’s beginner plan. I am following the plan exactly without making any judgement’s or tweaks to it. I’m currently up to week 11 as of 09/07/16 so it may be of some interest to others. I do have some reservations of how some modifications might benefit me but I’m going on faith and trying to do as honest review on the plan as is.
Hope you enjoy it! I had really great success using it!
I haven’t run a marathon for 5 years. Looking to do another in June 2017 and considering the HMM approach. I’ve had the book for 4 years now, but always been too afraid to try it, unsure if 16 miles is enough.
Really enjoyed your blog posts and they’ve convinced me I can use this plan. Thanks
Thats so exciting Lee! I too was worried about the 16 mile long run maximum, but for me it did not hurt my performance at all. It was the strongest marathon I had EVER run plus the fastest! I think a big part of it is making sure that you trust the training. Going in with a confident mind that you have done and completed the training as prescribed really helps! Good luck and feel free to email me if you have any questions about it!
I ran my 3rd marathon using this plan. The 16 miles scared me but it really did work. I did the advanced but only ran 5 days a week as I wanted to keep my strength training in my schedule. I started this plan after 6 months of almost no running due to illness so I was trying to catch up and train at the same time. I only cut about 15 minutes off my time but for me that was huge, considering where I started! Can’t wait to see where this year takes me! I felt really strong on race day and my recovery was fast. I highly recommend this plan!!
This is a great review! I have been hearing a lot about the HMM, and I have been debating giving it a try in the future. I have survived my first marathon earlier this year, but I did not truly train for it. About 10 weeks out from the race I buckled down and attempted to train. Now I am out to put in a true training attempt. Next week I start training for the Dopey Challenge at Disney World in January and I just put together my training plan for that. Your post has encouraged me to at least buy the book and see if it may be a good fit for me for my next training cycle. Also, I appreciate your post about training shorter distances to improve your time. I have been using a 10k training plan the last few weeks to get me ready to start training for Disney! Thanks for sharing!
How exciting!! Good luck in Disney! I’ve seen people do the Dopey Challenge and it is always so amazing! You ROCK! Hansons is a great plan and really helped me get to where I wanted to be! I hope you have the same luck!
I just ordered mine and should arrive next week. Does the training plan mention adaptability to master runners (40 years old +)? Thanks and congrats!
Hi there! Hope you enjoy it! I honestly am not sure. I don’t specifically remember a section in the book for that but I could be wrong 🙂
Awesome post! I have just finished my second and agree with several of your points! I am impressed you were able to cut so much off your time and carry through with this plan. Looks pretty intimidating to me! You mention, like all marathon posts, nutrition is a huge factor. What type of nutrition plan did you follow? I’ve found this is the hardest part to plan and account for.
Sara, thank you so much for your review, it has really helped. I am going to do my very first marathon next year and will use the Hansons marathon method. I know they discourage running races during the training but i have already scheduled a 10km and half marathon, before signing up for the marathon. The 10km will fit in but the half is 7 weeks before the marathon and on the same weekend i am meant to do my first 16 miler. Should i do it, if so, should i do it as a tempo run and change the existing tempo to easy, or should i ignore this half and focus on training for the marathon ?
Thank you in advance.
Hi there! I actually did run a half marathon during my marathon training for Kiawah using Hansons Marathon Method. I did race it but I used it as part of training and did not taper for it. It was run on tired legs. You could definitely use it as part of your long run just add the extra 3 miles in the warm up and cool down but be careful not to over do it. I probably could have run faster had I not been in the middle of marathon training but the half was not my goal the marathon was.
Thanks for sharing this. I hope to one day be fast enough for these times to even be in the realm of reason for me, but will be passing to a friend who is trying to BQ.