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?