Thank you so much for all of your awesome and kind comments on yesterday’s race recap! You all are amazing.
I’ve had a few people ask me on Instagram and the blog about how the Hansons Marathon Method worked for me. I provided an objective review at the start of my marathon training cycle, but now that I’ve tried and tested the program, I want to offer a subjective review as well.
Please keep in mind that just because something did or did not work for me doesn’t mean that it will or won’t work for you. Every runner is different. I want to preface this review by saying that I am very fortunate to not be injury-prone; in my 8 years of running, I only spent a few months injured due to a problem with weak muscles in my ankle and muscular imbalances in my calves. The Hansons Marathon Method aims to prevent injury, but many runners, even very experienced and much more gifted runner than I, find that such high mileage puts them at risk of injury or overtraining.
What I Liked
The Goal-Pace Tempo Runs
Nothing prepares you for running at your goal marathon pace as much as running over 100 miles at the pace during training. By the end of the Hansons Marathon Method, you’ll know whether or not you’re capable of running your goal pace for 26.2 miles. This pace will feel familiar, almost automatic; on race day, it felt downright easy and conversational. These runs are the bread and butter of the Hansons Marathon Method and they definitely pay off on race day.
High mileage intimidated me, but I realized a few weeks into the training cycle of how much it benefited my endurance and my mental ability to handle the prospect of the marathon. The definition of high mileage can vary for everyone, as it is fairly subjectively defined (as many miles as you can handle without getting injured); the Hansons defined high mileage in the 55-63 range. Because of my over-caution about injury and just feeling overall fatigued, I capped my peak weeks at 60 (also, as I mention below, I don’t like recovery runs that last longer than an hour). Because it removes the intimidation of the 20 mile long run, the Hansons Marathon Method serves as an approachable means to familiarize your mind and body with a high training volume.
Marathon Specific Workouts
In addition to the highly race-specific tempo runs, the speed workouts during the second half of the Hansons plan are very specific to the physiological demands of the marathon. Instead of running shorter and faster repeats on the track, you run longer repeats (6 x 1 mile all the way up to 2 x 3 miles) at slightly faster than marathon pace. These are challenging workouts but they successfully build your stamina and endurance, both of which are vital for a successful marathon. I thoroughly enjoyed these workouts, even more than the marathon pace workouts.
What Didn’t Work (for Me)
Shorter Long Runs
I am not disagreeing in the slightest with the Hansons philosophy of the long runs. However, even by their philosophy, I can extend my long runs into the 20 mile range, since a 20 miler would take me about 3 hours to complete at my long run pace. Additionally, I could have benefited from long runs of 18-20 to build my mental strength; when my stomach began to cramp, I became worried about my ability to run for 10 miles further than I’d ever run before. I also believe in training the gut and feet for the distance, and 16 miles did not prepare my stomach the best for such a distance. Even though I was able to pick up my pace in the last 10K, my feet ached during those miles since I had been on them for a good 80 minutes more than I had for any of my long runs in training.
The issue may also be base and experience: for new marathoners, a 16 mile long run may not suffice, both in terms of physical and mental preparation. For experienced marathoners who know they can complete that distance and have that base of running a marathon before, the shorter long run can be more beneficial.
If you have repeatedly struggled with injury during marathon training cycles, especially when your long runs extend into the 18-22 mile range, then the Hansons plan may work for you. It’s goal, after all, is to help the average runner run a marathon without getting injured.
Honestly, I also crave longer long runs with shorter recovery runs. I love distance running for the same reason I love hiking: there’s a deep satisfaction and a bit of a runner’s high after a long and steady effort outside.
(As a note, I know that the Hansons online marathon programs feature several more 16-18 mile long runs than the plan in their book does. Instead of 3 16-milers, I think you do 3-16 milers and 3-18 milers while maintaining a similar weekly mileage.)
Long Recovery Runs
This only attests to my amateur status, but I do not like recovery runs that extend for over an hour. I know that these do wonders for endurance, but I’d take a shorter recovery run if it meant a longer long run now that I’ve done my first marathon. Yes, they do help with cumulative fatigue, they sometimes left me feeling stale when a big workout arrived. I was always able to push through the workout and hit my paces, but still, part of my longed for the shorter recovery runs that even grueling plans such as Pfitzinger’s 18 week/70 miles per week plan incorporate.
The Hansons Marathon Method will not only get you across the finish line, but it will get you across the finish line fast. Once I tamed my stomach pains, I started flying past runners in the last few miles. When my legs hurt and my brain urged me to stop, I knew that I possessed the ability to run on tired legs, thanks to the cumulative fatigue of Hansons. By no means is this an easy plan, but it also is not unconquerable and actually quite manageable if you follow their prescribed paces. I am glad I used it for this marathon, as it kept me injury-free, and I would recommend it to any runners looking to break from traditional training programs and train injury-free.
Cookie cutter plans work for some runners, but not every runner. Want to train for a marathon with a plan customized to fit your individual needs, goals, and wants? I offer 1-on-1 individualized training plans through my coaching services and would love to help you achieve your goals!
Questions of the Day:
How do you approach the trial and error of finding the right training plan for you?
Who’s racing this upcoming weekend? I know Hartford and Chicago are coming up on Sunday!