Why I decided to follow the Hansons Marathon Method to train for my upcoming fall marathon and the specifics of the program philosophy that brought me to the decision to follow the program to prepare for my first marathon.
For most runners out there training for a fall marathon, it is training season. I have been training for my upcoming fall marathon for almost a month now and while I still have a couple months until race day, training sure is keeping me busy. When I shared here on the blog and on social media that I was going to be using the Hansons Marathon Method, I had a lot of people reach out wanting to know a bit more about it and how I was liking. I am sharing a how I am liking it so far at the end of this post, but right now let’s dive into why I chose this program in the first place.
With a lot of training philosophies out there, I was a bit overwhelmed on how to approach training for my first marathon. How many miles a week should I run? How long should I train for a marathon? Should I try a low mileage plan? What about a high mileage plan? Should I hire a running coach to design a plan for me? These were all questions that consumed my thoughts as I started researching training plans earlier this year. I read about all the different training philosophies: FIRST method, Galloway method, LHR method, and I read through different training plans out there. It was not until I came across the Hansons Marathon Method that I finally felt comfortable with the thought of training for a marathon. The more I read about the Hansons Marathon Method, the more that a lot of my initial fears about training for a marathon were relieved. I decided that this method for training for a marathon was going to be the one that would take me to the start line of my very first marathon method.
Here are the reasons I chose the Hansons Marathon Method to train for my first marathon:
A quick disclaimer
The Hansons Marathon Method has two plans: beginner and advanced. To put it out there, I am not following either. (And this is where you come in and ask why I am writing this post…) As I searched around more about the Hansons Marathon Method I realized that they offer plans beyond the beginner and advanced plans. On Final Surge (an online training log), Hansons Coaching Services offers plans that differ from the beginner and advanced plans, but still follow the same principles of the marathon method. I found a plan that fit with the mileage I felt I could handle right now (between 30-40 miles per week) and all I had to do was input my marathon date and the plan automatically uploaded into a calendar that told me what I need to do every day.
So while I am not following the traditional Hansons Marathon Method plans you see out there, I am following the program principles (which I go through in more detail below). If I decide to do another marathon in the future, I would probably go with the beginner plan after having been through a marathon one time. But that’s the future, so we will see 😉
It seems like over the past year or two (or at least in my own observation), people have been adopting a lower mileage approach to running, whether it be for training for a half marathon or a marathon. I saw runners that I followed on social media backing off of high mileage programs and running less when training for a long distance race. I always wondered if I should be doing that too. Should I be runnign less than I am right now? But the more I thought about it, the more I realized what is right for one person is not necessarily right for me. The last two half marathons I have trained for have been my highest mileage training cycles ever and guess what — I PRed at both of those races, taking at least a minute off my previous time. While lower mileage may work better for some people, I seem to be doing pretty darn well increasing my mileage.
The Hansons Marathon Method is known as a high mileage method. On the beginner plan, you peak at over 57 miles in one week. To the recreational runner, that is a lot of miles. I am good about listening to my body and knowing when to back off, and decided to try out this high mileage approach. On the training plan I am following, I will peak at 40 miles. How will I know if I can handle high mileage if I never try it out?
Workouts specific to the marathon
Every week there are three SOS runs. SOS stands for something of substance. Those are runs that are your fartlek runs, tempo runs, long runs, basically runs not done at an easy pace. Every week there is a workout that is done at your goal race pace in the marathon. The distance of it gets longer throughout the training plan, but these tempo runs are what are supposed to really prepare you to be comfortable to run 26.2 miles at the pace that you want to. Doing this tempo workout every week is getting me ready to run a consistent race and to really know what the pace I am training for feels like for an extended period of time.
While no one wants to be fatigued, it is a very common feeling during marathon training. With a lot of running along with keeping up with the daily demands of life, fatigue is a part of any training cycle. The Hansons Marathon Method takes a bit of a different approach to fatigue: cumulative fatigue. Cumulative fatigue is defined as the accumulation of fatigue over days, weeks, and even months of consistent training (Hansons Marathon Method, page 11). Cumulative fatigue comes from having repetitive training that does not allow for a full recovery between training days. A lot of factors fall into the overall cumulative fatigue that is at the forefront of the Hansons Marathon Method: mileage, intensity, balance between easy and SOS runs, consistency , and partial rest. From one workout to the next, you really are not fully recovered. For example, last week I ran a 5 mile easy run on Friday, a 12 mile long run on Saturday, a 5 mile easy run on Sunday, and a 7 mile Fartlek workout on Monday. Then finally, a rest day on Tuesday. Was my body fully recovered going from one run to the next? No, but with the balance and intensity between the easy and SOS runs, I was able to complete each workout. Sure, when I went to do my Fartlek workout on Monday, my legs felt tired and heavy from the accumulation of miles over the past couple of days, but I was still able to complete the workout.
Cumulative fatigue, while I am sure some disagree with, has been a tough aspect of this program, but as the weeks go on, I am starting to see its rewards. I know that come race day, my body will be prepared for 26.2 miles, even if my longest run before race day is only 16 miles, because of this principle of cumulative fatigue.
16 mile long runs
I think the aspect of training that the Hansons Marathon Method is known most for is the 16 mile long run. The highest mileage I will run in one day leading up to race day is 16 miles. So that means, on race day I will be running 10 miles more than I have ever run before. Call me crazy, but I got behind the idea of this.
Because of the concept of cumulative fatigue I shared earlier, 16 mile long runs are not just 16 miles, they are also the culmination of the miles I have run in the days leading up to it and I will feel that 16 miler in the days after when I have SOS and easy runs on the schedule before getting a rest day. Because of the buildup of mileage in the days leading up to the 16 mile long run and partial recovery, the 16 mile long run is not preparing me for a 16 mile run, they are really stimulating the last 16 miles of the marathon. Going into that 16 mile long run, I will already have felt like I have miles under me because of cumulative fatigue.
Also, the Hansons Marathon Method settles on 16 miles as the longest mileage leading up to the marathon because it will not only make training more enjoyable, but it also forces the runner to be more efficient. A lot of runners training for a marathon will run 20 mile (or more) long runs, which then forces them to have to spend a couple days recovering from, especially if they are running only a couple days a week… only to do it all over again a couple days later.
I could spend a lot more time talking about the 16 mile long run and the Hansons approach to the long run itself, but I will leave it at this quote from the Hansons Marathon Method I think about during every long run: “It’s not like running the first 16 miles of the marathon, but the last 16 miles!” (Hansons Marathon Method, page 54)
A local (to me) program
Growing up whenever I would go to a mall about a half hour from my house, I would always pass by the Hansons Running Shop. It is a small store located on a busy road. I never thought much of it, until I started watching and following running races. I noticed elite runners wearing the Hansons jersey and thought, is that the same Hansons as that small running store in Utica? Sure enough it is! The Hansons- Brooks Distance Project is based out of Rochester, Michigan and the Hansons chain has 4 stores in the area. On top of that, the Hansons brothers themselves offer speed workouts on Tuesdays (I have been and they are awesome workouts!), group runs on Wednesdays and Thursdays, and long runs on Sundays. (The whole schedule is linked here for those interested) I also attended a training seminar before I started training at one of the Hansons stores where Luke Humphrey (the author of Hansons Marathon Method) shared all about the program itself.
The Hansons brothers and the rest of the Hansons team are a staple to running in the Metro-Detroit area, so while it was not a major factor in me choosing this program, I love the local feel to it. I can always go to a group run and talk with others who are using the program or talk to Keith and Kevin Hanson themselves.
And yes, I am still waiting to run into Desi Linden on one of my runs. Will report back when I do 😉
My thoughts so far
Where’s the food? I feel like I am always ready for the next meal right now. Even on rest days, I just want to eat and then eat some more. Especially carbs, which you all know I never back off of ;). But with higher mileage comes all the food. I am getting used to it and getting used to the fact that I am hungry every couple of hours, especially the day of and the day after a long run. It comes with the marathon training territory, I know.
Beyond the constant desire for food, marathon training is going good. I am adapting well to the higher mileage and after every SOS workout, I feel like a champ. I feel proud of myself for pushing my body beyond what I thought were its limits. I am tired a lot and naps have become my best friend, along with compression socks and epsom salt baths 🙂 Overall, I am adjusting just fine. Since I am off of school for the summer I know I have a lot more time and flexibility in my schedule to be able to adjust to the training and not have to miss out on too many social events and such, but it is still is a constant effort to always be thinking ahead to the next workout and making sure my body is as ready as it can be.
- Have you used the Hansons Marathon Method? Thoughts?
- Have you used a different training philosophy that worked for you?