Hanson’s Marathon Method

You guys!!! You may have seen on our Instagram, that this past weekend, I ran in the St. George Marathon. I still can’t believe that I took around 40 minutes off my PR and finished in 3:32:17! This qualifies me for the 2018 Boston Marathon! I have dreamed of qualifying for Boston, but had serious doubts that I actually ever would. So, for all of you aspiring marathoners out there- whether you are trying to just finish or going for a PR- I wanted to share with you the training plan that worked for me and some tips I picked up along the way!

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You probably saw in the post here, that I have never followed a training program before. I have never truly tried for a specific time. I’ve wanted to do well, of course, but stalking your watch trying for a time is different. When a girlfriend of mine and I decided to sign up for the St. George Marathon, I told myself I was going to follow a training plan! I wanted to shoot for a good time, not just to finish the marathon as I have before.

I read up on a bunch of different plans- I checked out running magazines, various bloggers I follow, google, you name it- I looked at it. You see everything out there. One plan particularly stuck out to me though- Hanson’s Marathon Method. I downloaded the book and read it almost overnight. I then googled about the plan and read different people’s take on it. One review that stood out to me was one from The Running Wife. I saw we had similar starting and finishing goals, so I decided to follow her lead. I created a spreadsheet just like her’s, in excel, and told myself I was going to follow it to the best of my ability!

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One of the things I absolutely loved about this plan was that I did not have to think. I didn’t have to come up with a run, or workout- or think about the paces I needed to hit. Everything is written out for you- there is nothing to guess about. The paces and times you see are based on a BQ time of 3:30- which would give a 5minute grace period for my age group.

So on to what I actually did- this is the print out I used for the past 15 weeks to chart the runs completed as well as the journal I used to document my runs – the mileage/time/how I felt/ etc. {heads up, the total mileage column I did was off from the beginning -I realized about halfway through the program}

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You can see, as with any plan, I made changes, swapped things around, and sometimes just missed days. In saying that, however, I did stick 85-90% to the plan. During the week, most of my runs were completed on my treadmill {always with a 1% incline!} during kiddos nap/quiet times because it is just too hot in Texas and that seemed to be the only free time I had. On the weekends, I ran outside. No excuses!

A brief explanation of Hanson’s Marathon Method

Each week Hanson’s method is broken into 3 SOS days (Something Of Substance), easy days, and one day off. The SOS days are spread throughout the week and should always be spaced out with either an easy day or rest day in-between.

SOS workouts:

Speed/Strength workouts: The first half of the program is speed, the second half is strength. This is where you are getting faster. You have to teach your legs to move quickly in order to run quickly. They are exhausting, but I loved them because they were something different!

Tempo Runs: This is exactly what you think it is- getting your legs used to running the pace you are wanting to maintain for the marathon. These were the hardest runs for me. More on these below.

Long Runs: This program is different from most in that you cap at 16 miles. You also don’t run them as slow as most programs tell you to run your long run. Instead, it is run at a “moderate” effort- which is about 30-45 seconds slower than your goal marathon pace. Every other week, you also step back in mileage and don’t have a long run, but instead a 10 miler.

All the other runs are Easy Runs. This means just that- take it slow, and easy. The strongest advice I can give is to truly run these easy. These are the only days your body has to recover and get stronger. Do not push them- embrace them! You will learn to love them.

FAQ answered and what I learned about Hanson’s Marathon Method

Cumulative fatigue is real and no joke! You will be exhausted. Training for a marathon will make anyone tired- but this program is based off of cumulative fatigue and they are not joking. My suggestion: TAKE YOUR EASY DAYS EASY. I was able to stay healthy and injury free during this program and I think the easy days are what made that possible. I believe that cumulative fatigue is this main factor that allowed me to complete the marathon in the time I did. I felt fantastic until mile 23. Absolutely NO issues. Then the wall hit me. This is much further on in a marathon than friends of mine have told me they typically hit the wall and like I said, I had absolutely no tiredness, aches, pains, anything until the 23rd mile. It was then that I mentally was strong because I knew my body was used to running on exhausted legs and were fully capable of doing it. I had done it for 15weeks.

Don’t be scared about only logging 16 mile long runs. You will be just fine! This is something I mentally struggled with the entire program and up to the start line! My first marathon, the Chicago Marathon, I ran just for completion. I had not trained very much at all (I’m talking 3 days a week and not very many miles) and only ran up to 14miles, once, on a treadmill, with no incline. I finished it around 4hrs 15minutes. So, not running more than 16 miles was a concerning thing for me. The reason behind capping at 16 miles though, is to keep you healthy. In the book, Hanson, talks about your long run not going over a certain percentage of your total mileage. Also, because of the cumulative fatigue you experience in the training, these long runs mimic the last 16 miles of a marathon, not the first- and I completely agree. They do. They are also run 30-40 seconds per mile slower than tempo instead of the typical 90 seconds that most plans call for.

Tempo runs will suck and won’t feel easy. You will think every time, “I will never be able to keep this pace up for an entire marathon! I can barely do it for this!” I don’t know why tempo runs always feel harder than race day- maybe adrenaline, maybe the cumulative fatigue, whatever it is- rest assured- I felt the same way and it will be ok! I never looked at my watch the first 20 miles of the marathon wondering if I was going too slowly- I always knew I was on pace or faster- I just watched my watch to make sure I was doing the splits I wanted according to the elevation changes of the course.

Be flexible with the plan. Know the difference in your body needing a break because it’s on the verge of an injury or wanting a break because you are tired. Your body is supposed to be tired- again, cumulative fatigue; however, you will see in my training page above, that there were days I had to take off because of traveling or it just didn’t happen, or various other reasons- Other days when I felt an injury coming- and sometimes I was just in the middle of a run and knew that that was all I could do that day. Listen to your body.

Mental strength overpowers physical weakness. I learned this during the marathon. This plan made me mentally tough. I did hit the wall, but not until mile 23- but, it didn’t hit my mind or my lungs- just my legs. My mind was able to overpower my body and tell it that it knew how to move when it felt that way. I was able to draw on the energy around me and put one foot in front of the other. During the training plan there will be days you do not want to run, or you don’t think you can run another repeat- but you will, and that will strengthen not only your body, but also your mind. Your mind is a powerful thing.


Overall, I would recommend this plan to anyone who is seriously motivated to cut time off their race. It is incredibly tough, but it is effective. {Please do not jump directly into this plan without a solid running foundation.} I love to have things mapped out for me to where I don’t have to think about pace, mileage, workout, etc- if you are the same way, this is for you. I was determined to reach a goal and this plan helped me do just that.

I have one more marathon this year- California International Marathon – in less than 9 weeks and I have taken Hanson’s and adapted it for the next 9 weeks {allowing for 2 weeks recovery and a 2 week taper}.

 

“Not everyone who chased the zebra caught it, but he who caught it chased it.”

-South African Proverb

 

Happy running!

xox

aj

 

If you have any questions about the plan, please comment below and I will do my best to answer!

 

 

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12 thoughts on “Hanson’s Marathon Method

  1. Thanks for your advice AJ! This really answered a lot of questions-especially knowing you ran frequently on the treadmill which is what I do during the week. I’m also going through rough times (mentally) with my tempo runs. Your post is so inspiring and helped a lot Can’t wait to visit yall’s store! 🙂

    Thanks!

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    1. I’m so glad! The tempo runs are terrible- I don’t know what that is, but relax knowing that everyone feels that way about their tempo runs! As for the treadmill, just almost keep it at a 1% incline. Never flat.
      Good luck!!

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  2. I don’t run on Sundays for religious reasons. I see the off day is Friday… do you think it would be possible to modify the schedule to have the off day on Sundays? What would you recommend, just move everything a couple days?

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    1. Absolutely! The rule to moving things around is to never have your “SOS” days back to back. You always want to make sure they have an easy day or the rest day between them.

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  3. thank you so much for posting this! i too ran CIM this past december, qualified for Boston but only by 74 seconds which i am sure will not guarantee me a spot 😦 i’ve been looking for a better training plan and think this is it! may i ask if there were any warm up/down miles in any of the speed or tempo workouts? happy running!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Congrats!! I love this training plan and will use it many many more times. Yes, the speed/strength/tempo runs should have a warm up and cool down. Depending on what weekly mileage you are aiming for- this can range. I did anything from .5-1.5miles for each. Good luck! Happy running! Let me know how it goes!!

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