Sunday, December 2, 2012

My Thoughts on Training: The Hanson's Plan

I shook things up in July when I started using the Hanson's Marathon plan. If you've been reading this blog for a while then you've heard me talk about it a few times in the last few months. Gone are the 20 mile runs. This plan called for no more than 16 miles at once. It was designed to incorporate more consistent running and a higher weekly mileage than I have ever done during marathon training.

I didn't follow the plan exactly. And I didn't hire any coaches. I did what I could with my teaching and coaching schedule, sacrificing half of the track workouts and sacrificing miles some weeks. The month of September was brutal - I was exhausted by Friday and barely able to stand on some Saturday nights. But I loved the plan. I loved the training. I loved how in shape I felt on each run.

Now that actual race is over I can give you more complete thoughts about the training.

I didn't die at mile 20. 

In fact, I felt great. The plan trained me to run on fatigue, and at mile 20 I was barely tired. The higher weekly mileage gave me the endurance to keep going, but more importantly, the mental confidence that I could keep going.

Mind Tricks - Going back to training

When I got to the 10 mile mark in the marathon, I reminded myself of all of my weekend training runs. Saturday might be a 10 miler followed by a 16 miler on Sunday. During the race, I told myself to forget the 10 miles I had just run, and to think of the remaining distance as a new Sunday run. Splitting up the race into different chunks helped me focus on the moment, not the entirety of the race. I "chunked" the race multiple times over the 3+ hours. Some of the combinations were.....

  • A 10 mile chunk and a 16 mile chunk
  • Three 8 mile chunks
  • A 16 mile race, then a 10 mile one
  • A 10 mile, 10 mile, and a 6 mile run
  • Four 6 mile chunks (for fueling purposes)

Rest Days

In my other training cycles I took Mondays off. They usually fell on the day after my long runs (20 miles) and my body needed the recovery day. Wednesdays were my off days in this plan. I wasn't killing myself on super-long runs, which meant that my legs were capable and ready to run on Mondays. I may have had to start out slow on Monday runs, but the legs would eventually loosen up and be ready for speed by Tuesday.

Use the plan. But only if you have already run a marathon.

I would definitely recommend this plan to others, but only if you have run a marathon before, and only if you are willing to run 6 days a week.  It was a huge time commitment. But when followed, I really believe that you will be very prepared for the marathon.

In the past I thought that I benefited from more rest days in the week, which is why I followed the Hal Higdon plans. Not so much any more. Give me more running days! 

What about strength training?

For the first month I was good about getting in strength training. But the weather was so hot down here that I couldn't deal with how sweaty I was after runs, and eventually, I got lazy. Once school started there was no chance of me keeping up with any training, except when we had the kids do it in practice and we joined along (we being the head coach and I).

Ideally, I would have loved to get more strength training in. My arms are pathetic. They need some strength. During Vermont winters I would turn on workout videos when the weather got too cold or messy to run. That probably won't be happening this winter. And I am afraid to admit that I am not motivated enough to do it on my own. Maybe someday I'll get to it.

Future plans?

For the first time in a while I am not signed up for a future race, nor do I have any idea of what races I would want to run next. I'll register for for the Vermont City Marathon 2-person relay lottery again, but there's no guarantee that I'll get in. I also registered for the Nike Women's half marathon lottery that will be in DC, but again, no guarantee that I'll get in.

I'm planning to focus on half marathons and perhaps try a 10k finally. I'm not positive that I'll do a marathon, and I'm not sure how I feel about that. It would be the first year in 5 years that I wouldn't do one. If NYC truly lets the 2012 NYC marathoners run in the 2013 race then I'll be there. If they don't, then I won't enter the lottery. That then brings me to Boston 2014. My time at Philadelphia qualified me for Boston, but I'm not so sure I want to run it again. It was a great experience my first year, but I like to run on a new course.

If any of you have any suggestions for great marathon courses, please let me know!


  1. I like hearing what people say about the Hanson's training plan. The thought of my longest long run only being 16 miles is scary, but so many people have had success with it. Makes me wonder why my coach always has me run two (22 & 24) mile training runs prior to a marathon.

    1. I was very nervous the few days right before the run, wondering if it was truly possible to finish with only 16 miles as the long run. But somehow it works. At least you know for sure that you will be able to finish if you are doing the 22 and 24. Your coach must have a lot of success with the longer runs and is sticking to them!

  2. I'm super interested in the plan! It seems like you really liked it. I've been wanting to change around some of my training now that I've been running the traditional way for a while. Thanks for this post I had to come back and read it!