Hansons Marathon Method: Pluses & Minuses

I’ve been using the Hanson’s Marathon Method for several months now while training for my first marathon. I studied several different methods of training before settling on this one: Galloway, Higdon, the FIRST method. Ultimately I decided that high mileage training worked relatively well for me in the past so I thought this would work well for me during marathon training. I’ve learned quite a lot in the last several months and come up with my biggest pros and cons to the method. Linking up with Erika, Marcia and Patty for Tuesday’s on the Run!

Pros:

  • SOS workouts: The “SOS” or “something of substance” workouts are speed/strength, tempo and long runs. It gives you three per week, allowing you to work on all the necessary components of marathon training without skimping on anything. Many other plans I’ve looked at simply have runs of varying distances without speed or tempo workouts. Or they have two but sacrifice the third. I feel like the Hanson’s plan makes good use of all three and recognizes the need for variety in training.
  • Easy mileage days in between hard workouts: One thing I was hesistant about when looking at the Galloway plans or the FIRST plans was the fact that there’s only three days of running. In Galloway, you run 2x of 30-45 minutes per day and the third run is your long run; on the FIRST plan you have speed, tempo and long runs but they are all done at a certain pace and there are no “easy” running days. The flaw I see in both of these is this: in the Galloway plan you’re running the majority of your mileage in ONE long run on the weekends and in the FIRST plan you have no easy running days to make up for all the hard workouts you are doing. While both accept and encourage cross training on your non-running days, I feel like the Hanson’s plan including easy running days does more for your running. Some may call them junk miles, but I’m learning to love those recovery run days.
  • Long run isn’t so long: Don’t get me wrong, the fact that the long run in this plan is only 16 miles does not mean it’s an easy plan. You are running those 16 miles on tired legs, which is exactly what is intended with the theory of cumulative fatigue that the Hanson’s plan employs. But for me especially living in the south, the fact that my long run is “only” 16 miles helps immensely. This has me running for about 3 hours on my long run days, which still gives me time to do other things with my day (like napping, that’s super important!) and doesn’t leave me out of commission for the rest of the day.
  • Prepares your legs for distance running: While all of the aforementioned plans most likely would prepare you for distance running, I feel like this plan has prepared me more than most. When I first trained for a half, I would be wrecked after my long runs on weekends. 10-12 miles would leave my legs feeling sore for days. It took me about 3-4 half marathon training cycles before I really got used to that kind of distance running. While now my legs do hurt after my long runs, I feel like I recover quicker and am stronger post long run than I’ve ever been before, and I attribute this mainly to the fact that I run back to back days…my legs are used to me putting high mileage on them by this point and no longer take days to recover before my next run.

Cons:

  • Tired ALL the time: One main drawback of this plan is that, when you get into the thick of marathon training (the last month or two of the program) you are tired ALL THE TIME. I mean all the time. I feel like I’m never rested well enough at this point, even though I make it a point to get at least 7 hours of sleep nightly. I try to get 8 most nights but that isn’t always an option for me due to work. However, despite the fact that I’m sleeping, I still feel tired a majority of the time. This is cumulative fatigue working at its best, but it does make me eager for the days when I will get to take a break post marathon and no longer have to worry about waking up early for runs.
  • Midweek longer runs: Many marathon plans have these, but it is kind of taxing when you have to get up and run 10 miles in the middle of the week. While I know these types of workouts have merit and will help me in the marathon itself, it’s annoying to have to do it when you’re in the midst of training. Or at least I find it annoying.

Out of all the things I can think of, those are really the only two drawbacks I have at this point. While yes, Hanson’s is a lot of running, I think it’s ultimately going to be very beneficial for me in the marathon itself. A few people told me not to use this plan for my first marathon because it was very tiring; while it is a tiring plan, I don’t regret the choice I made to use it for my first full because I feel that I will be well prepared for whatever this marathon throws at me.

What plans did you consider using for your first marathon and what plan did you ultimately end up using? Do you feel it worked for you?

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