January 27, 2012

Hanson marathon training plan review, part 2

You may remember that I was using the Hanson marathon training plan for my most recent 26.2 in Ocala. The plan is intense with up to six days of running per week. You can opt to make some of those rest days, but the optimal follow-through on the plan calls for six.

I had ten weeks from the time of my last marathon to put the Hanson plan into action. Two of those weeks I was sick with severe congestion and fever, so I got about eight solid weeks of training in before my marathon.

Luckily, the sick weeks were not during my marathon, and I went into the taper and the marathon with full health and respiratory function. What a relief, because running a marathon with only partial lung function is a fear of mine. I really enjoy gulping lots of air while running.

I set my goal pace at 8:20, which I practiced once a week (according to the plan), running up to 10 miles in a stretch at this pace. I would usually do these runs on the treadmill because I don't have a GPS watch to give me real-time feedback on my speed. In the beginning these pace runs were very difficult, and I often fell short of my pace goal. The last few weeks of the training, these pace runs got much easier, and I was able to complete the mileage at the goal pace.

The rest of my runs I would complete on an indoor track or treadmill, and I ran Saturday long runs outside. My longest run before the marathon was 16 miles, which I completed multiple times, alternating between 16-mile and lower-mileage Saturdays.

You can read about my marathon performance here. While I didn't hit my goal pace for this marathon, I will say that I felt much stronger throughout the entire marathon than I did at my previous (and first!) marathon in November 2011. I ran both marathons by how I felt, no GPS watch to check my speeds. During the second, Hanson-trained marathon, my calves did not cramp, which happened during my first race, and my legs felt relatively fresh all the way through the end of the race. With a slightly more difficult course, meaning it had more hills, I finished with a 2-minute PR. Also, I couldn't stop smiling during this race. Maybe it was just my attitude and the horses by the road, but I credit the Hanson plan for helping me to feel really great, as a result of better endurance, throughout this whole race.

The plan also claims that it will help lessen injuries because traditional plans give rest days before long runs leading to injuries (according to the Hansons). In my case, I had injuries during my more traditional training plan, and I didn't have any injuries during this 10-week cycle. Mine is just one anecdotal experience, but I was glad to come away with that many miles without any injuries.

The most amazing thing, and the reason I would repeat this training plan in the future, is that my feet felt completely normal after the race. There was no soreness in my feet at all. This is with me wearing the exact same shoes as I did in my last race. Other parts of my body were sore: back, abs and quads. Nothing in my feet. I credit the resilience of my feet to the many miles of pounding they got in before the race.

If you are looking to up your speed or just want to not feel like crap after completing 26.2, I would recommend giving this plan a shot. It's a nice change from a more traditional plan. It requires a bit more work during the week, but gives you a slight break on your Saturdays (or whichever day is your long-run day).


  1. I would love to learn more about this Hanson's plan. Was it free or did you pay for it? I am using a Jack Daniels plan through the Run SMART Project. I think it was $60 or so.

  2. Hey, you probably already saw the link in the first part of this review, but just in case it's here: http://www.runnersworld.com/article/0,7120,s6-238-244--13791-6-1X2X3X4X5-6,00.html. Free plan (the perfect price). Because I'm a beginner, I ran the low number on the days that had a mileage range (i.e. 5-8, I would run 5). I'd love to hear if you try it!

  3. You know, I was intrigued by your positive experience, so I went back out and reviewed the plan you posted before. That's when I realized that this is strangely similar to what my husband does, but he doesn't call it that. He has run quite a few marathons and a couple of 50-milers now, and he is a firm believer in back-to-back long run days. He's done that for quite a while. Both weekend mornings he would get up and run "long" runs but neither would necessarily be longer than the traditional long run, it seems. He said he had read somewhere that if you got your total miles in within a 24-hour time period, your body wouldn't necessarily know the difference. It's worked for him. I think I might have just found a glimmer of hope in salvaging my May marathon. We'll see. :) Thanks for thinking of touching back on this again.

    1. that's what I told myself this a.m. as I justified following a "speed day" with a tempo run due to work schedule. Someone a long time ago advised doing hard runs back to back because blood volume would be elevated, or something like that, and that you could expect a crash on day 3. Anyway, pushed myself through tempo run, best so far, but felt faint when I started cooldown and so walked home. Pretty scary. Humid out too. Maybe this is why Hansons have a rest day between the two

    2. A. I love your Google handle.
      B. Yes, hard effort two days in a row gets tough! I think the idea with the back-to-back long runs is that they're on the slow side, but doubling up fast runs can get really tough. Smart plan to walk it out back to the house!

  4. I've finished six weeks of my Hanson plan. I found your blog
    because I was searching for people with Hanson experience.
    Thanks for the plan feedback AND the great race report :)

    After six weeks, I've got me some tired legs ;)

    Happy Training

    1. Very cool you are trying this plan. I continued to follow this plan for two more marathons in February and April. I would just back up the number of weeks I had until the next race and start from there. At my February race I ran a 3:46, a 15-minute PR! At some point between February and April, I started having injuries, and looking back I wish I had added in those extra rest days they mention you can add into the plan. Right now I'm using Run Less Run Faster to prep for my November marathon. I switched in an effort to force myself to schedule in more rest for my legs to avoid stress fractures and hip pain that I had problems with earlier in the year. I'm interested to see if I can PR with fewer overall miles.


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