Thursday, November 13, 2014

Thoughts on the Hanson Marathon Method

A lot of my running happened before I started blogging. My two best marathons (okay, ALL my marathons) were run without training recaps!

If an 18-week marathon cycle is run, and never recapped did it really happen? Yes! Any time someone on Twitter (or anywhere) mentions choosing a training cycle, or the Hanson Marathon Method comes up in the conversation, I jump right on it. I am a strong believer in their training method and philosophy. But, sadly, I wasn't a blogger for the two races I have used their training plan. The best thing I can do now is attempt to recap and review my experiences (and answer ALL the questions!)

The first time I decided to use their method was after reading New Year New You: Way of the Renegades  in Runner's World. In January of 2011. I was intrigued, but a marathon wasn't on my agenda. At that point running was barely on my agenda. I had run the Portland Marathon in 2010 and had only run a handful of times since. I saved the article and the plan anyway. I slowly started getting back into shape around March, "raced" a 12k in early May and then jumped into a 6 week quick ramp up to a half marathon. I was training with my sister for her first half, and we had the goal of finishing, nothing else. We ran our half marathon in mid-June and she began toying with a full. We discussed Tri-Cities (a small race a few hours from home in late October). I hadn't intended to run another full, but not so shockingly, the marathon sucked me in anyway. My sister and I both decided to use the article and included training plan. 

For that first training cycle, I used the article. I didn't read their book. Our paces were loosely determined at first. We had no idea what our 10k pace should be and we aimed for simply "sub-8 min pace" in our early workouts. She was training for a 4 hour finish, and I was hoping to run a 3:45. My sister followed the plan strictly. In the interest of full disclosure, I did not necessarily do so. I joined a local women's running team midway through training.  At this time, instead of following the Hanson's Tuesday speed workouts, I replaced them with the workouts of the group. I also made some variations to the Saturday workouts, occasionally participating in the 'Swifts' workouts instead of simply running easy mileage. Usually this included things like 10 x 1 min pick-ups. I did match the mileage the rest of the time. And the most important part: I abided by the 16 mile long run and did not run further. One 16 mile training run was actually a 25k trail race. On a mountain. That I ended up walking/hiking a large majority of. My paces this training cycle were a little more willy-nilly. I stuck with the goal marathon pace (around 8:25) for Thursday's runs but on occasion, my other runs would be faster. It was all over the map at times. Running with the team had caused me to progress a lot more than I had expected. 

Long story short there, I raced my unicorn race. It was perfection. I ran a 1-minute negative split which to me is about as good as it gets. I exceeded my pre-race goal of 3:45 and finished in 3:35.22 feeling strong the whole way, no wall to speak of. My sister also executed a great race, finishing in 3:47 with about a 5 minute negative split.

In 2013 I raced the Eugene marathon with the same plan, based off the book. I followed the advanced plan as it was my 4th marathon. I read it cover to cover more than once, trying to beat into my brain their philosophy on the easy days. I would say I followed it with 97% accuracy. I raced a half marathon about 8 weeks out from Eugene but continued with the plan as written before and after.  I missed/altered a few runs due to aches and pains or sickness. As my throwback recap explains, my taper week was a disaster. All things considered, I executed a pretty solid race despite the setbacks, finishing in 3:37.05.

What I love about this plan:

-The overall mileage. A lot of marathoners, especially newer marathoners run less mileage than this plan will have. For some that works. I learned I thrive on higher mileage. The first time around I peaked around 57 miles in a week. The second time, I hit a 63 mile peak week. I felt amazing. Once I broke that 50 mile barrier I felt stronger than before. For me, the volume was a huge game changer.

-The easy days. I didn't take these as easy as I should have, but I was conscious of my efforts on those days. I was proud of my slower days, knowing there would be another hard workout to push myself. I diligently focused on keeping a pace at least 30 seconds/mile slower than goal pace and paid attention to my perceived effort. I was coached personally in my most recent marathon instead of following HMM again, and there was a lack of proper easy days. I paid the price for pushing hard too much. The easy runs MATTER!!

-Marathon paced tempo. These are a weekly run, beginning with 6 miles and increasing to 10 miles by the end. I ran the same route every time that I felt simulated the Eugene course. I struggled with watch stalking on these, shooting for a 7:58-8:02 range and was all over the place mentally. Eventually I allowed a faster pace (7:51-52) which felt natural, and I could click off mile after mile without adjustment. While I didn't run my race at this pace, I felt that the effort I put into the runs matched what they had written, and saved me from the frustration of trying to keep a pace.

-Speed/strength days. Goes without saying, I love me some speed work. The longer strength intervals were fun too! The paces were a step back from what I was used to running with my group (aiming for more of a half marathon or 10 seconds slower than marathon pace, whereas I was used to 10k paced long intervals). My mantra for all of these days was 'control'. It was too easy to want to push. An interval begs to be pushed, to see what you can do with it. I had set paces that I KNEW I could nail and control was the word to keep me checked in.

-That 16 mile long run. This is the one thing that turns a lot of athletes away from the plan. "What? Only 16? But... but... the marathon is 10 (!!) miles longer than that! How?!". My sister using the plan as a first time marathoner speaks to this. 16 is enough. If you read the book they detail the reasons why a long run should only be 25-30% of your weekly volume, not 50%. I have trained with a 20 mile plan, so I can compare them, and this was effective.

Overall, this plan boosted my confidence so much. Even with the shorter 16 mile long run, knowing I had run a 63 mile week (including a 14 mi Thursday with the tempo plus warm up and cooldown). I was willing to run longer cooldowns to increase my mileage, and more importantly, I had the strength after the workout to do so. I wasn't shuffling through a half mile cool down just to get it done.

I would highly recommend the Hanson Marathon Method to ANYONE! I am also happy to answer questions more in depth about my experience and training with it!

Happy Racing!

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