Monday, March 11, 2013

A bone to pick with Hanson's Marathon Method

My thoughts on Hanson:

I've been hearing murmurings of this "training plan" that doesn't go above 16 miles for a long run. And hearing things like "Hanson doesn't believe in 20 milers" and "20 milers are excessive". Finally, one of my old high school assistant coaches started preaching the praises of the Hanson method, and I could no longer ignore all the hoopla. I went out last week and bought the Hanson Marathon Method book. .

I don't subscribe to any particular type of marathon training, but I will confess that 20 plus milers are my least favorite part of marathon training. Mostly because of the time requirement. When I have the opportunity to run with someone like AM, I find the actual run fun. But most of the time I'm relegated to running on my own, and being completely honest, I find it boring after 15-16 miles. The promise of only running 16 miles is appealing.

What's my problem with Hanson? First of all, Hanson believes that the 20 miler is an arbitrary distance chosen by many training plans with no evidence to support choosing that distance. The book points out that there is evidence to suggest that running longer than three hours doesn't provide additional physiological benefit to the long run (and it take many people longer than three hours to run 20 miles). The book also points out that when training for any other distances the general rule of thumb for a long run is 25-30% of a runner's total weekly mileage. So say you're running 40 miles a week, then a 20 miler is 50% of your weekly mileage...All of that sounds reasonable to me. And notice none of that focuses on only running a 16 mile long run. Except all I keep hearing about from other runners is how it's not necessary to run more than 16 miles for a long run! Of course, that could be because there are only two training plans in the book (beginner and advanced), and both only have three 16 mile long runs. The peak mileage for these plans is between 57 and 63 miles a week. It seems to me that there are enough runners out there that peak at 70-80 to miles a week that there could be another training plan in there, and THAT training plan would probably have 20 mile long runs, you know, because of that whole 25-30% of weekly mileage rule.

It could just be an issue of runners reading what they want out the book too. Hanson admits in the book that the elite runners in the Hanson project do run 20-22 milers, but they also run 100-130 miles a week, so it fits. I guess I'm more irritated that others have taken the program to mean that Hanson doesn't support runs longer than 16 miles, because it simply isn't true.

All that 16 miler business aside, I did like the book. The program focuses on cumulative fatigue. Basically when you run long the program is trying to simulate the last 16 miles of the marathon. As a result, you generally run your long runs harder than traditional plans and on tired legs. I like the idea. Though, I might like it because a lot of my training has been focused on the same idea. He outlines a number of different, but simple workouts, and has a chart for each workout to let you figure out what your pace should be based on what your goal marathon time should be. It's done well enough that you can create your own plan, which is what I like to do.

The biggest downside to the book (for me), is that it's focused on runners who run 3-4 days a week, and trying to get those runners to run 6 days a week. Essentially getting people who are running 35-40 miles a week to run 55-60 miles a week. Now I completely agree that getting runners to run 6 days a week and upping their 35-40 miles a week to 55+ will greatly improve their marathon times, but I've already done that. Since my body seems to be handling the slightly higher mileage of 70-80 miles, I don't think that I would decrease my mileage to follow his lower mileage plan (especially when he's not suggesting that one's overall weekly mileage should decrease, but increase).

Moving beyond Hanson, and jumping down the rabbit hole:

Deviating from the Hanson topic, I did notice something interesting when reading the book. I've run a number of workouts mentioned in the book (like the 6x1 mile repeats), and my paces are faster than suggested for my marathon goal time. This got me to thinking about how I have to train harder than suggested in many training plans to meet my goals...I really don't think I'm doing anything wrong. My workout paces simply have to be faster than suggested, or I won't be able to run my goal time for my race. I've noted this in the past, and have changed my training accordingly.

A few weeks ago, my co-worker's husband ran a 3:11 marathon. It was a significant PR for him. He's a recreational runner, and he's been running for at least 10 years. His training peaked at maybe 50 miles. He ran his long runs at MP, but didn't really run any structured schedule. He didn't do tempo runs or interval runs. When I ran 3:11, I peaked at 76 miles, ran tempo, interval, and MP runs. I know, I know, guys run faster than girls, BUT now I'm wondering about all these training plans out there. If you have a guy and a girl who have the same time goal, would you give them the same training plan down to the same paces for the workouts? Are most of these training plans actually designed for men? Should it not matter? Obviously in this case it mattered. There's no way I would have run 3:11 on his plan, and if he had run my schedule he would have certainly run faster. Maybe it's not necessarily a difference between men and women, but a difference in running potential? In either case, it brings up some interesting questions about training. It seems to me that cookie cutter training plans are probably only good for your first few marathons when you're trying to figure out what works for you. After that, you probably need to create your own plan or get a coach...

Any thoughts? Am I completely crazy?

On the homestead:

We went sledding this weekend in our backyard. It's funny we have two sledding tubes. Kaylee sleds the whole time, and Emily fills her tube with snow. She's quite happy just filling it with snow. And there she is doing just that...two year olds...they're so weird. ;)







33 comments:

Michael said...

Over the years I've tried many different marathon plans and the one I've used most recently (and had the most success with) is in Pfitzinger's "Advanced Marathoning". For me, maxing out at 75-80 miles with two 22 milers and three 20 milers seems to work best. I know that maxing at 16 miles (regardless of pace) wouldn't cut it for me.

Based on how quickly your times have come down, your plan is obviously working for you. Keep it rolling!

I'll be looking for sub 3:00 at Baystate this year. Care to join me? :)

Ana-Maria RunTriLive said...

I feel the same way about Hanson! I also don't really think that training on tired legs is the only way, of course. I think early in training it is pretty important to run the long runs on fresh legs...otherwise, it may be too much stress on the body. Yes, individual plans for advanced marathoners, absolutely, and HARDER and HARDER training. I found the Hanson plans too easy! I trained much harder for my last marathon. THat plan would not work for me now.
I think one needs to up it during each marathon cycle (quality or quantity or both) in order to get better. With regard to the men vs women plans...at the elite level men actually train harder than women (more miles) bc their bodies can handle more. Also, a 3:10 marathon time for a men is equivalent to a 3:40 for women (at least based on the old marathon trials). If we look a the elite level, men are getting close to breaking 2 hours, while women are trying to break 2:15. A smaller difference, but still pretty big. I agree, to get a 3:10 a man needs less training than a woman. But I think the key is in challenging your body with every training cycle. One can't keep doing what one has been doing and expect results. Great post!

michelle contini said...

Oh geez. I don't even know where to start. The book has me intrigued and sounds like it may be geared towards someone like me. I have yest to run more than 46 miles in a week. This last time I really wanted to get my mileage in the mid 50's. Since I usually run 4 days a week, I was planning on upping that to 5 days. Except I was injured from the start and was never able to up my days to 5.

On another note, I never run what the predictors said I should! Not even close. I should have done sub 4 my last race and I did not. as you know, it is driving me crazy. I do tempo runs and mile repeats. I do a hideous hill run every week. I did 4 20+ milers last time. Maybe I need to do something different next time. I have always been injury prone though and wonder if I can run 6 days a week (is that what he proposes?) It would also be almost impossible to fit my Crossfit in, which I have really come to enjoy (and am hoping will help me eventually with my running) It may be worth it for a while to get this stupid 4 hour monkey off my back!

Karen said...

I don't know much about Hanson's, so I don't have an opinion. But I agree with this part: "It seems to me that cookie cutter training plans are probably only good for your first few marathons when you're trying to figure out what works for you. After that, you probably need to create your own plan or get a coach..."

I feel like I'm just starting to figure out what works for me and I'm building my own plans now too.

Katie said...

@Michael: I actually have the Advanced Marathoning book, but haven't read it. I bought it on my Kindle and forgot about it...oops. I'll have to go back and read that one. Seems for running I like to have the physical book...I might be looking for a sub 3:00 at BayState, but that's a ways out. If I were, it would be like a 2:59... :)

@AM: I definitely don't think you have to train on tired legs. There's definitely more than one way to get fast. And it's true that the marathon cycles probably have to get harder to improve. Of course, this leaves me wondering how much more I can expect to improve. It's hard to imagine running much harder than I am now...But you're right there is no "magic" plan that will get you there without the work.

@Michelle: You should look at the Amazon reviews for the book. I found a few reviews that said they had been trying to break 4 hours and finally did it with Hanson. He does want you to run 6 days a week though. One of his plans peaks at 57 miles, but many of the other weeks are high 40's low 50's. It can be tough to go to 6 running days. I was very injury prone a few years ago and I was only running 3-4 days a week (and doing a ton of cross training). I think I need the extra 2-3 days a week of running for easy runs. The cross training just didn't help me. I'm much faster now, but I can't do any pull ups, and I'd get sore if I did a few sets of 20 push ups, so I'm sorta weak in other areas. I think running 6 days a week will make you faster. It's really a question of what makes you happy though. Cross fit sounds pretty cool and you're probably more fit in other ways...

@Karen: Which plans did you start with? I think the first plans I looked from Galloway. I also like trying out workouts that I read about in running articles. Some crazy fast chick I was reading about was doing this 3x5K workout with 2 minute rest jogs while marathon training. That's sound very interesting to me.

Alicia said...

This is all so interesting I don't even know where to start!

-thanks for the book overview. I've been wanting to get that for a while just to see what it says. I didn't know about the "tired legs" aspect of the plan, but I guess that's the same effect as how a lot of ultrarunners (including me) do back-to-back long runs on the weekend. I wonder why they focus on 16 miles instead of just saying 30 percent of your weekly mileage though--maybe it just sounded catchier??

Can I ask what pace you do your mile repeats at? I haven't done those for a long time (I always end up doing either shorter or longer) and I have no idea what kind of pace I should do if I do them.

That's a really interesting point about the men v. women training plan. As far as I remember, studies where they have men and women do the same training plan always result in the men doing better in a race. So it does make sense that the training plan would have to change for women to get the same time--but I never thought of that!

Tia said...

Very interesting. I'm glad you shared the Hanson training info. I've never read his stuff but I have heard (mostly) good things about his method. I personally like running 2-3 20+ milers in a cycle. It helps me feel more mentally prepared for my marathon. I love training programs in Advanced Marathoning and I also liked the one I used for NYC that Run S.M.A.R.T. (Jack Daniels coaching service) put together for me. Very similar and lots of variety. Pete Pfitzinger uses a lot of Jack Daniels training philosophies.

I agree with AM about training on tired legs. I do it for certain workouts but I try to be cautious because it can easily lead to over training/ injuries. I guess you just have to know what your body can handle. I am better now than I was. It took me about a year and a half to slowly build up into back to back harder stuff. I did quite a few workouts in the past 5 months that I would have NEVER done a year ago. (For example, racing a 10K followed the next day by a 18 miler with 12 at MP.)

Interesting post! I always like to read other runners thoughts on training.

Katie said...

@Alicia: I was thinking the same thing...why not suggest 30% of the weekly mileage! Lately I've been running my 6x1 mile repeats at 6:00 pace with 2 minute rest jogs. I do them on the treadmill, so I usually do them at a 1% incline. I think the Hanson book had me doing 6:20's for the same workout. I would probably have trouble with this workout if I did them outside by myself. I use the TM to pace me...

@Tia: I'll have to go back and actually read Advanced Marathoning! I usually do a number of 20+ milers. Anywhere from 3-6 in a training cycle. I'd have trouble mentally if I didn't.

Healthy Ambitions said...

great review- thank you. I have only completed one marathon and my long run was 20 miles...I think I needed the 20 mentally. I am not sure that I would be ideal for the 6 days/week running. the last structured plan I followed was the FIRST plan, Run Less, Run Faster and it fit well for me b/c I was planning a tri right after my 1/2 marathon. I don't see myself getting up to 50-60 miles per week but after this little one is born I'm thinking about focusing only on the running for a while, not necessarily a marathon. I agree with other readers' comments that the most important thing is to keep pushing yourself...have to get out of the comfort zone to see results!

Karen said...

I started out with Hal Higdon's plans. My training still has the basic framework, but I'm up to 5-6 days a week, one at marathon pace and then some speed above it. Recently I've done tempo runs and mile repeats instead of 800s. It makes sense that longer interval training workouts would be more beneficial than the shorter ones. I think that 3x5K is a little out of my league still ;)

Alicia said...

Wow. Maybe I'm not doing a 3:11, let alone sub-3, marathon anytime soon--I don't even know if I can run one 6:00 mile, let alone repeats of them!! But thanks, that tells me that I should be doing mile repeats faster than I would have expected to be doing them.

Katie said...

@Alicia: Your background is opposite of mine. My running history revolves around the 5K, so I've been running those types of intervals forever. Your background is with Ultras, which is completely different. I'm sure you can run 3:11 soon. You just ran like 3:14, right? With little training? I do think that adding some faster intervals would benefit your training, but it doesn't have to be at 6:00 pace. You could start with something like 3x2 mile repeats at 10K-HM pace. Or even 3x1 mile repeats at 5K pace would probably wake up your fast twitch muscles a bit.

Alicia said...

Ha, I wish! I ran a 3:16 but I trained for it--I think I'm going to have my work cut out for me if I want to go much faster. Those workouts sound like a great idea, thanks! I think I even have an open spot in the schedule for one of them this coming week...

katie @ msfitrunner said...

I love all of your thoughts about the higdon plan - I happen to like the 20+ milers, though, so I never really looked into that one. I have also had many of the same thoughts re: training plans and race outcomes. I feel like a lot of it is running potential and each individuals ability to train at certain mileages and paces, more than male vs female. I would say there would really be no difference in a training plan for male vs female, if they are training for the same time goal and have respective fitness levels. When I ran 3:11, I had never done speedwork, sometimes did tempos and never got near 50 miles a week. I was in the 30's and 40's, no training plan. I also think there is such a thing as doing training runs and certain paces too fast where it has no additional benefit to actually make you faster, if that makes any sense. I think that's where a coach becomes helpful in finding that balance - too fast can be detrimental or at the very least not helpful to gaining strength and speed and too slow obviously doesn't help either. It's a tricky thing - I think that's why I enjoy running - aside from the physical challenge, there definitely seems to be a science to it. Very interesting!

katie said...

I meant hanson's plan, not higdon;-) there are so many!!:)

Anonymous said...

i am preparing to run my first marathon in twelve years and am following the beginner plan. The Hanson plan creates a solid structure for all runners. The book is very specific on training paces and distances, and I would suggest that it is read more than once before your training starts. I have found that the only problem with this plan is holding myself to the paces. Early in the training cycles I ran too fast, which the book cautions the runners from doing. Commit yourself to this program, follow the pace charts and when you reach the last four weeks of training you will realize this program is spot on.

Anonymous said...

The Hanson Method Works!! I just ran my 9th marathon yesterday and had a 10 minute PR, never hit the wall, and feel awesome! This was the first marathon that I trained using the advanced Hanson method and was more than thrilled with my results! I have a tendency to get achilles tendonitis each time I have trained for a marathon, but this time, I never got injured, and went into the race yesterday feeling ready! It worked for me.

Bridget said...

I will be running my first marathon next week and I have been following the Hanson Method so I will see if it works. I am prone to overuse injuries so I didn't want to run more than 50 - 60 miles a week and the 16 mile limit at that weekly mileage seemed to make sense. I have made it through the training and shooting for under 3:30 with a negative split. I do have some issues with the paces also. On the 6 X 1 mile repeats, I did them in 6:55 and I should've done them in about 7:30. But they have you do the same pace for 2 X 3 mile repeats with a mile recovery which seems like that one should be a bit slower as that is harder. It was more fun to run mile repeats in 6:55 then 7:30 so I did. I just want to finish a respectible marathon for a 51 yr old female that has been running for 35 years but never made it through the training without getting injured to actually attempt a marathon.

Samuel said...

I've never raced anything longer than a 10k, so feel free to ignore this, because I'm probably totally unqualified. But,... if you are doing 6x1mi at a pace faster than others who have your marathon pace, it would say to me that you are currently stronger as a middle distance runner than as a long distance runner; and that you would benefit more from endurance-focused training than from (relatively) speed-focused training.

Dave Trendler said...

Hi Experimental Running,

Thanks for your thoughts on Hansons Marathon Method.

Your comments about the 16-mile long run are something the Hansons have noted themselves in interviews. They aren't really comfortable with people obsessing over 16 miles, which is why the book notes that the long run distance should vary depending on how fast a runner is and also to some degree on their weekly volume. You're spot on when you say that people get a little hung up on the 16 mile thing when they talk about Hansons Marathon Method.

More important is the cumulative fatigue or "running on tired legs." Many runners gut it out in the last few miles of a marathon because they haven't trained properly for it. The Hansons method trains runners specifically to handle those last hard few miles because, well, the first 16 are easy.

The Amazon reviews are interesting, but we're also getting a huge amount of personal feedback from people on the book's Facebook page, www.facebook.com/HansonsMarathonMethod and encourage anyone to send in questions there.

Thanks for your thoughts on Hansons!

Dave Trendler
VeloPress

www.velopress.com/running
dtrendler@competitorgroup.com

Paulette said...

Hi! I just found your blog because I'm trying to use the Hanson plan, this was really helpful. I've been a lower mileage runner, peaking at 40 for the marathon before, and I really struggle to get to that point. I've been trying to run the Hanson half plan on the site (and I read the book) and I really feel it. I guess I'm discouraged, I'm not sure why my body isn't adapting to running in the 40s each week and I have taken mileage down in the plan because of it. That's my random thought not really related to anything. Thanks again for the post!

Bridget said...

Here's an update to my post of May 16: I ran the Bayshore Marathon in Traverse City, MI last week. For my 1st marathon, I ran 3:20.47 with the 2nd half a minute and a half faster than the 2nd. My last 10 K averaged 7:25 a mile with my last mile at 7:17. So needless to say, the Hanson method worked perfect for me! I felt strong at the end and so glad I held myself back in the 1st half.

happiefeet said...

I've been on the Hansons the past 3 months and I've seen some tremendous improvements in my abilities but trying to run 6 days a week around this thing called work and life is just plain impossible at times!

i may be old but at least I'm slow said...

no, you're not crazy at all. I started the Hanson plan and like the idea since I hate the 20 milers and now that I've slowed down a lot they take me too long and are counterproductive. Biggest problem for me now is finding a track to use in a.m. that XC teams aren't using. Your 3:11 would grade out much better than his--just look at difference in BQ times. I've run more marathons than a sane person should and am still looking for "best plan" but I haven't really seen something that improves much over an old RT article from late 1970s. Principles remain the same with a tweak here and there. Generally a long run, a speed workout,and a tempo run of some sort, which is what Hansons recommends.

Erich Smith said...

I did Hanson for my last Marathon and matched my PR on an 85 degree day - EASILY. The heat made me forget about "racing."

I have Indy Monumental on Nov 2. I will race that one. I expect to destroy my PR. That, to me, will be Hanson vs. Higdon.

BooShaver said...

Thanks for this great thread on Hanson's vs. other plans. I've run two marathons with Pfitzinger's "Advanced Marathoning" and I really like it but was thinking about switching to Hanson's just for something different. Prior to Boston last year I did a number of 20 milers, 3 I think, and one 23 miler which was a huge confidence boost for me. Not so sure I want to give that up. I think I am more comfortable with sticking with Pfitzinger's and upping the mileage for more of a challenge with this training cycle, or maybe looking at Daniel's since they are similar. Your thread touched on a lot of what I've been mulling over. Thanks!

Brandon said...

first time marathoner, thinking of trying hansons, have bought the book like what I read. Not a huge amount of time for trainning, and running outdoors is a problem. We get almost no daylight during winter in Sweden, and being blind helps nothing, lol.

Anonymous said...

I am about to run the Houston Marathon next weekend, and I have trained using the Hanson model. My top mileage week was 52.4. I have not been injured over this 18-week period, running 6 days a week. I'm 60 years old, and this will be my fourth marathon. The Hanson model projects me at a 4:05 time. My previous best has been just under 4:40. I feel pretty confident, despite having no runs over 16 miles.

Anonymous said...

I have been running with a group for about 3-4 years and with each group session I get a personalized training plan. While I do see an huge improvement in my endurance, my times are kind of stagnant. So I was actually thinking of mixing it up with Hansons or kind of retrofitting my newest training plan for this session. One thing i did notice for my last marathon is how burnt out I felt. I was peaking at about 40 miles a week with maybe 4 long training runs (20-22 miles). Maybe it is just me but the long runs just made me feel tired. So bumping up my mid-week runs and then peaking out at 16 seems doable. More mileage per week but none of those horrible 22 mile training runs.

Anonymous said...

Hey there experimental runner. I have been wanting to try a training plan. I've been reading mostly opinions about the Hanson method, but yet have I seen an opinion based on trial. I have been running for over 4 years now with very fast improvements, I started by loosing the weight and changing my eating habits. I then incorporated long runs which were around 25 - 40 miles every week. I achieved my weight goal and just about a year ago I started doing tempo training and speed work. I noticed that by decreasing the amount of miles in my long run and just focusing on speed and posture during my long runs were doing better for me than those long long runs I used to do. My running schedule is like this: 5 miles 2x a day at 6:40/mile with 1 1/2 hours of cross training on Friday, Saturday 17 miles at 7:00 - 7:20 pace. You would think this would make me a fast runner. Well, I am! lol. However, my issue is with fluid intake during the events. I'm on my marathon season which consist about 7-8 marathons in less than 4 months. Yes, I know they are too many to achieve a good time in any of the marathons. I'm considering focusing on 4 marathons a year, but my body wants the excitement. Anyways, this training has been working for me and planning on achieving my 2:40 P.R. in the next year or so. I want to try the Hanson method. Just one more observation, just run and keep motivated to achieve your goal whatever that might be. Good Luck and keep on running.

Mike J. said...

I used the Hanson Method to run my second marathon ever. Have done many half marathons with Hal Higdon. My only other marathon was 8 years ago on the Higdon plan.
Fatigue is definitely the word of the day. I held to not running any more than 16 miles. I was a bit skeptical but stayed with the plan. I did all the runs I was supposed to, except 2 lesser days that I had t miss.
For me, the Hanson Method worked. The last 6 miles were a mental battle but I don't think it matters which plan you are on .. that will be the case if you are trying to run it for the best time possible. I went into it hoping for 3:30 ... I ran a 3:17 and qualified for Boston.
Do the work, stay true to the program, hit your pace marks for repeats and tempo runs ... it works.

K8teebug said...

I followed this plan last year and I'm a convert. Started it again last week! I shaved 40 minutes off my previous marathon time. This year, I'm working on another 30. I never felt stronger. You do have to stick with the paces, and you don't miss those 20 milers at all.

Review Link said...

Join the 15th Annual Team Spirit Long Beach 5k and 10K marathon and help put an end to breast and ovarian cancer today! The Team Spirit Long Beach 5k and 10K marathon is going 15 years strong. To celebrate, were giving away a silk tie and silk scarf to the first 15 people who raise $1,500. Create a team and start fundraising!