I’m about halfway through week 14 of the Hansons Marathon Method training program, for the second time. The high mileage, the tough workouts, the draining intensity; it’s all catching up to me for sure. I know the cumulative fatigue and physical stress is serving a purpose and making me stronger, but this training plan is not for the faint of heart.
I previously shared a full Hansons Marathon Method Review, where I discussed my experiences with the program, and why I decided to repeat it for a third time. I knew going into this round of marathon training what I was in for, but for anyone considering the Hansons training plan, I want to give a few points to consider.
What to Consider Before Starting Hansons
Is It In Line with Your Goals?
Before starting any program, it’s important to really understand the foundation to the training plan. I absolutely recommend that anyone whose considering Hansons read the book, in it’s entirety. If you’re going to sacrifice the amount of time required to complete this program, you should be willing to take the time to read the book. Trust me, the reading is much easier than the training.
The two main plans offered are beginner and intermediate, but do not confuse yourself. The beginner plan is absolutely not a couch to marathon plan. It is intense and high-mileage, but with a little less focus on speed. I’d recommend this plan for someone who has been running consistently, is looking for some structured speed workouts, and has a realistic goal (IE, not the 20 minute PR I was chasing recently). Fellow blogger hungry runner wife shared a great review on running the plan as a first time marathoner, and discussed why she chose this route, If you are considering Hansons for your first marathon, this would be a great read for you.
The Hansons running team did put out a “just finish” plan more recently, and this may be a good option for someone who wants to run a strong first or second marathon. But again, it assumes that the runner has a reasonable running base established. So runner beware.
Have I mentioned that this program is tough? It is tough in intensity and time commitment, and will take a lot of stubbornness and determination for any runner to complete. For all of these reasons, I wouldn’t recommend beginning this program unless you have a goal that requires all of these things.
If for example, you are wanting to run a marathon to support a friend or enjoy a runcation, and you aren’t looking to shave some time off your previous PR, this might not be the best plan for your goals. In these types of cases, it is fairly likely that you might get to week 7 of this program and decide the requirements just aren’t worth it. This plan is amazing if you are looking to improve your marathon time, or have a specific goal (like Boston Qualifying) in mind, but if not there are other plans you might want to consider.
For years, I ran and chose to see exercise as a way to reduce my anxiety and improve my mental health. I wouldn’t have ever considered a plan like Hansons, because it just wasn’t inline with my goal of managing my anxiety. But in recent years, my goals have shifted, and I think this plan has gotten me so much closer to achieving them than I ever could on my own.
The Hansons Marathon Method is well known for being a high mileage plan, but it’s important to know that the high mileage is spread fairly evenly across the week. Why is this important? Well, a lot of marathon programs have four weekday runs that average 4-8 miles, with one long run on the weekend. For most people with jobs and families or needy houseplants, this can be challenging to schedule, but still achievable.
The Hansons plan is different. First, the plan prescribes six days of running per week. This means one whole day of rest per week. The other part of the high mileage is the weekday runs range in length from 6-10 miles at the beginning of the program, and 8-12 miles towards the end. So, if running six days a week doesn’t give you pause, running a casual 10 miler before work might. These points are important to consider when you look at your look at your life and honestly assess if these plans are a good fit.
Can anyone manipulate their schedule to work this kind of training in if they are determined enough? Probably. Personally, I work a full-time corporate job (with semi-regular office hours) and have a husband and kindergartner at home (no room for needy houseplants, though). I generally believe that if I can make it work, most people should be able to. The question you have to ask is not is it possible to make it all fit, but do you want to make it all fit?
And it’s a fair question. I wake up now 6 days a week at 5am. Which for some people is not a major departure from regular life, but it’s pretty damn early in my opinion. I know a few nurses who work 12 hour shifts and somehow schedule in their training on top of that, and honestly I question if they’ve made some sort of deal with a supernatural entity. It’s possible clearly, but it may not be worth it to you to have to wake up at 4am or run well past 10pm to make training work with your work schedule.
So a few points I recommend people consider before they embark on this training plan includes asking yourself what does your current work schedule look like? What will it look like over the next several months? Will there be major projects or travel that you should incorporate into your decision-making? And do you have the family support you would need at home to make the program work?
Here’s a few things that have helped me successfully complete this plan. 1) When I’m not traveling, I primarily work from home. This means that I have the ability to take a nap during lunch when I’m extra-exhausted. And I have a lot of access to food and caffeine. I also have the luxury of not needing to spend an hour getting ready and looking presentable enough for an office setting after a brutal run. I don’t hate it.
2) My husband is the closest thing to a saint I have personally met, and he works a mostly seasonal job. Outside of the tax season, his schedule is extremely flexible, and he has been amazingly gracious with taking care of a lot of our household necessities. He cooks for me when I am hangry, he hangs out with our kid when I am falling asleep at 3pm, and he makes chiropractor appointments for me when I’m being stubborn.
Related Post: My B+ Mom Week
Could I make the training plan work if my lifestyle were different? Possibly. I’m currently training over the tax season, when my husband is much less available. And my work travel has been about as challenging as a sleep deprived toddler lately. It’s meant a lot of treadmill miles, moving things around schedule-wise, and unwashed dishes and laundry, but it’s been achievable.
Now this might sound like a jerk thing to ask, but you’re only asking yourself, so you can’t take it personal. How mentally tough are you? It’s not a flippant question. Because if you’re someone that generally quits fairly quickly, I’d venture to say that you’re going to have a hard time with this plan.
Related Post: Weekly Recap: 11.17.19 – Cumulative Fatigue
This training plan requires more commitment than most people put into their first or second marriage. The program is highly structured and methodical. And while you might be able to make considerable progress towards your goals with a few tweaks, it’s structured the way it is for a reason. If you remove or significantly alter any part of the (somewhat complicated) equation, you might be putting in a lot of effort for little reward.
If you question your mental strength and level of commitment, I’d recommend exploring ways to improve this first, and then consider the Hansons plan after. Things like utilizing mantra’s, practicing sitting with discomfort, and talking to sports psychologist can make huge differences in mental toughness. I have to say that I’ve learned a lot about mental strength through this plan, but it’s required a whole lot of it to get this far.
The final point to consider is the general state of your physical health. I’m sure I’ve made it fairly clear by now that this plan is not a run of the mill, casual running, weekend warrior kind of training plan. Fueling and nutrition have been critical for me in being able to recover enough from one workout to run the next. If you’re not comfortable regularly inhaling a stack of pancakes in an incredibly ladylike way, this is something to think about.
Also, if you’re just hopping off the injury train, this plan might be difficult. I have to say, I’ve never felt stronger and less prone to injury than I do currently, running this plan. But the track, strength, and tempo runs are demanding, and could be difficult on a still healing body. The plan itself is physically stressful, as is injury recovery. I don’t see much benefit in combining the two stressors.
Related Post: Running Nutrition
Now, I have to say, I feel like this training plan has been incredible in terms of the strength gained and racing results. I absolutely recommend it for anyone who is looking to improve their marathon time, and feels like they can make the mileage and workouts fit in with their everyday life. The exhaustion, muscle fatigue, and bottomless pit that has become my stomach are worth it. 100%.
So, if you read this and feel hesitation, question it. Are you intimidated? Scared to show up for yourself? If so, I would say accept the challenge. See if it works. There are hundreds of Hansons Marathon Method success stories. The worst that could happen is you end up transitioning to a different plan in a few weeks.
But if you read this and feel like the plan just isn’t right for you right at this time, trust your instincts. There are a lot of ways to get stronger and faster, and this plan might be perfect in a different season of life.
If you read this and still feel like you’re on the fence, or have questions about incorporating this plan, definitely feel free to reach out to me, through my Contact Me. I am more than happy to answer any questions you may have, help you explore the hundreds of training opportunities, or discuss individual run coaching. If this was helpful, I’d love to know, so please shoot me an email, or leave me a comment.