Hansons Marathon Method Post-Race Review

Hansons Marathon Method Review

Thank you so much for all of your awesome and kind comments on yesterday’s race recap! You all are amazing. 

I’ve had a few people ask me on Instagram and the blog about how the Hansons Marathon Method worked for me. I provided an objective review at the start of my marathon training cycle, but now that I’ve tried and tested the program, I want to offer a subjective review as well. 

Hansons Marathon Method Review

Please keep in mind that just because something did or did not work for me doesn’t mean that it will or won’t work for you. Every runner is different. I want to preface this review by saying that I am very fortunate to not be injury-prone; in my 8 years of running, I only spent a few months injured due to a problem with weak muscles in my ankle and muscular imbalances in my calves. The Hansons Marathon Method aims to prevent injury, but many runners, even very experienced and much more gifted runner than I, find that such high mileage puts them at risk of injury or overtraining.

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What I Liked

The Goal-Pace Tempo Runs

Nothing prepares you for running at your goal marathon pace as much as running over 100 miles at the pace during training. By the end of the Hansons Marathon Method, you’ll know whether or not you’re capable of running your goal pace for 26.2 miles. This pace will feel familiar, almost automatic; on race day, it felt downright easy and conversational. These runs are the bread and butter of the Hansons Marathon Method and they definitely pay off on race day.

High Mileage

High mileage intimidated me, but I realized a few weeks into the training cycle of how much it benefited my endurance and my mental ability to handle the prospect of the marathon. The definition of high mileage can vary for everyone, as it is fairly subjectively defined (as many miles as you can handle without getting injured); the Hansons defined high mileage in the 55-63 range. Because of my over-caution about injury and just feeling overall fatigued, I capped my peak weeks at 60 (also, as I mention below, I don’t like recovery runs that last longer than an hour). Because it removes the intimidation of the 20 mile long run, the Hansons Marathon Method serves as an approachable means to familiarize your mind and body with a high training volume.

Marathon Specific Workouts

In addition to the highly race-specific tempo runs, the speed workouts during the second half of the Hansons plan are very specific to the physiological demands of the marathon. Instead of running shorter and faster repeats on the track, you run longer repeats (6 x 1 mile all the way up to 2 x 3 miles) at slightly faster than marathon pace. These are challenging workouts but they successfully build your stamina and endurance, both of which are vital for a successful marathon. I thoroughly enjoyed these workouts, even more than the marathon pace workouts.

What Didn’t Work (for Me)

Shorter Long Runs

I am not disagreeing in the slightest with the Hansons philosophy of the long runs. However, even by their philosophy, I can extend my long runs into the 20 mile range, since a 20 miler would take me about 3 hours to complete at my long run pace. Additionally, I could have benefited from long runs of 18-20 to build my mental strength; when my stomach began to cramp, I became worried about my ability to run for 10 miles further than I’d ever run before. I also believe in training the gut and feet for the distance, and 16 miles did not prepare my stomach the best for such a distance. Even though I was able to pick up my pace in the last 10K, my feet ached during those miles since I had been on them for a good 80 minutes more than I had for any of my long runs in training. 

The issue may also be base and experience: for new marathoners, a 16 mile long run may not suffice, both in terms of physical and mental preparation. For experienced marathoners who know they can complete that distance and have that base of running a marathon before, the shorter long run can be more beneficial. 

If you have repeatedly struggled with injury during marathon training cycles, especially when your long runs extend into the 18-22 mile range, then the Hansons plan may work for you. It’s goal, after all, is to help the average runner run a marathon without getting injured. 

Honestly, I also crave longer long runs with shorter recovery runs. I love distance running for the same reason I love hiking: there’s a deep satisfaction and a bit of a runner’s high after a long and steady effort outside. 

(As a note, I know that the Hansons online marathon programs feature several more 16-18 mile long runs than the plan in their book does. Instead of 3 16-milers, I think you do 3-16 milers and 3-18 milers while maintaining a similar weekly mileage.)

Long Recovery Runs

This only attests to my amateur status, but I do not like recovery runs that extend for over an hour. I know that these do wonders for endurance, but I’d take a shorter recovery run if it meant a longer long run now that I’ve done my first marathon. Yes, they do help with cumulative fatigue, they sometimes left me feeling stale when a big workout arrived. I was always able to push through the workout and hit my paces, but still, part of my longed for the shorter recovery runs that even grueling plans such as Pfitzinger’s 18 week/70 miles per week plan incorporate.

In Summary

The Hansons Marathon Method will not only get you across the finish line, but it will get you across the finish line fast. Once I tamed my stomach pains, I started flying past runners in the last few miles. When my legs hurt and my brain urged me to stop, I knew that I possessed the ability to run on tired legs, thanks to the cumulative fatigue of Hansons. By no means is this an easy plan, but it also is not unconquerable and actually quite manageable if you follow their prescribed paces. I am glad I used it for this marathon, as it kept me injury-free, and I would recommend it to any runners looking to break from traditional training programs and train injury-free. 

Cookie cutter plans work for some runners, but not every runner. Want to train for a marathon with a plan customized to fit your individual needs, goals, and wants? I offer 1-on-1 individualized training plans through my coaching services and would love to help you achieve your goals! 

Questions of the Day: 
How do you approach the trial and error of finding the right training plan for you?
Who’s racing this upcoming weekend? I know Hartford and Chicago are coming up on Sunday!


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31 Responses

  1. I agree with alot of your thoughts on this plan! I used it for marathon #4, so I already knew I could handle the marathon distance. My coach is incorporating similar workouts into my training which I am happy about, but my easy runs will be no more than 7 miles and I will get in a few 18-20 mile runs. I think you have learned alot from your training cycle to make the next one even better!

    1. I definitely think it would be different for an experienced marathoner – I admittedly got anxious during the last week of training about being able to handle the distance, even just from a mental standpoint. It sounds like your coach has you on a really good plan for you! 🙂

  2. I’m racing! I know I can’t do outright Hansons because my body just can’t handle that type of beating. I simply can’t run that much! And I love my runs too much to risk getting really burned out. And I love a good 20 miler 😀

    1. I’m tracking you! Hansons is a lot of beating – I’m totally taking advantage of the 10-14 day break from running they recommend because that plan is a beast. Thankfully I didn’t get burned out this time, but there’s no guarantee for the future which is why I probably will switch it up.

    1. Thank you, Meredith! I definitely did a lot of research before choosing a plan and part of the reason Hansons appealed to me was it wasn’t too much of a drastic difference from how I trained for half marathons, especially my most recent. Their half marathon plan looks like a beast but super effective as well – I am tempted to try it for when I focus back on the half!

    1. Thank you, Angie! I spent probably a year or so reading up on marathon training philosophies before even considering actually running one. The different plans are all so interesting!

  3. Isn’t it all such a delicate balance? The only way to find out what our body’s like and don’t like is to actually just get out and do it, which is what you did, and your body seems to handle the beating of Hanson’s just fine. Which is great news, in my opinion. You did a really great job training for this marathon, and if you didn’t have that gut issue, you’d have a BQ in the bag and for a first marathon, that is practically unheard of.

    1. Thank you, Suzy! Hansons did make me feel more confident about taking on high mileage, even if next time the high mileage takes a different form with more long runs. And, honestly, I’m kind of glad that gut issue happened, because then I didn’t get too cocky on myself and got the kick in the butt I need to actually go see a doctor.

  4. Great post!

    I used a “Hanson inspired” plan for my last marathon. Your gripe about long runs not being long enough is the primary reason I can’t bring myself to do a full Hansons plan. I understand the philosophy behind it and that this has worked for many people but I’m just not comfortable doing 16 miles as my longest run. Maybe it’s a mental thing, I guess. I wish I could be comfortable with it though, because ugh do I HATE long runs.

    However, I’ve found that the cumulative fatigue and higher mileage really do work for me. I’m much more of a slow-twitch than a fast-twitch runner. Long distance is strength, and I’ve found that I always perform better on higher mileage.

    1. Thank you, Hanna! I really think you could do well with Hansons, especially since you do the cumulative fatigue training, know that you can cover the marathon distance, and don’t like long runs. But, mental preparation is key (which I very much learned this time) and that looks different for everyone, which is why I think Hansons works like a charm for some but not for others.

  5. Finding out what worked for me took a lot of trial and error and learning about my body. I ultimately mix and match a lot of training plans to create my own at the beginning of each training cycle. This is part of my hesitation towards getting a running coach – although they may know more than me, I know my body the best. Ugh – so type A I can’t handle it. I love the review you gave – I thought it was honest and really thorough! Great job 🙂

    1. Thank you, Jamie! Yes, I feel the same way about a coach, and you clearly do a great job in developing your own plans. While I’m still in a trial and error phase, I really want to get to the point of coaching myself (and coaching others for a job!). Have you read Brad Hudson’s Run Faster from the 5K to Marathon? It’s all about how to become your own running coach and is so far so interest.

  6. You did an awesome job for your first marathon. It takes a lot of guts to use a plan like Hansons for Marathon #1. I followed the Hansons Half Marathon plan but that’s a totally different beast because the long runs do go up to 12 miles. I will say my favorite thing about their training plans is the long-ish run at goal pace. I never adhere to any training plan 100% but that’s something I strive to do when training for a longer goal race because it helped me in the half I PRed when I did it. Totally with you on adding a longer run or two next time even if you follow Hansons, even if you just upped to 18-20.

    1. Thank you so much, Amy! I own the book to the Hansons Half plan and it looks so challenging, especially those strength days at HMP-10 sec! I’m glad to hear you’ve had great success with them – they are definitely a good plan!

  7. I really agree with this! There is a lot I like about the Hansons plan and I use pieces of it with my runners, but I don’t agree with skipping the 20 milers – especially for a first time marathoner! I personally believe everyone needs at least one 20 miler in their training cycle, even experienced runners. It builds confidence, lets you test your fueling (a lot can happen in the guy after mile 16)….and it’s kind of a hallmark of marathon training. Like you, I also love the long long runs and the marathon specific phase 🙂

    You had a great training cycle, have natural talent, have experience, and are really thoughtful about analyzing your training and current research – you are going to crush your next marathon!

    1. Thank you so much, Beth! That’s a really smart way you approach it – Hansons has some great workouts, but I now realize the value of 20 milers! I really wonder if a 20 miler would have helped me test my stomach more. I hope you’re enjoying the marathon-specific phase of your training – NYCM is coming soon!

    1. I’m surprised at how good my legs and cardio felt at mile 20 and beyond! I really want to include 20 milers next time, but this plan definitely works without them.

  8. Altho my plan was a low mileage plan, I think my coach planned my runs similarly to the Hanson’s theory. The only difference is that instead of the high mileage, she had me do a lot of metabolic conditioning per the CrossFit world. I like to think that I had the best of both worlds. But we’ll see how it turns out on Sunday!

    1. A lot of your workouts were similar to mine – we both did those 2 x 3 mile repeats. And your Crossfit works similar to the mileage because it builds that fatigue in the legs. You’re going to do great on Sunday – I’m cheering for you!

  9. Funny, the things you love about it are my least favorite and the things I like are the ones you don’t. I’m in a whole different speed category though, so 16 is 3 hours for me. I also won’t be able to give a true review as my training fell apart in the last few weeks due to bronchitis and a tweaked hip. I’d really love to get all the way through their training though to see what it would do for me. As it stands, I’m just going to be going for an upright finish, sigh.

    1. I’m sorry to hear about how your training went – that must be so frustrating after working so hard! I hope you recover at least to finish your race. Hansons is a tough plan and it definitely does feel rewarding to get through, so hopefully it works for you next time! 🙂

  10. Hi! I came across your blog while searching for first-time marathoners using Hansons. I used the half marathon plan for my goal race last weekend & I can’t imagine ever doing another plan. It worked so well for me in building my confidence & truly running my best half marathon. That I got a 7-minute PR is secondary to how good & strong I felt during the race & how I was easily able to push in the final miles & finish strong. I’m doing my first full in fall of 2016, and I wouldn’t attempt a full if I couldn’t do the Hansons plan. Anyway, happy to meet another Hansons runner! And congrats on your marathon!

    1. A 7 minute PR is super impressive in the half! I’m glad the Hansons plan worked so well for you! It’s a tough training plan for the full, but it definitely helps you finish strong. And thank you!

  11. I am doing week by week review of the Hanson’s beginner plan. I am following the plan exactly without making any judgement’s or tweaks to it. I’m currently up to week 11 as of 09/07/16 so it may be of some interest to others. I do have some reservations of how some modifications might benefit me but I’m going on faith and trying to do as honest review on the plan as is.


    1. You’ll be used to moving at this clip; in fact, on race day, it probably seemed effortless and natural. The Hansons Marathon Method hinges on these kind of runs, and they bear fruit on race day.

  12. Hi Laura, the last week of the Hanson continues with the high mileage. I’m nervous about the 11 ish miles (albeit warm up/cool down and intervals and not one steady long run) on the Wed before my race on the Sunday. Did you follow the plan to the letter? I’ve been religiously following it so far but that last wed, followed then by a couple more short runs on the fri and sat immediately before the race seems a bit hard core. Dilemma!

    1. Hi Suzanne,

      While generally I encourage respecting the plan, Hansons does tend to do too aggressive of training in a taper. What is your peak mileage? Generally race week, a short workout such as 6-8 miles (depending on your mileage) with 20 minutes at MP is appropriate. If in doubt, do less during race week, since the only purpose of a race week workout is to prime your neuromuscular systems before the event.

      1. That’s so helpful Laura. The plan has a weekly mileage peak of 46.5 (x 3 weeks interspersed with 44 mile weeks). 5 days every week. Max individual run is 16 miles on tired legs from runs the previous two days. The plan has been brilliant, I have really enjoyed it and my fitness and motivation are so much higher than before. I am permanently tired and hungry of course (!) and now that every week is 44 miles plus, it is getting harder… best wishes Suzanne

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