I feel more energized and stronger, able to push myself harder in my training, and more confident about my race. What has really made the difference?
Running by perceived effort rather than running by pace.
No matter what you think about their methodology, the Hansons Marathon Method is a pace-based approach to marathon training. Every run has a goal pace that is based off of your goal marathon time: tempo runs at goal marathon pace, long runs at 45 seconds slower than goal marathon pace, and easy runs 1-2 minutes slower than goal marathon pace.
But this time, I didn’t begin with a goal marathon pace. I began with an idea of my training paces based on a recent race and went by the effort of how I knew certain runs should feel – including marathon pace runs.
So just how did running by perceived effort improve my marathon training?
I Stopped Obsessing Over My Garmin
I would stare at the tiny screen on my Garmin during most of my run during Hansons training. I was a runner obsessed with mile splits. Quite contrary to their purpose, I became out of touch with how the effort felt on my goal pace tempo runs because I was so focused on hitting the right pace each time.
Now, I cover my Garmin up on most easy runs (I still wear it to have data afterwards). I don’t freak out if I hit a pace at 8:30 or 10:15 on an easy run – as long as the effort is truly easy. I pace my marathon goal pace runs by what feels like a very mild aerobic strain – and some days that’s a 7:55, some days that’s an 8:15.
I Enjoyed the Experience of Marathon Training
I felt sort of burnt out near the end of using the Hansons method. I likely bite off more than I could chew in terms of mileage, but the cumulative fatigue affect rendered me a little too fatigued. I was so, so ready for training to be done by race day.
This time? I understand why runners love marathon training so much!
Don’t get me wrong: I was soooooo excited to finally hit the taper, mostly because I am experiencing that feeling of peak week: one or two more weeks too hard and I’d be overtrained, having pushed my body just enough.
But overall, I enjoyed marathon training so much! Even (especially?) those 20 mile long runs. I haven’t felt physically worn down or mentally burnt out, but each week gets me more and more excited for race day.
I Varied My Workouts More
In some areas of my life, I love routine – but not when it comes to my running workouts. Hansons created a Groundhog Day-like experience for me, where each workout felt the same. Every single Wednesday, for 16 out of 18 weeks of training, I ran 6-10 miles at a goal marathon pace – a pace which I felt the urge to hit precisely each time.
But this time around, I focused more on running by perceived effort and varying that effort. By focusing on effort, I benefit more from each specific physiological purpose of each workout, rather than pushing too hard or not pushing myself hard enough. I’ve run mile repeats at 5K effort and surprised myself with my fastest miles yet; I’ve had tempo runs where I’ve struggled to get near half marathon pace because of weather or fatigue.
I don’t plan out my training too far in advance and have even waited until the morning of to decide my hard workout of the week. This has allowed me to train to my strengths, avoid overtraining if my body just doesn’t feel up to a 10 mile tempo run, and kept marathon training fun and interesting – which I believe is important for running well.
I’m Putting Less Pressure on Myself
In part because of Hansons’ focus on pace and in part because of my own overachiever tendencies, I developed a single-minded focus on qualifying for Boston during my first marathon training cycle. The precise future of every workout had me thinking goal pace, goal pace, goal pace.
I would be ecstatic if I qualified for Boston at CIM, especially because I’m sort of on a brink where I could qualify or I could not – I feel like I’m right at that 8:10-8:15/mile range. But I what matters more to me is a strong race and a fun race – a race in which I push myself, make smart decisions, finish strong, and give everything I have on that course.
Overall, I’m hoping that this shift in my training makes for a better race experience. I’m hoping I can race by perceived effort with some pacing guidelines (so I start out easy enough). Training for a marathon based on perceived effort has drastically improved my running, and I hope that racing by effort benefits me just as well.
Have you ever changed the way you train and seen a difference?
Do you race by pace or perceived effort?
Receive Weekly Running Tips & Motivation
Subscribe for my weekly newsletter and receive a free download of injury prevention exercises for runners.