I have one and possibly two goal races on my calendar for this fall: the local Buffalo Creek Half Marathon on October 18 and the Philadelphia Half Marathon on November 22 (Philly is TBD and I haven’t yet registered). I put a lot of thought into my training plan. I ultimately decided to use a Hanson’s Half Marathon training plan. Here’s why.
I read the Hanson’s Half Marathon Method book earlier this year, and it resonated with me in many ways. The Hanson’s method is all about cumulative fatigue–the accumulation of fatigue over days, weeks, and months of training. The plans are designed to simulate running tired so that you are trained to handle the fatigue in the later parts of a race. Because finishing strong is one of my biggest race goals, I really liked this concept.
I incorporated some of the aspects of the Hanson’s method in my last plan, like higher mileage and running a lot of easy runs and that worked really well. While I debated following the plan for my fall races, I initially decided not to. I really liked my modified Hal Higdon plan I followed earlier this year, and I felt that it made me stronger, fitter, and more confident than ever before. So I thought I would use the Higdon plan but add some of the Hanson’s concepts to it. The biggest change I felt I needed was with speedwork. I felt I needed more challenging speedwork, so added Hanson’s speedwork to my plan. Then, I couldn’t leave it alone. I modified paces, changed workout days, tinkered some more, and then I printed out a shiny new plan I was pretty excited about…until I told my husband about it.
“Are you supposed to be combining training plans like that?” he asked. That made me think of a Runner’s World article I read, Hodgepodge Isn’t a Training Program. The article argues against choosing workouts and training components you like to build your own plan and instead advocates for making sure every component has a purpose, and that the purpose is tailored to address your weaknesses and goals.
That made me pick up the Hanson’s book again to make sure I hadn’t modified anything I shouldn’t have. I ended up re-reading the book and, once again, was so impressed with the plan. Every single aspect of the plan is well thought out, from paces to weekly mileage to workout days, with research on why all the aspects will make you a better endurance runner. By picking and choosing the aspects I wanted to follow, I was turning a good training plan into who knows what.
So I decided that if I really wanted to try the Hanson’s method, I should just try it! I did have to make a few modifications, though.
- Hanson’s plan is 18 weeks, and my race is 15 weeks away. I cut three weeks out of the plan, plus modified a week to just include easy runs while I’m on vacation.
- I reduced the mileage for speedwork, which is on Tuesdays. The speedwork in the plan starts at 8 miles on a weekday, and the plan calls for 1-3 miles for warm-up and cool-down. That would put me at 10 miles right off the bat. I run before work, and the most I have ever ran is 7 miles on a weekday, and that was a huge challenge. It’s not even just getting to work late that’s a problem, it’s also figuring out fueling (I don’t eat before I run, but I am not a runner who can run 7 miles, let alone 10, on an empty stomach) and bathroom issues (running a lot first thing in the morning gets the system flowing…there were runs where I seriously thought I might have to take my pants off and go on the side of the trail.) Plus, the speedwork starts at 12 intervals of 400s. I don’t think I’ve even done half that at once! So I reduced the amount of speedwork, which reduces the overall mileage. UPDATE: Carina pointed out that I had the speedwork mileage wrong. The original plan for speedwork calls for 6 miles, not 8 miles, plus warm-up and cool-down. I think that now I’m going to keep to the original plan for speedwork. My updated plan is below.
I know it would be better if I didn’t modify the plan at all, but in order to follow the plan, I needed to do these two things.
This plan has some new concepts I’ll be trying.
- Speedwork that focuses on endurance. Hanson’s plan starts with speedwork at shorter
distances and higher intensities to build V02 max and then progresses to
what the plan calls strength work, which is done at just 10 seconds slower than your goal race pace for longer distances to build endurance. I physically and
mentally struggle when holding a harder pace for longer distances, so I
think this will really help me.
- Moderate intensity long runs. Hanson’s plan (and many others) say that
more experienced runners can do long runs at a
moderate instead of an easy pace. I think I’m experienced enough that I
can handle that. Hanson’s suggested pace for my long run is 12:16.
- Two hard workouts during the week and one on the weekend. In this plan, I’ll be doing speedwork on Tuesday, a tempo workout at race pace on Thursday, and a long run on the weekend. The rest will be easy runs. While doing hard workouts first thing before work will certainly be a challenge, I like that I will have one easy day on the weekend. I’ll be able to have more free time on the weekend plus one weekend night where I won’t have to worry so much about watching what I eat and drink and going to bed early. In my last training cycle, I had my race pace run and long run both on the weekends, and it felt like my whole weekend was taken up with running.
- Flexibility in easy run paces. Hanson’s plan includes a range of paces so that if I’m feeling good and want to go a bit faster, I don’t have to slog along at my super-slow easy pace.
As for mileage, the Hanson’s method calls for running most days, so after the first 3 weeks I’ll be running 6 days a week. Most of my weekly mileage will be in the upper 30s to low 40s, topping out at 43.5 (my highest mileage week to date is 40).
I will be training for the same time as I did for the Pittsburgh Half Marathon (2:24 for a 10:59 pace). While I wanted to train at a slightly faster pace, I want to use the paces in the book, and the next fastest time is 2:17, and I don’t think I’m ready to train for that time yet.
To say I’m excited is an understatement! I will be sharing information from the book on the different aspects of the method as I go through my training.
This is the plan with modified speedwork. If you click on it, you’ll get a larger view. I plan to use the original speedwork, which is the in the second plan.
This is the plan with the original speedwork that I’m going to try to do. This increases my weekly mileage so that I peak at 45.5. Also, I color coded warm-up and cool-down miles in yellow, since they are to be done at an easy pace.