If you’re a regular blog reader, you know I love the Hanson’s method. I’ve used the half marathon method twice. This was my first time using the method for a full marathon, my first. Here’s my final review from a post-race perspective and some things to consider if you’re thinking of trying it.
I used the beginner plan customized by Melissa, one of the Hanson’s coaches. I paid a monthly fee for customized coaching. Melissa would create my plan two weeks at a time so that she could make adjustments as needed. I’ve raved before about how much this personalized coaching helped me. It was expensive, but I will always have the customized plan that Melissa created for me that I can use again or refer to in order to make modifications, like training while on vacation.
The Difference Between the Half and Full Plans
The plans appear very similar on paper. Each plan calls for six weekly runs–three workouts and three easy runs. The speed, strength, and tempo workouts are exactly the same. The only difference is mileage, but it’s a huge difference. In my half marathon training last winter, my longest mid-week run was 9 miles. For the full training it was 13 miles. My half marathon peak week was 47 miles. My full marathon peak week was 50 miles. It doesn’t seem like it would feel like a huge difference, but it was. I was significantly more tired and fatigued using the full marathon plan than I was with the half plan.
The Surprise Element
I’m lucky in that I’m rarely stressed out, and I usually don’t let work get to me. All that changed this training cycle. Because I’d done the half marathon training before and the mileage for the full didn’t look that much different, I didn’t anticipate how hard it would be on me. But it was. That extra mileage was really hard for me, and the cumulative fatigue of doing it week after week for so long really got to me. I have never felt so fatigued in my life, but it wasn’t even just feeling tired. It felt like I was a shell of my real self. At the same time, work stress skyrocketed. In retrospect, I can see how one plus one equaled ten. I probably wouldn’t have gotten so stressed out at work if I didn’t have the huge stress of training. But in the thick of it, between the stress of training and work, I was really struggling. I remember one day coming home from work and telling Dave I was quitting running, quitting my job, and moving to the west coast that weekend. He talked me off the ledge, but that’s how bad it was. (I still want to move to the west coast though!) Once I started tapering and the fatigue lifted, it felt like a heavy weight was lifting off of me–it was that extreme.
My Overall Assessment
At one point I was lamenting to Coach Melissa about how tired I was and she said something like, It’s funny how we can be so tired but still feel like a badass by doing these tough workouts day after day. I think that’s the best summary of the method. It’s hard. Very hard. The hardest thing I’ve ever done. And I was extremely fatigued in a way I’d never been before. But the training made me so strong and so fit that I was able to do double-digit hard workouts at 5 a.m. on dead legs week after week. My legs got more muscular than they’d ever been before. I felt great and more fit than I’d ever been, with no aches, pains or injuries.
I’ve said before and still think that the biggest benefit of the method is the confidence it gives me. When Melissa and I first talked about a time goal, I struggled to believe that I could hit it. But during training I grew more and more confident and truly believed I could do it. In one of his videos, Luke Humphrey said that believing in your training is so important no matter what plan you follow. Could other plans have physically prepared me for a marathon? Of course. So many other runners use so many other types of training and do well with that training. But I would never have been as confident following another plan. I believe in the method, and I believed that this training cycle prepared me well for the race.
And you know what? I still believe. I missed my time goal by nearly an hour, but I know that the race wasn’t a true reflection of my fitness and capabilities. I went into the race a little depleted and fighting off some type of virus that made me sick later that week, in warmer temperatures than I’d planned for, and in full, intense sun–my personal kryptonite.
What amazed me during the race was how well I held up physically to the distance, even with being on the course a full hour longer than I’d planned. Nothing hurt or ached. My stomach was fine. My legs were a little tired at the end, but they were actually more tired in the peak of my training. So I have no doubt that the training absolutely prepared me for the distance. Of course I’m sad that so many conditions of the race weren’t in my favor, and I feel like I didn’t get a fair shot at trying for my goal time.
But if I’ve learned anything in the past four years of running, it’s that running isn’t fair, to me at least. Usually I work so hard and do so well in training, but that usually doesn’t translate into a good race. And then I wonder if I should just give up racing and run for fun–or if I should just give up running and do Zumba instead. This training cycle–and the marathon–changed me, though. Seeing how strong and fit I can get and how my body can handle very difficult things has been its own reward. And I know that I am improving. In each of the three training cycles I’ve done using the method, I’ve been able to handle more. And each training cycle I get more confident. This has all left me very positive and excited about what I can do in the future. Yes, I may continue to have really bad races. But maybe, just maybe, the race gods will smile on me and I’ll have a good race. I like running in general and the training process enough to keep trying at least.
Is the Hanson’s Method Right for You?
I think the biggest indicator of whether the plan is right for you is if you’re interested in trying it. If you look at the plan and know you’d be miserable running six days a week or know you won’t like the structure or the slow paces of the easy runs, don’t bother. But if you’re intrigued but aren’t sure you can physically do it, do it! I was in that same place when I first read the book. I had no idea whether I could actually do it. If I can do it, anyone can!
I think a big key to success with the plan is reading the book. The book explains the science behind all the runs. There’s a reason for everything. Knowing how the method will ultimately benefit you is a huge motivator to continue the training.
I would suggest doing the half marathon plan before the full marathon plan. I think being familiar with the structure and plan helped me tremendously. While I had extreme fatigue, it didn’t really hit me until my peak weeks, and I was able to handle the majority of the training really well and can only think it’s because I’d done the method before.
And my last suggestion is to reduce other stresses if you’re going to do this training. I know that’s easier said than done, but if you’re in a majorly stressful situation, it’s not the time to do this training!
And finally, I’d recommend the new online group coaching option that Hanson’s Coaching Services offers called Run Club. Luke and the other coaches are very active on the site, and you’re able to ask questions and get advice from the coaches constantly. In addition, there are members-only benefits like frequent live chats with Luke. I’ve learned a lot from these, and one recent one that Luke did about setting long-term running goals is what I’m using to base my 2017 goals on (more on that in another post!) I plan to join the Hanson’s Run Club for my next training.