Custom Search

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

A marathon experiment: Hanson's marathon method

After some internal debate, bouncing thoughts off David, and making a pros and cons list, I decided to train for my next marathon using the Hanson's method.

 In brief, the plan relies on cumulative fatigue in the legs with weekly speed work that becomes more marathon-specific closer to race day and a weekly tempo at marathon pace. The long runs are shorter than many plans, maxing at 16 miles. I know there are mixed thoughts on Hanson's, so I thought I'd share my pros and cons list:

  • Now is a good time to experiment: an early fall race after a hot summer will automatically be slow anyway.
  • Shorter long runs make more sense in the summer, when long runs for hours in the high 90's are brutal. 
  • Not-insane paces for speed work seems doable even for injury prone me. 
  • The long runs are run at a reasonable pace. I really don't like slow long runs. Hanson's aren't fast, but they're more a moderate pace. 
  • The book was on sale for $7.
  • I don't really care about this race very much, since I mostly registered as an excuse to visit my brother.


  • Long miles on weekdays will be hard to manage.
  • Speed work and tempo every week might lead to injury. I have never done well with two hard days per week.
  • I often have stomach upset when trying to eat during long runs and races, and I worry that long runs no longer than 16 miles won't give me adequate practice and experimentation time with fueling.
  • I'm afraid I'll bonk.
  • I'm afraid I won't be able to hit my tempo paces. I hate tempos.

Has anyone else done Hanson's? What are your thoughts, whether or not you've completed one of their training plans?


  1. Where did you find the book on sale for $7? I need to pick up a copy because I plan to use it for a January Marathon (I already read it from the library but if I'm going to train with the plan I'd prefer to own it).

    I've done the Hansons Half Marathon plan before and was VERY successful on it. The longest long run for that was 12 but that's plenty for a half. I never could nail the longer runs at goal pace, but I got close and I hit it on race day, when it mattered. I did Hansons Beginner for a half and even though I don't consider myself a beginner runner, the plan was hard enough! Their "beginner" plans are pretty advanced.

    I think if I do the marathon plan, I will lengthen the 16's a little. Most everyone I know who trains with it goes more than 16 for that one- at least to 18 and sometimes 20. Your fueling reason is one reason why I think I will run at least one 20. But I don't know anyone who follows a plan 100% anyway.

    1. I got it on Amazon, but I think it was a third-party seller.

    2. Book - You could probably find it used on Amazon, anyway.

  2. I'm intrigued but haven't used it yet. My buddy Jen wrote this piece about it - shaved 16 mins off her marathon time using Hansons.

  3. I used HMM twice and I am currently using it again. The first time, I PR's but I bonked at...mile 17-ish. The second time, I modified it so that I only had 5 days of running and a long run peaking at 20 miles. It was an unsuccessful race with another bonk at mile 16 and a slower's to hoping 3rd time's a charm! What I really like about it is that the tempo miles build from 6-10 whereas Pfitz has you doing 8 right away and then 10 3 weeks later...Good luck! I'm interested to follow how you do with the program.

    1. Yes, and the tempo is already tough in this heat!

  4. There is zero way I could do that many hard runs. But then again, I'm pretty content with being slow.

  5. The price of the book alone is worth giving it a go. I figure you've got nothing to lose and if you start feeling like you're breaking then you can always change it up.

  6. I've used Hansons twice and PRed both times (once by 25 minutes, once second...thanks cramps).
    I was able to handle the load (I did switch to running for time during some of the midweek longer runs, rather than distance, because I am S L O W and I have a job to get to.)
    If I used it again I would, however, add in a couple of 20-milers to tinker with fuelling because of that little problem I have with cramps.
    But my experience may not be as relevant to you - before the first round, I felt like I had a lot of room to improve my marathon time, and still feel that way. I suppose it would be the same with any marathon plan though - those big gains become trickier and trickier to achieve as you get along. Then again, if you're really there to visit your brother, this is a good time to experiment.

  7. I've never done it but have had a friend who does it and she's been really successful. Her marathon PR is a 3:06 although I noticed that she did do some long runs and TONS of races leading up to that (maybe those were her "workouts"). So maybe it was a Hanson's Hybrid?

    My coach is adamantly against it and argues that the successful Hanson's Elite crew may only do 16 mile long runs but they log so many miles during the week that their overall mileage is in the 90s-100s.

  8. Have you read Allison at Inverted Sneakers? (It may be the friend that the above commenter is talking about?) She used Hansons for Boston and ran 3:11 in the heat, then turned around and WON Kentucky Derby in 3:02. I believe her previous PR was 3:06, and she's aiming for sub-3. She also seems to do a lot of strength training and core strength, which helps. Her story definitely makes me want to give Hansons a try. I'm not totally sure, but I think "tempo" under Hanson is more like marathon pace rather than closer to 10K/pace for what you could run for an hour (what I generally think of it as), which is more manageable. I would be worried about risk for injury, but it also seems to work really well for some people.

    Here's her blog:

    1. Yes, I found her blog right around the time I was thinking about Hanson's - and she's so impressive. I doubt I will ever get back to a 3:06 (let's be realistic - that was four years ago and I'm no spring chicken anymore), but to see someone of that caliber knock it down to 3:02 after a few years is quite the testimonial.

    2. I also read Allison's blog (she hasn't posted lately much and I miss it!). I do remember her mentioning that she ran a 20 as a part of her training though. The back of the book mentions that the elites run longer than 16 miles for long runs because their weekly mileage is so high that it means the long run is still less than 25% of their weekly volume even at 20 miles. Suzy has the runs is another blogger who used Hansons and did really well recently in the Seattle Marathon.