Hanson’s Marathon Method–Personal Review

It’s been a long time coming, this review, lol!! I want to preface this post saying that my personal experience using this training plan is just that, my personal experience. And like with any plan, what works for me, might not work for others. I’m also no expert, so be aware of¬†that going in to this post ūüėČ

About the Plan

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High Mileage

That’s the premise behind Hanson’s Marathon Method–higher mileage so that the runner practices running on cumulative fatigue, similar to the end of the marathon. It’s six days of running with one rest day in the middle of the week, Wednesday. Regardless of whether you choose the Just Finish Plan (which maxes at round 50 miles/week), the Beginner Plan (which maxes at around 60 miles/week), or the Advanced Plan (which maxes out at around 70), it’s a lot of running. So unless you’ve already been training at that mileage, it will take some getting used to. I used a full month as pre-season training to transition to the start of the plan–that way, I wasn’t going from 0-to-60.

Specific Workouts

You are running 6 days a week and each day you are¬†running has a purpose and prescribed pace–Easy Run, Speed/Strength Run, Tempo Run, Long Run. (Speed/Strength Run and Tempo Run are the Something of Substance (SOS) runs.) The book has paces for each run depending on your marathon goal. I liked having a set pace for each run and I liked knowing what each day was “supposed” to be. Some people do not like having such a structured plan, but I’m a rule follower by nature so this was perfect for me, lol. This is not to say that you cannot modify the plan, you can, and there’s a section in the book that talks about how. You can also hire a coach through Hanson’s website and they can create a plan specific to your life schedule.

The Plan.

My husband made this pretty chart for me.

Warm-up/Cool-down

The Speed/Strength and Tempo Runs come with a ¬†1.5-2 mile warm-up and cool-down that are really essential to the success of the plan. So¬†while the schedule would say 6 Miles Tempo, it was really more than that with the addition of the WU and CD. I mostly stuck to a mile for each and felt that it¬†was super helpful as I began and finished each workout. I don’t recommend skipping it.

Supplemental Training

Running so much leaves little time for cross training and there’s a section in the book that discusses why they don’t suggest¬†it. There’s also a section that include stretches and strength training exercises which they encourage you to include in your training. I did, and I felt that it was a big reason I was able to make it the whole way through without injury. I don’t recommend skipping it.

Okay, so there’s some basic stuff about the plan. What I want to share with you next are some more personal feelings/thoughts about it.¬†

Train Your Brain

It’s a lot of running. You know that going in because you’ve looked at the plan. But when you’re in the midst of it all, it can get to be a little crazy. I couldn’t believe I was doing double digit mid-week runs. I couldn’t believe I was running back to back to back to back days. I couldn’t believe a lot of things. I really had to focus on each day/workout and not look too far into the future/week so that I wouldn’t become overwhelmed. It can be daunting to look at your plan and see you have a 10 mile Tempo Run (that’s really like 12 miles total) and then see a 16 mile Long Run a few days later. I think if you accept the mileage going in, you’ll make your life a whole lot easier. Accept that it’s a lot of running. Trust that all that running is going to help you reach your goal. This¬†also helped me throughout the training.

Train Your Brain: Part II

The SOS (Something of Substance) runs¬†are hard but they are the bread and butter of the plan. You’re essentially running at or faster than your goal pace. As each week passed, and the mileage increased for those runs, I would sometimes doubt that I’d be able to nail the paces. I’d have to remind myself that I’d done it before, that’s it’s just ‘x’ amount more miles. It’s hard, but I would try to not sabotage my run before I even started. Positive thoughts. Accept the challenge, and just do it.

I found that these runs really built my confidence about my goal pace and also helped me internalize the pace. What I mean is that as each week passed, my body just did the pace. I didn’t have to rely on my watch to guide me.

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The 8:45 pace became home.

The 8:45 pace became home.

Garmin stats from NYC Marathon. 8:50 average...five seconds from goal pace.

Garmin stats from NYC Marathon. 8:50 average…five seconds from goal pace.

Read The Book (and join the club)

I know that sounds so obvious, but you’d be surprised at how many people who’ve asked questions about the plan (from the Facebook group which you should join if you’re going to use this plan), simply didn’t read the book. I also followed a lot blogs from people who used the plan and one thing I often saw was they re-adjusted their goals once they grew into the paces/workouts. When I would see/read them do that, I would recall page 151 of the book:¬†“Ask yourself if, when you first began training, you would have been happy with your original time goal. If the answer is “yes,” then why jeopardize training…?”

The book is sooooo thorough and explains everything. Anytime I had a question/doubt about anything, I would go back to the book. At the beginning, I was running the Easy Runs too fast and then in re-reading the book,I saw how it stressed these be done at easy pace. Once I modified, I felt the difference. Easy means easy.

I mentioned the Facebook group above. It was very helpful having a forum to go to with people who were using or have used the plan. Luke Humphrey, co-writer, is very active in it and answers a lot of runner questions. I was also congratulated by Keith Hanson himself ūüėÄ

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Reconsider Racing During Training

Unless you’re going to use the race as a training run, like legit follow the prescribed pace for the workout, I wouldn’t recommend to “race race” during the plan. My reasoning is that if you run a race and go all out, you’ll need recovery time afterward which means you’ll miss a few days of the plan. And because it’s a tough plan, going back after a fast¬†race, to me, is risky. I did not race throughout the entire time I was using Hanson’s.

Eyes on the prize.

Be Ready to Make Sacrifices

I wrote about how not working helped me in being able to follow this plan and be successful. And even without that work commitment, I had to make some major adjustments to get each run in. A lot of these runs were done at crazy o’clock in the morning before my husband went to work. Some of these runs were done in the afternoon Arizona heat, as that was the only time I could get it in. When I went to visit my sister in Ohio, I planned in advanced when I would run (and ran in the rain on a few occasions, lol). I had to do what I had to do to make it work.

Many people who do¬†have jobs have used this plan and have made it work. It just requires you to plan ahead, be disciplined, and stay committed. Hard, I know, but you already know going in that it’s 6 days of running. You gotta get it in somehow.

101 miles, 176, miles, 152 miles

June: 101 pre-season miles, 176 July miles, 152 August miles

198 miles, 184 miles

198 September miles, 184 October miles

But Don’t Sweat a Missed Workout

As you can see from the pictures, I did pretty good following the plan, especially at the beginning lol, and didn’t miss a whole lot of days. When I did take¬†an extra rest day, I tried to have it be on an Easy Run day. The SOS runs are the biggies and I didn’t like missing those. That being said, if you have to miss a run, just pick up where you left off. I wouldn’t try to “make up” the miles. When I visited my sister in Ohio, I missed an SOS Tempo Run. So on my 16 mile Long Run day later that week, I did 5 miles at Long Run pace, 6 miles at Tempo pace, 5 miles Long Run pace. Bam, done.

Final Thoughts

Never once did I feel like I needed to do a 20 miler. I know that a lot of runners feel like they need to get to that major distance at least once in their training, but with Hanson’s, the three¬†16ers, the tempo runs at race pace, and the high weekly mileage was enough to make me feel like I was ready.

I absolutely love this plan. I felt that it put me in the best running shape of my life and I had never felt as confident going in to a race as I did at the start line of the New York City Marathon. I knew I had trained well.

And I met my sub 4 hour marathon goal.

3:58:40

3:58:40

–Have you used Hanson’s Marathon Method? What advice would you give to someone wanting to try the plan?

–Do you have a favorite training plan?¬†

–Are you a good plan follower?¬†

It Really Comes Down to This: How Bad Do You Want It? (Book Review)

I’ve been asked quite a bit¬†how I was able to take such a big chunk off my time in New York and it really is because of two things: building up my mental strength and following a good training plan.

I’ll talk about the training plan I used, Hanson’s Marathon Method, in a separate¬†post; but, I do want to spend some time talking about something I knew I had to do if I wanted to break 4 hours in a marathon.

The latter part of 2015 left me injured and out for 6 weeks. During that time, I reflected on what had gone wrong in my marathons up to that point and especially the Chicago Marathon, a race where I thought I could certainly PR and get the sub 4:30 goal I wanted. But, I didn’t even come close finishing in 4:45.

The anger I had post Chicago fueled me to work hard during my non-running injury time. I biked, I swam, I even did my first triathlon (a sprint-tri). I worked on my core strength and did some other body strength training exercises. And I also read this book:

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…because I knew the biggest muscle I needed to work on was my brain. I wouldn’t say that I lacked mental strength as I consider myself a strong, disciplined person; but, I knew that what I thought was committed training could be taken a step further. I knew there would be more I would have to do if I really wanted to run a good marathon (and PR). It would¬†just depend one how bad I really wanted it.

Well, I wanted it pretty bad.

The book isn’t a step-by-step “how to” book. The way it’s organized is by a collection of¬†personal stories of struggle and triumphs from¬†different athletes. As the¬†author, Matt Fitzgerald, recounts each narrative, he explains several¬†types of strategies the reader can use to overcome their¬†own similar struggles.

I especially liked how the author incorporated different types athletes–there are triathletes, swimmers, bikers, runners, Ironmen, Olympians–and while they are professional athletes, the author makes sure to tell the reader that while at first glance we might not think we’re relatable to them, by sharing their stories of struggles we can see that we’re more alike than we think.

How Bad Do You Want It? makes sure to emphasize that the work is on you. When you encounter something that is “hard,” how much more can you push yourself? And when you do push further, you’ll see that you only lengthen that barometer of “hard” and it just grows and grows (which is a good thing!).

Here are a few excerpts from the book:

–side note: I really love how the author uses both male and female pronouns to describe an athlete.

“An athlete can have either a good or bad attitude about any given level of discomfort. If she has a good attitude, she will be less bothered by the feeling and will likely push harder.”

“The more discomfort an athlete expects, the more she can tolerate, and the more discomfort she can tolerate, the faster she can go.”¬†

When I got my half marathon PR in Phoenix this past February, I employed some of what I read. I remember when I got to mile 10, I was still feeling comfortable so I pushed myself to make it hurt. I had never done that before. I also had at that point, never ran so fast for so long, and to push myself to run even faster was unbelievable to me. But I think because I accepted the discomfort, and expected it, it allowed me to actually do it. The last 3 miles of the race were my fastest.

A section of the book I particularly like, and what made me shoot for a sub 4 in New York instead the sub 4:30 I tried for in Chicago, was this:

“Setting time-based goals that stretch you just beyond past limits is like setting a flag next to a bed of hot coals to mark the furthest point you reached in your best fire walk. That flag says to you, “This is possible, and you know it. So why wouldn’t it be possible for you to make it just one step farther the next time?'”

I knew I could do a 4:30. I hadn’t done it, but I knew it was possible. A sub 4 scared the shit out of me. A 4:30 didn’t. The book noted that often times, an athlete will hold themselves back by trying to achieve time goals close to their previous best because the amount of effort and discomfort the athlete will experience is doable–they know what the pain feels like of their current best time. So when I decided to run New York, I told myself to test my limits. Go farther.

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while now, you’d know that I talked a lot about wanting a marathon PR and sub 4:30. Fitzgerald writes that “the more time people spend fantasizing about desired outcomes–the less effort they put into pursuing them and the less likely they are to achieve them.” I thought I was training hard, but was I really? Could I really say that when I toed each start line I had done all I could to prepare? That I was really ready for a sub 4:30?

I could certainly say I was ready¬†for the New York City Marathon. In fact, it was the first race in which I had had zero negative thoughts going in and during the entire race. It was preparation that made me feel that way. “Real confidence comes from real results and real training,” says Siri Lindley, an athlete whose story is told in the book.

Anyway, I could go on and on, but this book was really instrumental in helping me work my mental running game. I’ve achieved a PR in every distance this year, and I know that a big contributor to my success was showing myself I could embrace discomfort, that pain was okay. You can find so many quotes and sayings that tell you “Embrace the suck!” but you have to practice, you have to train. And as cheesy as it sounds, it really does come down to how bad you really want it.

–When was the last time you raced and tested your mental strength?¬†

–Have you read this book or other running related books? What are some of your faves?

–I was not paid or compensated in any way to write this review. The book was purchased by me and all thoughts and opinions are my own.

 

Touring New York City

Well, touring the city was definitely more enjoyable having snagged a PR. I had a little more pep to my step you could say ūüėÄ

We got started the day after. Yup, we weren’t wasting our time. I figured the walking would help with recovery anyway, right? Ja!!

The main things on my list were the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. An early morning alarm woke us up and I honestly didn’t feel too bad considering I’d finished a marathon the day before. We arrived at the ferry around 9 a.m. and it was nice beating the crowds.

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It’s been a dream to see this statue in person. I mean, I’ve read so much about it in school growing up and honestly–sitting in a desk, it just seemed like fiction. But up close?? Man… And then to go to Ellis Island and read/see what the people arriving to the United States felt about seeing the statue–it leaves you a different person, really.

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My parents are U.S citizens. My mom’s mom wasn’t (but became one late in her life before she died). My dad’s dad isn’t and lives in Mexico.

I’ve seen firsthand the emotions one feels not being able to be with family. I’m not going to turn this into a political post, but I do have to say, I wish the process were easier. And I wish people had more compassion to those who have family in America¬†and long to be with them.

We read and learned a lot during our visit to Ellis Island. The process was not easy then….and some things never change.

After our morning in the museum, we headed to the World Trade Center/One World Observatory. We went up to the top and just had the most breathtaking view of the city. It was another surreal moment as we looked out the massive windows.

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All in all, the day after the race totaled a whopping 10 miles of walking. I have no idea how I functioned, lol!

Tuesday, Election Day, was bittersweet. I was excited to be in New York City on a historical day but of course you already know in what capacity it was such.

We visited Central Park, a spot I had on my list I wanted to see.

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And then we made our way to the Hilary Clinton Block Party, which coincidentally was at the same place as the marathon expo.

at the expo

at the expo

at the block party

at the block party

When it started getting late and things were¬†not looking too good, we decided to call it a night. ūüė¶

Wednesday was the day I’d been waiting for……NEW YORK KNICKS DAY!!!

If you remember my sob story a few months ago, I was super sad that the only games playing while we were in the city were the day of the marathon and the day we were to leave. Well, my husband decided that this was truly a once in a lifetime opportunity so we extended our stay one more day!!!

I had breakfast with a blogging buddy (who sadly no longer blogs) and then in the evening, my husband and I had a pre-game celebration with the amazing Colby. It was seriously the best way to begin the night ‚̧

Me and the beautiful Colby--LOVE her.

Me and the beautiful Colby–LOVE her.

And then we watched the Knicks play at Madison Square Garden!!! Seriously guys, you have no idea how excited I was about this. Basketball was my first love. And while running has taken over, you never, ever forget your first.

HUGE check off my life list.

HUGE check off my life list.

We jam packed our New York City vacay and I absolutely had the time of my life. It was a stark difference from desert living but I think that’s why I loved it so much, lol!

In all, I’m so happy that whenever I think of New York, I’ll only have positive memories of a great race and a great vacation.

–Have you ever been to New York? If not, what would you want to see/visit there?

–What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think of New York City?

–Do you tour a city when you go on a race-cation?