My Thoughts on the Hansons Beginner Training Plan (So Far)

I’m almost halfway through my 18 week marathon training cycle using the Hansons method and shit is getting real. Excuse my language but it just seems fitting to swear since I have been swearing a lot (inside my head) during runs – even the easy ones. Especially the easy ones.

My legs literally feel like they are filled with cement most of the time. My most typical week day run is 5 easy miles and by mile 4 my legs are exhausted and I’m probably making all kinds of interesting faces.


I can’t remember ever feeling like this before during easy runs, but then again this is the first summer in which I’ve stayed pretty committed to running outdoors. Almost every other summer I’ve snuck indoors for quite a few treadmill runs. So, maybe it’s the weather and maybe it’s cumulative fatigue, or a combination of both.

A question that keeps circulating through my mind is, “should a slow runner like myself really be following Hansons?”

After reading the Hansons Marathon Method I was totally drawn in by all of the cardiovascular and skeletalmuscular system improvements the plan basically guarantees if you stay committed. I want those improvements.

However, I have noticed that everyone in the Hansons Facebook Group seems to be gearing up to run marathons at 3:30 or faster.

While we seem to share all of the same concerns: it’s freaking hot out, the dew point/humidity is too high, cumulative fatigue is setting in, etc. I sometimes feel like an outsider looking in. Like I’m Jack Dawson sitting on the Titanic at a dinner table with a bunch of 3 hour marathoners all talking about shiny gold trophies while I’m like, “one time I got a participation certificate with a gold stamp on it.”

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On the flip side, the Team PAWS Facebook makes me feel much more comfortable. No one really talks about their times! 😀

Most of you know that I’m running the Chicago Marathon as part of Team PAWS again. The coach for our team is advocating for a plan that’s basically a mix of a HIIT training plan (high intensity, low mileage) and Hansons.

I started Google’ing the benefits of a HIIT plan for marathon training which brought me to a forum where a 4:20 marathoner asked if he should follow HIIT or Hansons. The responses were basically “a slow runner like you won’t benefit from Hansons.”

Well, if 4:20 is considered slow my pace is the equivalent of laying in a coffin six feet under. But here I am still alive and running.

So, is Hansons really, really, really wrong for me?

“No,” according to Luke Humphrey, author of the Hansons Marathon Method and Hansons Head Coach.

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“Why is there a beginner program if only experienced runners can use it?” Sounds so obvious doesn’t it?

Of course “beginner” for Hansons doesn’t mean beginner runner, it means beginner at running marathons …which is me. I have only one marathon under my belt and no one is going to make a movie out of that! I need to gain a lot more marathon experience before I feel like I’m anything other than a beginner.

With that information in mind I’ll keep moving along, following the plan as its laid out. I don’t exactly feel confident about running the marathon right now – my legs are TIRED – but they’re supposed to be. Hansons is all about teaching you to run on tired legs to simulate the final miles of the marathon so you know what to expect when the going gets tough. And you know you can power through the final miles because you’ve done it before.

If you haven’t read Hansons Marathon Method yet I think Luke gives a great overview of the benefits here.

Have you heard about HIIT marathon training plans?



    • Kristina
      July 14, 2016 / 10:42 pm

      OMG there’s going to be a time when the marathon is over?! Right now that day feels so far away! haha

  1. July 14, 2016 / 8:33 am

    Nonsense! I think you have chosen a really smart plan. You did the base building. You can handle the weekly volume. You’ve completed your first marathon and now have chosen a more difficult training program to train for your next one. Is that now how runners improve? So long as you continue to do the work, I don’t see any reason that you won’t have a great time in Chicago. Don’t let the idiots of the internet make you feel like you can’t do this. Also any plan that emphasizes easy running gets an automatic thumbs up from me. Easy running FTW!

    Now if you’ll excuse me I’ve just discovered the awesomeness of the winged H logo that Hansons uses and I need to go buy everything I can with my awesome new monogram on it.

    • Kristina
      July 14, 2016 / 10:42 pm

      Thank you for the pep talk Heather! I needed to hear this!

  2. July 14, 2016 / 8:45 am

    I have a friend that used Hansons when she was a 4:30+ marathoner and she is now sub 4. I wouldn’t worry about it, you will succeed with this plan!

    • Kristina
      July 14, 2016 / 10:43 pm

      THAT is so good to hear!! Whoo!

  3. July 14, 2016 / 10:02 am

    I have no advice because I feel the exact same way as you feel. Running 26.2 miles seems very unlikely to me right now let alone running it at my goal time. This is the weirdest training I ever did lol. I had to hide the Hansons FB page because I can’t stand to hear about Hansons all day. Maybe you need to hide it too? The only thing I would say about whether you would benefit from the plan is if Luke thinks you will, then you may as well finish the final 9 weeks and see, right??? I never heard of a HIIT marathon plan but it sounds intriguing to me!

    • Kristina
      July 14, 2016 / 10:44 pm

      I selfishly really, really hope you decide to go through with the marathon because I like reading your recaps and feeling like someone else out there totally gets how I feel!

  4. July 14, 2016 / 10:28 am

    Is this crazy Thursday?? You have to choose and follow a plan you feel comfortable with. Not what some elitist 3:30 marathoner thinks. And yes your legs are supposed to be beat up. 26.2 miles is no joke and nothing too take lightly (I’m obvious proof of that) and Hanson’s is getting you ready for that. I think your doing great and just need to keep working hard, all this will pay off when you dominate Chicago!! Do you have a running motto right now as you train for Chicago??

    • Kristina
      July 14, 2016 / 10:44 pm

      Thanks, friend!

      I don’t have a motto, I need to pick one! I bet that would help a lot!

  5. July 14, 2016 / 2:16 pm

    Okay 4:20 is a fast marathon in my mind! I like a lot of what Hanson’s talks about. I have to say ( from my post earlier) it is the first time the paces really knocked some sense into me.
    As I have been running under 11:00 and even 11:30’s now I do worry about the time on my feet, because obviously that is an issue for me. I feel so much better taking it easy, but i have been thinking about how miles may not be as important as time! I don’t think I will do a training run over three hours even if can even get that far. BIG IF! They say there isn’t much benefit to running more than three hours. It scares me but that means I wouldn’t do an 18 or 20 mile run.
    i am trying to gain stamina in such a minimal way! I feel nutty, but i am trying to use the bike to help with it. Hey, maybe a really easy pedal bike ride will help, my legs felt so much better after i took a 30 min. ride Tuesday morning, it was amazing.
    I think you are doing really great!

  6. July 14, 2016 / 8:31 pm

    I’ve been reading alot about the Hansons plan and I contemplated it but not sure it’s right for me. I tend to increase my injury risk if I do more than 3-4 days of running (regardless of the distance) although not going past 16 miles sounds VERY appealing 😉
    I hope it works out well for you. Summer training is hard so just stick with it and you will see the improvements in no time 🙂

  7. July 15, 2016 / 9:59 am

    I’m around the same spot in the Hansons Beginner plan too and I am at the point where I am questioning almost every weekday run lately, especially the speed work. Glad to hear I’m not the only one struggling with lead legs! All that cellular and mitochondria talk in the book though keeps me motivated, I like thinking about the changes happening in my fitness even if I feel like complete garbage. At least I hope they are happening! You’re helping me stay on track too knowing others are out there struggling, lol.

  8. July 17, 2016 / 12:28 pm

    I read this last week and had a million thoughts but apparently forgot to comment? I’m intrigued by the running forums and the opinions there – 4:20 seems SUPER fast to me, too! I’ve always heard Hansons is better for faster runners, but it seems to make sense that “shorter” long runs are beneficial for ANY runner. I’m glad doing your research and thinking this through has kind of helped you come to terms with feeling tired. Trust the plan! I have a really good feeling you’re looking at an excellent race in Chicago!