My Chicago Marathon Training Plan

After reading the Hansons Marathon Method book and testing out their Base Builder program I was 100% sure I wanted to use a Hansons training plan for Chicago. I was mostly interested in the Classic Beginner Plan which tops out at 57 miles per week.

I did the 40 miles per week base program as a test and surprised myself with how good my body felt at the higher mileage. However, the time commitment was a completely different story. A seven mile easy run on a week night would take me over 90 minutes, and the Classic Beginner Plan calls for several 90-ish minute runs placed within a week. Managing that for a couple of weeks is okay, but managing that over the lifespan of  a marathon training cycle feels unrealistic.

I know marathon training requires serious dedication and commitment, but it also requires choosing a plan that fits your life. I can definitely do 40 miles per week, but the Hanson’s Beginner Plan includes several weeks in the mid-50s range, peaking at 57 miles in a single week. If I ran in the 10 minute per mile range, or even the 12 minute per mile range, this would feel more realistic, but I need to be honest and SMART about who I am and what my capabilities are.

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After many back-and-forth conversations with myself, I finally came to the conclusion that the Classic Beginner Plan just isn’t for me. I want it to be for me, and I think someday it will be, but that day is not today.

Because of that I looked through all of the official Hansons marathon training plans and decided to go with their 30-40 mile per week marathon plan. This will be a step above their “Just Finish It” plan but a step down from the Classic Beginner plan in terms of mileage.

Instead of including six and seven mile runs during the week, this plan includes mostly five mile runs for the week. During peak weeks it throws in a couple of easy mid-week six milers and three 8 mile tempo runs. That will be very challenging but I can do that for three weeks. I just don’t think I could do that for eight weeks like the Classic Beginner plan calls for.

When I trained for the Portland Marathon I ran in the 30-40 mile per week range, but my training was structured very differently than Hansons structures their plan so this will feel new to me.

Over the weekend I downloaded the 30-40 miles per week plan for $29 and set up my training log. Hansons gives you access to the Final Surge platform (which is similar to Training Peaks), but I have an excel spreadsheet system that I prefer to use to log data. I also use a Believe training journal, but I write my “feelings” in there as opposed to the splits I track in my excel sheet.

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The plan I chose is 20 weeks long which means I start on MAY 23rd – very soon!

Initially I thought I would do a 16 or 18 week training plan, but I like that this plan starts off really slow. The first couple of weeks are actually under 20 miles per week.

Normally I would consider that way too light but since I’m going right into the plan coming off of the Hansons Base Builder I think it will give me a little bit of time to breathe. I don’t feel like I need the down weeks now but I also don’t want to feel burnt out in the middle of the plan either.

As a rule, I don’t ever really include weekly recaps on this blog. They’re my least favorite type of post to read and my least favorite type of post to write. However, I know many of us will be marathon training this summer together and many of us are using a Hansons plan. Because of that a reader suggested that I consider including a screenshot of my training log in my Monday posts once training starts. That seems easy enough to do, so I’ll begin doing that once training starts!

I’m looking forward to getting started!

Who else is starting their marathon training cycle this month or next?
How do you track your runs? Garmin Connect? Excel? Training Peaks? 



  1. May 16, 2016 / 5:18 am

    This plan sounds perfect! Glad you found something that will fit well into your life. I have an excel sheet to track mileage, and I write down my workouts in my Believe Journal. And everything is also stored in Garmin Connect if I ever need to look back on splits.

    • Kristina
      May 16, 2016 / 5:50 pm

      You are just like me! I track everything in so many places – excel, Believe, Garmin Connect, Training Peaks (synced with Garmin Connect)! 😀

  2. May 16, 2016 / 6:14 am

    Good luck with the switch! I think it is important to find a plan that works for your life. Workout recap posts are also my least favorite but maybe that’s because I’ve been sidelined for so long and couldn’t really relate to the posts.

  3. May 16, 2016 / 6:41 am

    I still have time before I start training for my fall marathon, but I’ve been trying to decide between the classic beginner and just finish. I’m not sure where I’m at just yet, but hope to start out with classic and have a back up if needed!

  4. May 16, 2016 / 9:04 am

    No more marathon training here–I am done for the year and more than ready for a break from the high (er) mileage. I track my workouts on Strava…
    I think it is VERY SMART to look at the time commitment. If it becomes too much, mental fatigue can be just as damaging as the physical fatigue. My marathon training peaked at 54 miles this past cycle, and that was all I could handle mentally. You have to be able to do what fits in with your life. You can add things in like “time on your feet” training, and I feel that helps.

  5. May 16, 2016 / 10:13 am

    I’m with you on the time commitment. Doing the “easy” runs just takes so much more time for me with Hansons, compared to what I had in my previous plans. It’s a mix of the slower pace and the warm ups and stretching. But… I’ve decided to give it my best try and be a little better at budgeting my time, since my weekday runs are all before work in the early morning. Getting to work on time starts this week!! (Oops, I was late again today and didn’t even run. Too much time involved in hair care!!)
    Glad you found a plan that will work for you. I didn’t realize they had several variations of the plans! Here’s to Hansons success for both of us!!

  6. May 16, 2016 / 10:28 am

    I agree with what Cheryl said, you have to do what works! I know I couldn’t run that much and manage my life, so I am looking at the other end of the spectrum, i want the minimalist plan lol
    I have done a little future thinking and looked at plans and thought about trying to run 9 or 10 miles before work, that is a 3:30 a.m. wake up call…that seems crazy for several weeks in a row, but never say never…
    I always use my Garmin Connect, I have good notes 🙂 I have used it since i started running.

  7. Susan
    May 16, 2016 / 12:38 pm

    I applaud every one of you that actually take the time to train for a marathon! I am in awe because I really only want to dedicate about an hour to my run + walk w/ my dog. I think you made the right choice! It starts so soon! Exciting. I use Garmin to track my workouts and it does download to Garmin connect but I carry over most of that info into my Excel training log which details out much more than my training.

  8. May 16, 2016 / 3:03 pm

    I’m glad you’ll be including at least a screen shot of your training log!

    Hanson’s IS time consuming. So like there are so many days I’m supposed to run anywhere between 6-8 “easy” miles. Well my easy pace is going to be about a 9 minute mile. And you know my rule about walking 1 min per mile run, so add those minutes onto the workout… then add my 15 min of stretching and my 15 min of glute/hip stuff (aka the injury prevention exercises) and for a measly old “easy” 6 miler, that’s 90 minutes of STUFF. If I’m doing 8 miles it’s over 108 minutes of STUFF! Tomorrow is my first speed workout and I have concluded that I will need to get up at 4:30am to have everything done and get to work in time!!!! 🙁

  9. May 16, 2016 / 3:59 pm

    So smart of you to consider the time commitment and readjust to a plan that works better for you. I think this happens a lot, especially with Hansons, where people get so excited that they just jump right in without really thinking through those sorts of details.

    I gotta admit, I am excited….to NOT be training for a marathon this summer, lol. I feel like Pittsburgh gave me a lot of the closure I didn’t realize I was seeking and now, after training for and running 3 marathons in 19 months, I am ready to throw in the towel for a while. But next fall I will be back on the Fall Marathon Bandwagon with the rest of you crazy kids!

  10. May 16, 2016 / 5:55 pm

    I’m glad you picked a plan that will fit your current reality. I think you’ll be really successful and that will help get you ready for the plan you really WANT to use!

    I don’t like reading workout recaps much myself; it’s ironic that I’ve started writing them regularly. But they’re more for myself than my readers. After all, that’s what my blog is really about! A way for me to stay accountable to myself 🙂

  11. Molly
    May 17, 2016 / 11:53 am

    I didn’t even know that Hansons has lower mileage plans! I did the beginner plan for my first two marathons (last spring and fall), and am currently about five weeks out from a summer marathon. The weekday time commitment is a challenge. I ran my last two marathons at 10:58 and 10:45 average pace, and the weekday runs still took a very long time. It was doable for me because I am usually off work by 4, but there was no way I could do it if I didn’t get home that early! Even so, I’m intrigued by the lower mileage plans for next time!

  12. May 26, 2016 / 9:12 am

    Yeah, that kind of plan doesn’t sound like it would fit in too well with my life, either! I keep wanting to try more “advanced” plans and while I’m not afraid of the mileage, and I can never seem to get myself on board with the amount of time all of those extra miles will suck out of my week…and it’s hard enough to balance everything as it is! It’s great that you found something that will work with your life, and I think the screenshot idea is great…I hate reading/writing weekly recaps, too, but that’s a perfect way to quickly and easily share your training here!