Many runners consider the Hansons Marathon training plan to be tough. I knew I might revisit running a marathon again in the future, and was curious to see if I could complete the 18 week training plan. I planned the 18 weeks to end the same weekend as the Capital City River Run Half Marathon race. During the training, I would also be running the Run Thru Hell 10 mile, Crim 5k/10 mile combo and Lake Lansing Team Marathon Single Loop (5.2 miles). Essentially, I was signing myself up to do something for fun (because, why not?!?)
I really like how the Hansons training plans have the speed/strength workouts on Tuesdays and tempo runs on Thursdays, Wednesdays are rest days and Sundays are long run days. I got used to that pattern when I followed the half marathon training plan, so there wasn't too much adjustment. The adjustment would come with running long tempo runs and higher mileage long runs.
During the training plan, I learned so much about running that helped me with my training.
- Easy days: You got to keep the pace E.A.S.Y. Don't run these at race pace, or even a fast pace. Take full advantage of these days. Work on learning what an easy pace feels like. It isn't an easy thing to do, but it can happen if you work at it. My goal race pace was 7:30. My easy runs were around 9 minutes a mile. I loved my easy runs! If I felt the run wasn't challenging enough, I would try to focus on getting even, or near even, splits. This helped me keep my mind engaged and it became a game.
- Rest days: Don't underestimate them! Some runners may want to do some type of workout on these days. I always took full advantage of doing absolutely nothing. I knew the next day would have a tempo run waiting for me. I wanted to be fully rested and able to hit the pace and complete the distance of the workout.
- Shoes: It should be common sense by now: the more miles you run, the more shoes you will need to buy. What I didn't know was how having a second pair of shoes that you rotate the days you wear them, and how that can help extend the life of your shoe. I ran with the Brooks Ghost 9s (4 pairs of them), Brooks Launch 3s (1 pair) Brooks Launch 4s (1 pair).
- Strength training: I knew it was important, but when I started to incorporate it in to my routines on a regular basis, I was able to see big gains. I was starting to get stronger with hill workouts and I didn't feel my quads burning as much. The hills on the Hansons Lake Orion store group run were starting to feel less intimidating and I wasn't slowing down going up them.
- Hydration: It goes without saying, you need to be hydrated when you run. What I learned was how important it is to stay hydrated even when you're not running. If you get dehydrated before you start your run, it doesn't matter if you have a water bottle with you during the run. Your muscles will definitely complain to you. I made it a point of drinking at least 2 bottles of water each day, and 32 oz of water after every workout.
- Sleep: Many people struggle with getting enough sleep each night. When I started the training plan, I was exhausted by the end of the day. I found it tough to stay awake past 8pm! I was able to adjust and stay awake until 9pm, but I would never stay up later than that. I knew I needed rest to let my body recover, so when my alarm went off I would be ready to get my run in.
- Weather: Weather is something we can't control...to a point. I wasn't able to change the weather. What I was able to do is change when I got my workouts in. I got most of my workouts in between 5 and 7 am each day. Usually the weather was still cool and I didn't have to have the sun blasting down on me. I really believed this helped me when running intervals, tempo runs, and even long runs. One long run ended up being in the afternoon. It wasn't a super hot day, but I wasn't used to the heat and humidity. I started the run ok, hitting my paces. As time went on, I was struggling to hit my pace and had to finish the workout using the walk/run method.
- Group runs: For majority of my workouts, I did them alone. It's something I'm used and have done for most of my running life. I found making it to a group run every now and then can be a lot of fun. One of the local groups I started running with was very inspirational. The girls in the group weren't the fastest, but they were determined and were able to run twice as many miles (or more!) for their long runs. I really enjoyed the conversations we had when we would be out at Dark O'Clock on a path to get some miles in. Another group I ran with a few times was with the Hansons Lake Orion store group. This was a different group than the local one. This group was more focused on getting the miles in and getting the job done. That focus isn't a bad thing though. It helps when there are other runners trying to hit the same mile pace. I found the course challenging, but fun at the same time.
- Preventative Maintenance: This should be baked into every runner's mind. There are reasons why a warm UP is called a warm UP and a cool DOWN is called a cool DOWN. You need to get both of them in on interval, tempo and race days. A warm up helps get your body ready for the workout. A cool down helps get your heart rate down after a workout. Stretching should be thrown into this category as well. I didn't know much about the different types of stretching. This was before I was getting injured and seeing a physical therapist on a regular basis for those injuries. I learned to get in a few dynamic stretches, like high knee lifts or butt kicks, will help get your body ready for a workout. After the workout, that's when the traditional static stretches are done. I would spend 5-10 minutes taking my time with each stretch. I found I was way more flexible at the end of the training plan than when I started.
- Social Media Groups: Like most things, if there are others who are going through a similar experience, it usually helps you get through it as well. There are many runners who have used Hansons Marathon training plan in the past and many who are still using it. This really helped when I would be hitting a rough part of the training plan. I was able to look on social media to see others who have completed the same workouts and survived it! They all have told me the same thing - trust the plan.
By the end of this training plan, I had racked up a lot of personal bests.
- Most miles in a single training run
- Most miles in a single week
- Most miles in a single month
- 5K PR (since I was in high school)
- 10K PR
- 10 Mile PR
- Half Marathon PR
One of the additional goals I had added to my list was to run 10 consecutive weeks of 50+ miles or more. Looking at the training plan, I was looking at the training plan and thought I would be able to hit this goal by running one more week after the training plan ended. That last week would be more of a 'victory lap week', and would be solely focused on getting miles in. I was on track week after week to hit this goal. I wasn't getting injured and I was still able to follow the training plan. After week 9 of this goal is when things changed. I started to get sick and could start to feel the wear and tear of marathon training on my body. I knew I was close to hitting 10 weeks and had only around 35 miles left to go in week 10. I decided to pull the plug and let my body rest and heal. I would rather make sure my body is able to recover and get back to training again sooner, than push for a goal. It's tough when I know I was so close. I look back at what I've accomplished with my other goals and PRs and know missing one goal didn't define my race season.
There were some people who thought it was odd or maybe a bit funny that I was following a training plan for a marathon, but not running a marathon. I like challenges and proving people wrong. I chose one of the tougher marathon training plans out there and survived. I got a lot of PRs and was able to get in the best shape of my life. I would definitely do it all over again.