Adjusting the Hanson Marathon Method for tune-up races

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Like many coaches, I don’t think it’s a good idea to fundamentally alter training plans.

By this I mean:

  • Substantially extending or reducing the length of assigned training runs, especially the long run
  • Adding or subtracting multiple speed or tempo workouts to the schedule
  • Changing the order of assigned workouts and rest days
  • Adding races to a defined schedule, beyond any provided in the schedule… unless the plan specifically allows for adding tune-up races.

The Hanson Marathon Method is a plan that specifically asks you not to run any races during training. The schedule is fairly demanding and the Hansons’ writing on the plan specifically discourages any racing while training through one of their plans.

It’s one thing to realize before starting a training plan that you want to race during the training schedule. You can decide to pivot and follow a different plan that’s more permissive towards tune-up races.

But what if you dive into the Hanson plan and discover a few weeks in that you really want to run a race during training? Obviously it’s rarely ever a good idea to ditch a training plan for another in mid-stream. However, the Hanson plan basically forbids tune up races.

Presuming you really want to run another race during training and you don’t just want to jog it out… or the distance is shorter/longer than the planned long run for that week, and you want to remain committed to the Hanson plan, is there anything you can do to adjust the plan and stay on track?

Yes, there is. Here is what you need to do:

Standard caveat applies: You probably shouldn’t do this more than once, and you certainly should avoid doing it within 2 weeks of your goal marathon. Remember what your primary training objective is. This is if a race opportunity comes along during training, at a shorter distance, that you simply cannot bring yourself to pass up.

The below advice also assumes you follow the specific schedule in the Hanson Marathon Method plan, i.e. the long run on Sunday, the speed/strength workout Tuesday, day off Wednesday, marathon tempo run Thursday, etc.

Therefore, do adjust the below advice accordingly if you shifted the schedule and do the prescribed workouts on different days of the week, e.g. if your long run is Saturday, the speed/strength Monday, the day off is Tuesday, etc.

If the race is on a Saturday, do the following:

  1. For the week prior to the race, move your Thursday marathon tempo run to Tuesday, replacing the speed/strength workout.
  2. Do Friday’s scheduled easy run on Thursday.
  3. Either skip Friday’s easy workout, or run half the originally scheduled distance.
  4. On Sunday, run half of Monday’s scheduled easy distance, in lieu of the long run.
  5. Repeat that half distance easy run on Monday.
  6. Replace Tuesday’s speed workout with the full scheduled Monday easy run.
  7. Take Wednesday off, and then resume the original schedule.
  8. (Optional) If you still feel sore or otherwise not right on Thursday, swap the scheduled Thursday and Friday workouts. Do your tempo run instead on Friday, and do a regular easy run instead on Thursday.

If the race is on Sunday, and the race is a 5K:

Unless you are just jogging the 5K for fun, realize it’s going to take more out of you than if you had run 3.1 miles at your easier long run pace.

Based on some calculations using the Daniels Running Formula intensity/pace ratings…I find the typical intensity of running a 5K at 5K-race-pace is about as demanding as an easy run of 12 miles. Yikes!

As a general rule, I will say that you’re not going to lose much if any long distance aerobic or neuromuscular fitness if you were to skip your scheduled long run this week. However, especially if you’re later into the training plan and need to be logging higher mileage… you may still want to make sure to log some extra easy aerobic mileage after the race.

So, if you race a 5K this Sunday and you’re not just jogging it out, here is what I’d recommend:

  1. For the week prior to the race, move your tempo run to Tuesday and have it replace the scheduled speed/strength session.
  2. Do Friday’s scheduled easy run on Thursday.
  3. Also do your normal Friday easy run.
  4. Cut Saturday’s easy mileage in half, and run that.
  5. If your scheduled long run is 12 miles or less… don’t worry about running extra mileage after the 5K. Your 5K replaces the long run, and that’s that.
  6. If your scheduled long run is 12-16 miles… do an easy 3 mile run, either right after the race as a cool-down, or 5+ hours after the race.
  7. On Monday, you may run half the scheduled easy Monday workout, though if you’re feeling okay and it’s easy to do so you may do the whole workout.
  8. If you like to do your Tuesday strength/speed workout in the morning, or you are sore at all on Tuesday… skip the speed workout and do Monday’s scheduled easy run instead. If you do your Tuesday strength/speed work at night, and you feel okay, you may do the scheduled speed/strength workout.
  9. Take Wednesday off as usual, and resume your schedule as normal on Thursday.

For any Sunday race of 8K or longer:

Your race will be suitably long and demanding that it will be a harder workout than any scheduled long run you need to do. Thus, don’t worry about running any additional mileage after the race. Your race is enough of a “long” workout.

  1. In the week prior to the race, move your tempo run to Tuesday and have it replace the scheduled speed/strength session.
  2. Do Friday’s scheduled easy run on Thursday.
  3. Also do your normal Friday easy run.
  4. Cut Saturday’s easy mileage in half, and run that.
  5. On Monday you are “allowed” to either cut the scheduled distance of that easy run, or skip it entirely. Listen to your body, and err on the side of taking it easy.
  6. Don’t do the scheduled Tuesday speed/strength workout. Replace it with the easy workout scheduled for Monday.
  7. For races longer than 10K, do the same thing for the Thursday tempo workout. Replace it with Monday’s scheduled easy run.
  8. From Friday going forward, follow the normal schedule. But….
  9. … on Saturday’s run, you’re going to do something different and a bit challenging. Start it just like every other easy distance run, but when you get to the last 2 miles of that run, you’re going to speed up your cadence and finish the run “fast”. Don’t worry about your actual pace, so long as it’s faster than your normal Saturday pace. Just move your feet as consistently fast as you can manage for this last 2 miles. This fast finish run effectively fills in for the lack of a Thursday tempo run.
  10. Do Sunday’s scheduled long run, then resume the normal schedule.

Again, deviating from the prescribed schedule of a written training plan is a very dicey proposition. The workouts are prescribed as they are for a very specific reason, to train your body in a particular pattern. Skipping or replacing any of those workouts screws with that intended development pattern and risks compromising your training.

The above is simply a contingency, a bridge plan to get you into, through, and out of a mid-plan race in a training plan that isn’t designed for tune-up races.

As the Hansons would recommend, I’d ideally recommend you avoid racing entirely while following the Hanson Marathon Method. But, if you insist on racing, the above approach should help keep you on track for your goal marathon.

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