The Hadfield Advanced Marathon Training Plan: Who’s It Good For?

I’ve previously brought up Jenny Hadfield’s Advanced Marathon Training Plan. Hadfield is a coach and a writer for Runner’s World. I found the structure of Hadfield’s plans to be very accessible and up to speed with the base training centered approach I currently want to follow.

If you provide an email address, Hadfield’s website allows you to download this and other training plans. Each plan includes a detailed Page 2 explanation of any terminology on the Page 1 schedule.

Obviously, Hadfield is available for personal coaching, and this would lead to a more personalized training plan. The described plan is a template, but can be followed to the letter as-is.

The various plans Hadfield offers vary which midweek workout goes where by day. So to simplify, and because it’s probably the best fit for many experienced runners, I’ll cite the Advanced Plan’s schedule. The easier plans do have more cross training days and do switch some workouts around, though the schedule layout is mostly similar.

The Basics of the Hadfield Advanced Marathon Plan, in a nutshell:

  • The marathon plan is 20 weeks long.
  • The first weekend demands a long run of 10 miles, so you need to be able to comfortably run that far.
  • You train six days a week in a row. The 7th day is a full rest day. Hadfield defaults to Monday to Sunday (with Sunday being the rest day).
  • The long run is on Saturday. This is the only run designated by miles rather than time.
  • Other run workouts are given time durations, e.g. Monday 45 minutes easy.
  • All workout days are given an effort and heart rate range, e.g. Monday an “I-Rate” (RPE) of 6-7 out of 10, and a heart rate of 65-75% max. Each also has a general intensity label, e.g. “Easy Effort” or “Challenging”.
  • You are expected to full-body strength train in some capacity on Monday and Wednesday, along with the scheduled aerobic workout that day. What order you do them in each day is up to you. What you do for strength training is up to you, though Hadfield does have general recommendations for what to do and what rep ranges to use.
  • Tuesday is mostly designated as a speedwork or tempo day. The initial weeks just have you do a longer easy run with “pickups”, brief 30-60 second spurts where you pick up the pace a bit.
  • The eventual speedwork is a full run with a warmup followed by fast and rest intervals built into the run, e.g. warmup easy for 10-15 minutes, run 2 minutes hard, run 4 minutes easy, repeat the 2 minutes hard, etc… 10-15 minute cooldown. Hadfield does recommend you begin and end these workouts with a 5 minute walk.
  • In the 2nd half of the plan the Tuesday speedwork is replaced with Tuesday tempo runs, a 15 minute easy workout followed by 25-40 minute tempo segments at 80-85% max HR, all within a full run.
  • Other than the speed/tempo workouts, none of these midweek easy runs last longer than 60 minutes. The longest tempo or speed session might last a bit over an hour. Most midweek easy runs are 40-50 minutes.
  • Wednesday is the one cross training day. Hadfield expects you to put in a “moderate” effort (70-80% HR, a harder “easy” range), but this is offset by the low-impact of cross training. Hadfield encourages you to do something “non-walking” and cites the typical examples, e.g. cycling, swimming, elliptical, stairmaster.
  • Thursday is a simple but “moderate effort” run at 70-80%, slightly harder than the usual 65-75% HR easy runs. This is clearly not a tempo or pace run, but just a regular run that’s slightly more intense than usual.
  • Friday, right before the long run, is always the shortest easy run of the week, 30-40 minutes.
  • Hadfield does step-back the duration/distance every 3-4 weeks, and for some of those long runs the shortened run is a “Race Pace run”, the 1st half done easy and the 2nd half at marathon pace. Most easy runs are done at easy “Conversational pace”, 65-75% max HR.
  • The long run peaks at 20 miles in the easier plans, and peaks at 21 miles in the Advanced plan (which features three separate 20+ milers).
  • The plan ends with a gradual 3 week taper, and adds two full rest days on race week.
  • Hadfield does include a post-marathon four week recovery schedule, with one week of no running and light crossing training before gradually re-building your prior run schedule over post-weeks 2-4.

Who Does This Plan Not Work For?

  • You want to do track workouts. Hadfield designed this schedule for runners with competing demands (career driven, mothers, etc), so all the runs are intended to be done as stand-alone normal runs. Another plan will have the 400m repeats and such others are looking for. You could do this on a track if desired, but the speedwork’s not measured in distance and you’re measuring effort rather than time, so your laps aren’t too relevant.
  • You want to run races during training. The schedule expects long runs on Saturday with a rest day Sunday, and no long run is shorter than 10 miles, plus most of the runs are meant to be easy, and a harder effort in a race, or combining a shorter race with a long cooldown, would screw up the stimulus on your body. None of the pace runs are longer than 12 miles, plus half of them are meant to be easy effort, so even mixing in a half marathon with a pace run day doesn’t really work. Higdon is way better for people who want to do tune-up races.
  • You find it hard to run below 75% max heart rate. I know your pain because for a while I was this runner. Some people do struggle to keep their HR below 75% on regular runs, especially if you train in hot or hilly conditions. Because Hadfield wants your intensity low on the easy days and (most) long runs, you might overextend this plan’s expectations and risk overtraining if you’re closer to 75-80% HR every time out. A plan with no such intensity specs, like Higdon or Hansons, or one where a higher HR range is acceptable, like IronFit, might be better.
  • You don’t own a smart watch. I always forget about you guys. Because the plan leans on heart rate ranges and expects you to track time, it’s a lot harder to follow if all you have is your phone or less. A mileage based plan like Higdon is probably better.
  • You only run 3-4 days a week and need multiple rest days each week. This plan wants you to train 6 days a week. Even as easy as many of these workouts are, that might be too much of a jump. Higdon or IronFit might be better.
  • You think 5 months is way too long to marathon train. 16-18 weeks is plenty for most, and this asks for 20. I wouldn’t start this plan in a later week unless you’ve already been consistently training at week 5’s volume for the last six months (and you probably haven’t). A 16-weeker like IronFit or FIRST might be more your speed.
  • You don’t want to cross train. While you could replace the cross training day with an easy run (probably lower intensity than programmed), it does change the plan. Given the careful handling this requires to do effectively I’d recommend you not do so and just find a different plan built for all-running, like Hansons, IronFit or 80/20.
  • You have a run streak. The rest day and the cross training day do interfere with that. Running Clinic and possibly 80/20 can work well for that.

Who Does This Plan Work For?

  • People who need free time on weekends. The day off after a Saturday long run gives you some breathing room.
  • People who don’t want to do complicated workouts or tune-up races, and just want to run. Okay, yes, the speed/tempo workouts require some logistics. But you don’t have to stop and start like with track repeats, and can just do the runs as one continuous run. The only detail to monitor most times is the time and your heart rate. And of course the plan doesn’t make tune-up races feasible. It’s just running with one focal goal.
  • People who need weekday workouts to not go long. Because the midweek workouts are time-based and rarely go past an hour, they’re much easier to fit into a busy schedule. If you do an easier Hadfield plan the deamnd is more like 45 minutes than 60.
  • You don’t like a lot of hard runs. Even the speed workouts aren’t terribly demanding. The long pace runs only ask for your marathon pace and no more in the 2nd half of the run. Most of these runs expect quite an easy intensity relative to other plans.
  • You’ve had overtraining problems before. This schedule mixes a decent training volume for rec runners with some mild expectations on most runs. You train almost every day, still do some speedwork, and otherwise you just put in time at a very easy effort.
  • Someone who strength trains seriously and doesn’t want to ditch it while marathon training. The two days of strength training a week only ask for easy running or cross training, and Hadfield not only gives you permission to train full-body with weights but recommends it. I wouldn’t focus on max gains or powerlifting during marathon training, but you can certainly maintain the strength you’ve built to date on this schedule. On top of that, the work will help augment your running as you progress in the plan.

No verdict.

For people who find other plans too demanding, one have competing demands and don’t want a training plan to fry them, Hadfield’s schedule is a much easier plan to handle that still gets you ready to race a marathon.

For runners focused on carving out more space for recovery in their life, and this schedule is probably the current best fit for both, while making sure to train at the frequency, volume and intensity I need to be ready for the marathon as well as maintain and balance one’s overall fitness and health. It’s certainly a schedule I’d recommend.

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