Category Archives: Running

Want to do the Hanson Marathon Method Without Speedwork?

I’ve had some people inquire lately for info on trying to run the Hansons Marathon Method without speed or tempo work (which I’ll refer to hereafter as just speedwork).

First of all, the Hansons did write a plan into the 2nd edition of their book which they called Just Finish. It’s a beginner’s version of their plan, without speedwork.

However, there’s a substantial issue with that plan: It’s clearly just a lightweight version of the other plans. There doesn’t appear to be any real adjustment for the loss of speedwork. The total volume of the plan is far too short on mileage volume to adequately prepare a runner for the marathon. The average mileage is about 30-40 miles, which wouldn’t be so bad except there’s no speedwork to make up for that shortfall.

The less speedwork you do in a training plan, the more important regular and long aerobic runs, plus a large training volume, becomes. The effectiveness of the medium aerobic Hanson weekday runs and 16 mile max long run is logistically contingent on you completing a speedwork session and extended tempo run during the week.

Still, people like the scheduling, run frequency, and the spread of the Hanson plan, though understandably prefer to avoid the lengthy, demanding speedwork and pace sessions.


Is there a way to follow some variation of the plan without speedwork, in more robust fashion than following the lightweight Just Finish plan, without totally undermining the plan?

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Galloway Marathon Method: Who’s It Good For?

Marathon: You Can Do It!Every runner at some point has done the run-walk… you run for a bit, and then walk for a bit to recover before running again.

Jeff Galloway is the one running mind who builds an entire marathon training approach around it. It’s a little surprising that his main book on the subject, Marathon: You Can Do It!, isn’t more well known and recognizable.

Sure, there are a lot of people who don’t think run-walking a marathon is *really* running a marathon. That can be part of it.

But there’s also a huge part of the population who want to run a marathon, but simply won’t consider it because they can’t fathom running 26.2 miles. And if they knew an approach like Galloway’s existed, they absolutely would try knowing it’s possible.

As you’d expect, Galloway’s approach is mostly geared towards first time and novice marathon runners, though he vouches that even mid pack runners have shown substantial improvements in their times using his method. Galloway even indicates that experienced runners capable of sub-2:40 marathons have used the method and seen improved results.

Galloway is hardly the only one to vouch for walk breaks in races. Others like Hal Higdon vouch for experienced runners taking walk breaks: Higdon often cites Bill Rodgers in the 1970’s running a sub 2:20 marathon while slowing to a walk at aid stations for fluids, or to tie his shoe.

And sure: You’re never going to see Eliud Kipchoge or Shalane Flanagan take walk breaks in a World Marathon Major. But virtually none of us will approach running at their level. And many aspiring marathoners struggle with successfully racing the distance despite their best efforts using other training methods. For many, Galloway’s method might be worth a shot.

Of course, Galloway’s approach isn’t as simple as “run until you want/need to walk, then walk, then run when you’re ready again”. His run/walk method is much more measured and specific, and is based on your pace ability. The idea is to keep you fresh for as long as possible, so the final few miles isn’t a miserable PR-killing fight against the wall to finish.

So what is The Galloway Method?

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Despite Not Running For A Week, I Might Have Improved My Running Fitness

After taking a week off from running due to a bum hamstring, I reeled off three days of short runs in a row, none over 3 miles. Felt fine.

Two days after that last run, I ran over 5 miles home from work, despite not having run farther than 3.5 miles in over a month. Felt fine.

How, despite not running double digit miles in a week since mid-June, despite losing an entire week after a month of minimal running… was I able to reel off 12 miles in 5 days?

Okay, I left out all the cross training I did in the gym. Sure, I also ate well and got good rest. But, along with the 5 hours of cross training I did during the week “off” from running, I’ve been cross training quite a bit outside of any running. This is in large part because I’m about to move cross country, and with no goal race on the horizon I want to take it a bit easier while focusing my energy on cleaning up and packing.

At the same time, I’ve been ramping up my weekly cross training akin to a runner ramping up their mileage ahead of a goal race. Of course, the cross training is not as physically intense as regular running. And that’s a key reason I’ve been able to do so much of it in the interim.

The week after my last double digit mile week, I logged 2 hours of non-running cross training. The week after that, 2.5 hours. The week after that, 3.8 hours. And sure, I was not feeling great the week I got hurt, so I only logged 2 hours. But, with no ability to run, I logged extra time cross training and got 5 hours that week.

In this past week, I logged 5.8 hours of cross training in addition to 16.2 total miles, close to 8 hours total. Factoring in the heart rate training and calorie burn of the cross training, I finished last week trained to a level equivalent to about 24 miles of running a week.

My aerobic fitness development didn’t stall as my mileage dropped to lows unseen since before I began seriously running. I still logged easy/moderate efforts on the ARC Trainer, and easy sessions on the spin bike. Plus, this ignores all the day to day walking I have to do while living in Chicago (for now).

And because of this it’s certainly possible that, despite not running for a full week, my running fitness may have improved. Sure, a week of relative rest from running helps too. But I not only didn’t lose aerobic endurance… I might have gained some.

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The 2-1-1 speed interval workout

Here is the speed interval workout I was developing before my left hamstring quickly developed an unrelated strain:

This can be done on a treadmill or outside on a clear pathway. As always, you want to avoid running routes where you’ve got to cross streets and navigate pedestrian traffic in tight quarters.

As always, warm up with some easy running, dynamic stretching, drills and such.

Start running at a moderate but easily sustainable effort. This can be a particular pace, or just by feel.

After 2 minutes, increase the pace to 5K or 10K pace, depending on your race goals. Maybe one of those races is your goal, or maybe you’re running something longer and this is for running economy. Use 10K pace for longer race goals and the 5K pace for shorter ones.

Hold the faster pace for one minute. After 1:00, slow to a comfortable walk.

Walk for one minute. After one minute, resume your moderate but easily sustainable effort, and repeat the cycle.

You may repeat this cycle up to 20 times. The less mileage you’re putting in every week, the fewer reps you’ll want to do. I would keep the total distance of this limited to the distance of your typical regular run.

The 2-1-1 Speed Workout

  • Warm-up
  • 2min at moderately easy run pace
  • 1min at 5K-10K pace
  • 1min walk
  • Repeat the above 2-1-1 steps until finished.
  • 80 minutes max.
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So I got injured for the first time in 2.5 years

Thursday night, less than 7 minutes into a treadmill workout, my left hamstring popped and stiffened up, bringing the workout to an abrupt end.

I could walk on it as long as I didn’t walk too fast, aka stride too far. I definitely could not run on it. It didn’t hurt in general unless I used it.

But there it is: My first injury of substance in 2.5 years, let alone substantial enough to stop me from exercising (I don’t count cramping, and I’ve had some pretty bad leg cramps). I ran over 3500 miles in that span, not including any other exercise, and of course the many more miles of walking I did. I had never been injured in any meaningful way in that span.

It’ll be fine. Again, I can mostly walk on it fine, and only feel it while walking if I overstride. I certainly cannot run, and won’t even try for at least a full week. I imagine it’ll be a few weeks before it’s healed fully. Had it not popped I’d have thought maybe I just pulled it, so it’s at least a strain or possibly a sprain. I imagine if it was grade 2 or worse I’d feel some constant pain, but again I feel no pain most of the time, even walking.

So, no running for a week or two. It’ll be like post-marathon recovery! In fact, the best way to handle a minor but shut-it-down leg injury like a sprain is to treat the next couple weeks like you’ve just finished a marathon. Stay away from running for a bit, eat and sleep a lot to help drive recovery, ease back into some cross training, then do a reverse taper of easy running until you’re back to your normal volume.

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Comparing training and race paces from different methods, coaches and materials

Various training approaches will give you comparisons of the times you can run at different race distances based on a recent finishing time in another race. For example, each method may take your 5K time and, from that, estimate how fast you would run a marathon.

They also provide estimates of your pace in easy runs as well as during recovery intervals between speedwork reps.

Of course, these approaches don’t estimate times the same way. Out of curiosity I decide to compare these different time estimates on a spreadsheet. I didn’t have any sort of scientific hypothesis or goal behind this, other than mere curiosity.

I compared:

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The ARC Trainer might be a runner’s best cross training tool

ARCTrainerI’ve cross trained with a variety of methods and machines over my time as a runner. There might be more runner-specific cross training methods than the ARC Trainer, but you won’t find one simpler and more readily available in most gyms.

The ARC Trainer is a machine developed in 2003 by a company called Cybex International. Your legs move forward and back on tracking similar to an elliptical, except the motion is more straightforward, and the angle is closer to that of running uphill. On some ARC Trainers the arms may move as they do on ellipticals, but on most (including the ones at my gym) the handles are stationary and only your legs are intended to move.

The ARC Trainers are usually empty at gyms where they’re available (including my current gym), and it’s a bit of a surprise they have stuck around this long given their limited popularity. But they’re still present in many big gyms, and after discovering them recently I quickly discovered that they’re my most effective cross training tool. When the gym’s packed and everyone’s crowding the weights, treadmills and ellipticals, the ARC Trainers are a widely available and welcome training option.

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Run Better’s 42.2km Marathon Plan: Who’s It Good For?

RunBetterAlong with running the Vancouver Marathon, one of my favorite takeaways from my Vancouver trip this May was buying a copy of Canadian author Jean Francois Harvey’s book Run Better. Published in Canada and mostly unknown outside of the Maple North, the book focuses on helping runners improve their form and prevent or heal injuries with a ground-up approach to running mechanics.

I’m not going to review the book but will admit bias and say I love it, it’s simply and well written, and I recommend finding a copy if you struggle with your day to day running in any way.

Though it’s mostly a book of fundamentals, the book does have training schedules for races from the 5K to the Marathon. Each plan has two schedules arbitrary split between faster and slower times (with of course the faster plan asking for more speedwork, though the volume is mostly the same).

I want to go ahead and review the plan, if for no other reason than I am actually planning to follow it while training to run a marathon this fall.

The Plan:

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How runners can effectively track cross training

person on elliptical trainer

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

One thing clear to me this summer is that getting in a lot of miles is probably not going to happen. It’s one reason I went ahead and joined the gym near my home: I need to do more to fill in the blanks with cross training. I’ll hit my key workouts whether outdoors or indoors, and then have a variety of indoor options with which to fill in the blanks.

Filling in the blanks however requires some analysis. People cross train, but people don’t have a firm basis from which to equate their cross training to the needed aerobic development.

How much work on the bike or elliptical equals one mile of easy running? Most do an indeterminate amount of cross training, but beyond knowing that it helps some with training, they have no idea how many miles or how much progress it has helped make them.

(I will also note that, while some writers and coaches think it so, I don’t consider treadmill running cross training. I realize at a zero incline, with a consistent surface, and with no wind resistance… running on a treadmill could be easier than regular running. However, there are enough equalizing factors I’ll discuss another time that can and usually do make it as difficult, sometimes more difficult, than regular running. Plus, you still are bearing all of your weight at a higher speed and intensity, as you do with running. So, I consider miles run on the treadmill equal to regular running miles.)

What’s the best way to figure out how much value, how much volume, a cross training workout provided to your training? It’s a question I’ve dabbled with over time, and wrestled with more in recent memory, especially now that I’m cross training more frequently at the gym.

I think the best way to figure this out is:

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The less you run during marathon training, the more important strength training becomes

As a runner, your body can only handle so much mileage. Some runners can pile over 100 miles a week. Some runners can’t run more than 3-4 days a week.

A better more emcompassing way to put it is that you can only handle so much time on your feet. Sure, some runners are faster than others and that’s why they can rack up 100+ miles at an easy pace, whereas if most of us ran the same amount of time we’d probably max out at around 60-65.

Back to the main point: While it’d be ideal to have you log 50+ miles while training for a marathon, many can’t quite hit that number within their reasonable best efforts, or their plan doesn’t ask that much. Even if your plan does, maybe you struggle for understandable reasons to do it: Hal Higdon might ask for 20 milers and 7-10 mile midweek runs, and maybe you don’t have the time to put them in… or your body simply gives out after 15 miles. Maybe the Hansons want you to run 6-8 miles six times a week, but there’s no way you can run six times a week.

However, as Jonathan Savage says, everyone running a marathon has to run the same 26.22 mile distance. Whether your longest run was 15 miles or 18 miles or 22 miles, everyone’s got to run 26.22 on race day. It doesn’t matter if you can’t handle the distance, the pounding that volume requires, in training. You’ll have to handle it eventually just like everyone else.

This doesn’t mean you need to do 20-26 milers in training to be ready. Some runners certainly can do that, sure, and they’ll usually be ready on race day. But while I do think it’s important to develop the aerobic endurance to go no less than 2.5-3.0 hours without stopping… what you do on the other days of the week can be far more flexible.

With one key caveat.

Your body not only has to be aerobically prepared to run long, but it physically must be prepared to take the pounding of that much continuous running. No matter how much you run or how you run, you must develop the physical strength to handle the 3-6 hour pounding. And that simply will not happen on a lighter running schedule by itself.

I also don’t think speed and tempo work is anywhere close to enough by itself. You’ll develop solid ability to run a 10K or something, but that won’t fully prepare you to handle hours of pounding and aerobic demand.

The successful marathoners I know and see all tend to have one other common denominator aside from just running a lot, running regularly and eating/sleeping/recovering well.

They strength train.

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The Open Road Mile: Modifying the mile strategy for non-track courses

Previously I wrote about a strategy for running your best mile on a standard track. Of course, not only do many people not have access to a track, but in many situations you may be asked to run a mile on a course that definitely isn’t a track, e.g. a mile long road race, or a time trial at school, the military, as part of a fitness class, etc.

The strategy I wrote about doesn’t quite work here because it’s built around each of the four laps taken around a track. In fact, as I mentioned when discussing Lane 8, running the mile in a different lane not only changes the start and finish for your mile, but requires you adjust the strategy even then.

So what do you do when you’re running a mile on an unmarked course? Can the strategy be adjusted for that?

Totally. If you don’t have a marked course for your mile, but you at least know you’re running a full mile… this method can be modified by time.

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How to run a focused and pain relieving track mile

Few races or time trials were as painful for me as the mile. Never lasting more than 7ish minutes, the level of effort a mile trial demands always felt brutal.

I’d do one on the track, and before the first of 4 laps was done I was wondering how in hell I was going to manage three more, let alone post a good time.

At the same time, whenever I’d try to pace myself on the mile I’d end up going far too slow out of the gate and no matter how fast I ended up by the end, the end result was always disappointing.

I’d long since figured out how to pace myself in races, but the mile always flummoxed me. The pacing and technique that served me well in 5Ks and longer didn’t work with the mile.

Any distance shorter is mostly about busting ass out of the gate and running as fast as you could. That’s easy. And that doesn’t work for 1500-1609 meters.

But I finally figured it out, how to measure out your max effort in controlled doses and run the best mile you can, on a typical 400 meter track. Once I did this I shattered my mile PR by almost half a minute, and I didn’t even want to die afterward.

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The Running Clinic’s 42.2KM Plans: Who’s It Good For?

RunningClinicSub4

Developed by Canada’s Running Clinic, an organization of Canadian running and fitness experts, this 42.2km marathon training plan introduces a simple effort and time limited approach to training that manages to integrate high intensity running without demanding too much of runners.

Americans used to the speedwork/tempo/20-miler approach to marathons may find the Canadian approach to marathon training an interesting change of pace.

How useful is this plan to runners?

The Plan:

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The Park Bench Run: An easy speed workout

trees in park

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

A couple weeks ago, I planned to do some tempo work along a park loop as part of my run commute home. But once I left work and got to the starting point I knew I did not have enough gas in the tank to do the planned 800 meter reps AND take a full cooldown run home. I also didn’t want to take the bus, nor did I want to bag the workout completely and just jog home.

I took one 800 meter rep that went okay, but I knew doing several more was out of the question. What wasn’t out of the question was doing them as part of the run home, a hedge that allowed me to still get the speedwork in while curbing the amount of overall miles and reducing the overall stress of the run.

I didn’t want to do a full out uninterrupted tempo run home, but several reps of a few minutes each was totally fine. So here’s what I did:

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Finally Getting Back In The Gym

I finally got a membership at the nearby Planet Fitness. Despite having a gym within a block from home that only costs $10 a month and is open nearly all the time, I balked at getting a membership for a variety of practical reasons that now finally are no longer the case.

The gym itself has pretty much everything I’d need out of a gym. They have a ton of treadmills, several ARC Trainers and ellipticals, several spin and recumbent exercise bikes, and of course a wide variety of free weights and exercise machines. And because of the no-judgment motif of the Planet Fitness brand, everyone working out seems cool and goes about their business without any passive aggression or peacocking you see at other gyms.

I’m digressing a bit. As I ramp into official fall marathon training, the gym provides me with a ton of benefits it turns out I really need this time around. I’ve been admittedly struggling with several aspects of training over the last few months, and the gym’s going to help with several of them.

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Your goal pace has an easy run pace

Most runners train for a race with a goal pace in mind. Many will train for that goal pace by running it in varying distances and durations during their training.

Various authors, most recently and notably Matt Fitzgerald in 80/20 Running, advocate building a solid base of mostly easy running from which you can do a bit of tempo-specific running each week. This makes sense since your ability to run fast won’t matter much without the aerobic development to sustain a desired pace over your desired race distance.

Jeff Gaudette of Runners Connect takes this a step farther. He actually posits that most runners already have the desired speed to run a goal pace, that what they lack and need to develop is the aerobic and neuromusucular fitness to sustain that pace for their desired race distance.

Gaudette has a good point. Whenever you are able, go outside and run as fast as you reasonably can (i.e. don’t hurt yourself). I imagine if your pace was measured you’d easily exceed your desired goal pace.

I also imagine you won’t be able to hold that fast-as-you-can pace for very long. Running at max speed, you’ll be winded and your muscles will be neurally screaming in seconds. I’ve done max speed reps for giggles a few times, and I find the longest I can reasonably go at that intensity is about 30-45 seconds.

When we do speedwork, we’re not really training ourselves to run faster. Most of us already can run pretty fast. What we’re training is the ability to hold a given speed over a desired distance, whether that distance is 400 meters, 5K, or a marathon. (Ultra distance runners by and large have other aerobic and endurance concerns during training aside from speed)

This is why many coaches say the goal of speedwork should be economy, i.e. refining your form and taking every step as efficiently as possible, so that when you run your races you’ve honed and improved the efficiency of every step.

I realize I’m digressing a bit. I mentioned easy pace for a reason. We focus a lot on speedwork, on our goal pace, while forgetting that every goal pace has a corresponding pace at other distances… as well as a corresponding regular and recovery run pace.

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