Book Review: Hansons Marathon Method

Since I currently can’t get my usual running fix (more to come on that in tomorrow’s post), I’ve started reading about running. Yes, I’m addicted. I’ve been familiar with the Hansons-Brooks Distance Project and the great professional athletes they’ve produced including Desiree Davila, so I was excited to hear that they had a new book out detailing how everyday runners can use their method for marathon success.

Thanks to my impulse buying and Amazon Prime membership, I had a copy of Hansons Marathon Method: A Renegade Path To Your Fastest Marathon in my hands just two days after learning about it. Written by Luke Humphrey, an elite Hansons runner who also has a master’s degree in exercise science, with Kevin and Keith Hanson, the book outlines their philosophy and program for a successful marathon covering every aspect from training to strategy to recovery. In just a couple of days I’d read the book from cover to cover and I was sold. I’m going to give their program a shot for my next marathon.

Most marathon training programs are fairly similar. For beginners you usually run three shorter runs during the week and a long run on the weekend peaking around 20 or 22 miles. As you get more advanced, speed workouts and higher mileage are added to the training schedule, but the long run – still peaking at 20 or 22 miles – remains a staple of most programs. The Hansons method takes a different approach. It “teaches a strategic and scientifically grounded approach to everything from the long run to speed workouts to pacing,” writes Kevin Hanson in the book’s foreword. The Hansons method has evolved over the years helping runners of all levels to marathon success since the 1990s.

The biggest difference in the Hansons program is the long run. Rather that the typical 20-miler, the longest training run in the standard Hansons program is 16 miles. The reason this works, Humphrey writes, is that the long run should simulate the last 16 miles of the marathon, not the first 16. It’s all based on experiencing the cumulative fatigue you experience in a marathon without completely zapping your energy for the next week of training. The book cites a guideline that your long run should not exceed 25-30 percent of your weekly mileage. For beginners who have completed just three short runs during the week,  a 20-miler on Sunday can sometimes be 50 percent or more of their weekly mileage. This can be demoralizing and lead to injury – both of which can turn people off from running.

The book covers the philosophy behind the program and delves into the physiology of running covering issues like glycogen depletion and VO2 max. From there Humphrey’s discusses the training program components including easy mileage, which is made up of warm-ups and cool downs, easy days and recovery days, and something of substance (SOS) workouts, which include speed, strength, tempo runs and long runs. The book goes over proper pacing for each of type of run before outlining it’s training programs including both a beginner program and an advanced program. It also talks about program  modifications for when life and injuries get in the way.

After covering the program, the book moves into the strategy side of things. It talks about setting race goals; how to incorporate supplemental training such as cross-training, strength-training and flexibility; and marathon nutrition and hydration during workouts, on race day and for recovery. It moves on to marathon gear, race tactics and post-race recovery – leaving no stone unturned. Finally, the book includes an appendix showcasing the elite Hansons program and describing how its principles are very similar to the ones in their beginner and advanced programs for everyday runners. It even shows Humphrey’s training program for the 2011 San Diego Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon (this course was my first marathon back in 2005!) where he placed fifth in a personal best time of 2:14:27.

If you’re a runner, you’ll want to give this book a read. Even if you decide to stick with your current training program, you’ll most certainly learn something from it. I’d love to hear about the programs you’ve used in the past, and if you’ve had experience with the Hansons method in the comments section.