Run more and run more often – The Hanson Marathon Method part 1

I’m over half way through training for Snowdon now and there are just 7 weeks to go until I give marathon number 6 a go. I’ve been following the “Hanson Marathon Method” again, because it worked so bloomin’ well for my London training last year: I hit my time goal bang on, had a really awesome race and stayed happy and injury free for the majority of the 18 week training program. It’s fair to say I’m preeetty keen on this style of training for a marathon, and a complete convert to their way of getting you through a marathon – where it’s your first or your fifty first. I’m mostly a huge believer in how they structure training for 26.2. In the past 12 weeks, I’ve done 97% of my training sessions – missing one because I’d ridden 112 miles and one because I got my period, felt shitty, it was raining and I had woodchip to remove.

The way I’ve been running, I think – no, I KNOW, has an awful lot to do with why I’ve been so consistent and happy running. There are 4 “pillars” to this way of training, and each of them have a slightly different but important role in getting you through a marathon. It is a lot of running, yes, but it makes sense. Here’s why…



Easy runs make up the majority of the weeks’ miles. At least 50% of miles run in the week are to be run at an easy pace – which is at over 1 minute slower than your goal marathon pace. The phrase ‘junk miles’ now really winds me up, as when you’re training for a marathon, no miles are junk miles. Miles in the legs are GOOD. I love and hate easy runs. I find they give me time to think, time to really ENJOY running. With marathon training, you can often find yourself incredibly restricted by what’s on your plan, what you’re meant to running and this means missing out on running with friends and exploring new places. Having so many miles set as ‘easy’ it leaves this as an option.

I have found them some of the toughest sessions during the week, however. I think it’s because my legs are really fatigued when it’s time for an easy run and I just can’t be bothered to drag them round. I’ve also noticed it’s where I can feel I need a good stretch, massage or to re-check my form.


Tempo runs are marathon pace runs, and teach CONSISTANCY, which is so key when you’re going to run a marathon, especially if you’re going for a big PB (or a small one!). Teaching yourself to run comfortably at a set pace is so important, whether you are going to run the race in less than 3 or more than 6 hours. I’ve worked this method into training for 10K races and triathlons: setting a set distance where the goal is to run at race pace for an extended period. It is challenging, but they’re so worth it.

Thanks to Laura Stewart for capturing the post race banana elation
Thanks to Laura Stewart for capturing the post-race-banana elation


The unusual thing about this particular plan is that long runs don’t go over 16 miles. The ‘science’ behind why this method doesn’t go super long is complicated and simple at the same time, but basically it is for these reasons:

  • You’re running pretty long in the week – I’m now running over 11 miles twice during the week.
  • The idea is to run fatigued and to mimic the last 16 miles of the marathon, rather than the first 20.
  • Most marathon training plans for amateurs have the ‘long’ run as the main focus of the week – meaning some runners are on their feet for nearly 4 hours… which is bound to wipe you out for the following week.
  • It makes little sense to have the long run make up such a huge percentage of weekly mileage.

I’m going to be running 16 miles three times and that’s it. BUT during the 16 miles run weeks, I will have racked up 60 – 65 miles in total. I ran 62 miles last week, felt fine running long on Sunday, felt pretty good for the rest of the day and feel fine now. From previous training experiences, I’m really not sure I would be able to say that if I’d clocked up 20 miles on Sunday morning and totalled less miles overall…


Once a week, I speed it up. Not massively, mind. Over the first 6 weeks, I ran intervals at my goal 5K pace on the treadmill, working up from 12 x 400m to 3 x 1600m. Now we’re into the second stage, it’s a total of 6 miles at just 10 seconds quicker than goal pace – from 6 x 1 miles up to 2 x 3 miles. Again, a key focus of these sessions is to be consistent, and hit the pace suggested. Going faster isn’t going to be of much benefit – not really. I’m as guilty as anyone for, if I’m feeling good, pushing a bit harder, but it’s usually come back to bite me either in the last interval, or wiped me out for longer than it should in the week – especially this far into training. These are also so important for teaching your body to run hard for longer periods, which is why they max out at 3 miles. For a marathon, although speed work is important- if you want to PB especially – running 400, 600, 800m reps is training a different energy system and teaching your body to work in a different way. If you want to do a marathon fast, run hard but run long.


I’m no expert at marathon running, but I’ve run enough to know what works for me, and I have realised – finally – that training for 26.2 shouldn’t break you; it should be tough but not impossible and should challenge you but not tip you over the edge.   I really do believe that sticking to these ‘pillars’ of training and running more, more often is the key to running a happy marathon. I KNOW that timewise, it’s a pretty impossible ask for some people to run such big distances during the week, but if you can, do… it could change your perception of marathon training entirely.


20 thoughts on “Run more and run more often – The Hanson Marathon Method part 1

  1. Really interesting summary of the Hanson method – I had not heard of that one before. Do you find the absence of 20 mile+ runs trains you well enough to prepare for taking on nutrition, dealing with ‘The Wall’ etc? I’m so glad you think the concept of junk miles is nonsense! I’m totally in the same camp – easy miles teach your muscles to burn fat as fuel better (crucial for marathons) and develop the tiny mitochondria to process oxygen more efficiently, which is the main obstacle preventing an increase in aerobic fitness for many runners. You can’t achieve those things just doing intervals! What are your opinions on this? Great post though, thank you for sharing!

    1. Thank you for your comment, Katie!

      The first time I did it last year, I was really worried about not running 20 miles, yes but during the marathon, I never once even felt close to hitting ‘the wall’. I practice with fueling during 16 miles, and do a lot of runs ‘fasted’. Your explanation of easy runs is perfect!

  2. I know you’ve told me about this before and I’ve recoiled at the idea of so many weekly miles, but it’s great to read why it works in more detail. I can see it works ace for you – I’d be interested to see if I could hack it… I’m just not sure though!

    1. You totally could. You’d be able to with your lifestyle as you don’t have a long commute, and the seafront is so great for churning out long tempo runs 🙂 It’s so good for helping you fall back in love with running as well. I think you’d get on really well with it. xx

  3. I’m intrigued by this approach, I’m in the midst of a training plan now but think I’ll give this a go for my next one. I like to run lots every week so frequency not an issue, just have to see about getting the distances in. I’ll be honest though I quite like my long runs, love getting out on the trails and having time to myself for a few hours 🙂

    1. I know what you mean about loving the long runs. I love the easy runs for that, but I guess they’re not quite long enough… You get two lots of 10 alternate weekends though…! Let me know how you get on if you do use it though, please!

  4. Really inspired by your post. I did London in 2014, I loved the atmosphere but I hadn’t recovered from my two 20mile long runs in training and ended up being injured from about mile 14, was disappointed with my time/expectation of the day. Hence this style of training is really interesting to me. I have a place in London next year, I think I will give this ago! Just one question, did you add any gym/strength/weight sessions into your training at all? Would you do these on easy days or rest days?

    1. Hi Ashleigh,

      Thank you for your comment 🙂 I’m so glad it got you thinking about using the plan! I hope it works for you, let me know.
      I try and do 2/3 strength sessions a week… I really enjoy lifting weights and I think doing S&C is super important for injury prevention. For the 1st half of the plan, I’m OK doing them on any days that they fit – including WednesdayRestDay (which is probably a bit naughty), but as the interval/tempo days get harder, and the weekly mileage goes up and up, I find I really need the rest day and I’m tired out from the harder runs, so they get consigned to Mondays and Fridays.

      Hope this helps – email me if you want to ask anything else!

      1. Hi, just wanted to let you know (sorry a bit random I know) but I have been using the Hanson Training Method since January in prep for London after reading your blog and their book and I did a half marathon yesterday and did a 1:48 PB with negative splits! I was so chuffed and have to put it down to the training programme. Great confidence boost! Hope your Iron Man training is going well and thanks for sharing your experience with the Hanson Training Method.

      2. Hi Ashleigh!

        Sorry for the late response to this. Your comment MADE MY DAY. I’m so happy for you and so glad Hansons is working for you too. I hope your London prep keeps going well 🙂 See you on the start line! xxx

  5. Week 8 here. I have tired legs all the time and it is affecting my runs. Speed workouts are getting slower as well as the tempo runs. Not sure how that will translate into a successful marathon.

    1. Are you running the speed sessions on a treadmill? Force yourself to run as fast as the plan says are you might be surprised. Are you recovering well too? Plenty of good food and rest?

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