We here at Salty Running love to share our training strategies, opinions on all sorts of running stuff, and some of the strategies we think have helped or hurt our performance as runners and we especially love it when our readers have questions about this stuff! I’ve written in my training logs a bit about the changes I made to the Hanson’s Marathon Method training plan, which brings us to Mark from Indiana, who writes:
I read in the Hansons Marathon Method that easy miles should not be run too easy, but should be anywhere from 1 min to 2 minutes slower than goal marathon pace. Do you agree with this recommendation?
You mentioned that you think that the paces in the Hansons Marathon Method require too large of a quantum leap from training to race day. Could you elaborate on that? What alternative did you implement into your training strategy?
Great questions, Mark!
First, a little more background on Mark.
Mark and I exchanged a few emails and he told me he was 48 years old and started running 4 years ago. His half marathon times have progressed from 2:02:36 in 2012 to 1:53:01 last year and haven’t improved further. His goal is to break 1:50 in the half marathon as a milestone before attempting to train for a 4 hour marathon. He said he was “winging it” most of that time and now is following the Hansons Half Marathon Method book. (there is nothing wrong with “winging it” as long as you workouts are providing the right stressors to be productive.) He also mentioned that his PR in the 5K is 23:39, set last year.
The Hanson’s Quantum Leap
Now let’s answer your second question first. I’ve mentioned that I think Hanson’s pacing tables set you up for making a quantum leap on race day. What I really meant was that the speed paces and strength paces in the tables are slower than what they should be for the goal times they are attached to. So either you’re training for a race that is slower than the marathon/half marathon listed or you’re not training at your current VO2max and threshold paces and won’t increase your fitness level. In either case, I just don’t think the pacing tables in Hanson’s are right.
When you race a half marathon, you race really close to your lactic threshold, so it is important to get those lactic threshold workouts right. In the Hanson plan, they are called “strength workouts.” I prefer the Daniels’ VDOT table for pacing, but there is also McMillan and others. Assuming that your 5k race time is still represents your current fitness level and you’re just underperforming in the half marathon, you would fall at VDOT 41.
Easy (E) is 9:59/mi
Marathon (M) is 08:35/mi
Half Marathon (HM) is 8:17/mi)
Threshold (T) is 8:02/mi
Interval (I) is 7:22/mi (limit of 1000m per interval)
Substitute the Threshold pace of 8:02/mi for the Hanson’s strength pace. this is about :10/mi faster than the pace in the Hasnon strength tables. I also think that the recovery jogs in the Strength workouts are too long. Rests are important because they let you make it through a longer workout than you would be able to without them. But if you keep the rests at one minute, your lactic acid levels won’t change much before the next segment and you’ll continue to provide stress to the systems that are involved with lactic acid removal. Segments of work at Threshold pace with short rests are called Cruise Intervals by Jack Daniels.
Easy Run Pace
About easy pace: something around 10:00/mi should feel pretty easy and that is right in between what the VDOT table says your marathon pace is based on your 23:39 5k. It is reasonable guidance, but it’s most important that easy pace feel easy. So if you need to run slower, than by all means do so! The purpose of easy running is to build aerobic capacity. It should feel like a speed you can run every day.