Ask-A-Salty: Easy Run Pacing and Adjusting the Hansons’ Marathon Method

Got questions? Just ask!

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:


Two questions:

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.

1:00-2:00 slower than marathon pace should be easy enough that you can tell hilarious jokes to your running buds, like Salty and Ginger here.
1:00-2:00 slower than marathon pace should be easy enough that you can tell hilarious jokes to your running buds, like Salty and Ginger here.

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.


I'm a subelite marathon runner, but I didn't come from a collegiate running background. Instead I'm trying to break into competitive running in my thirties. I write about chasing the dream of running with the elite girls and tell stories of adventures along the way. Watch me chase the next big thing.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


  1. Jasmine,

    To quote Dr. Columbo from the old detective series, “There’s just one thing that’s bothering me.”

    Well, what I mean is, I have one more question and then a few comments.

    My question is this: I noticed in your training log that at one point you did a 16 mile run at goal marathon race pace. However, if I remember correctly (I don’t have the book in front of me), the Hansons Marathon Method training plan called for a 10 mile run at goal marathon race pace as its longest “tempo” run.

    So, what made you decide to do an ever longer tempo run than the Hansons book recommended? Was there something in Jack Daniels’ book that influenced you?

    My comments. For my easy runs, the Hansons Half Marathon Method books says do them somewhere between 1:30 and 2:30 slower than your goal half marathon race pace. My goal half marathon race pace is 8:13 or 8:17, depending on whether I use my hopes/dreams (8:13) or VDOT (8:17). This means my easy runs should be from 9:43 to 10:47.

    But when I run with my heart rate monitor and try to keep my heart rate at about 129 to 130 beats per minute, on a relatively flat course, my pace is about 9:30 to 9:44 min/mile. So, right now, I am wearing my heart rate monitor during all of my easy runs and letting that guide me.

    As my fitness improves, my easy pace will get a little faster. The 129-130 heart rate is fairly relaxed, but it prevents me from lapsing into my “Junk” mileage (controversial term, I know) where I slog lots of miles at 11:15 min/mile pace while watching the wildlife at my local state park.

    Next comment: You and Salty and some of the other runners on this site might consider providing online coaching services, for a fee. If you have the time and the patience.

    Mark (a.k.a. Spiral or IndySpiral)

  2. Heart rate monitor training can be helpful. Like you’ve found, it provides feedback that helps you fine tune your perception of exertion. It is all a matter of preference. I was dependent ot mine all spring, and by the time both of mine broke in August, I just felt like I didn’t need to use one anymore. Just find what works for you.

    So, about the 16 mile practice run: Marathon pace felt so aggressive just a few weeks earlier, I needed this for confidence. Actually, somewhere in the back of Hanson’s Marathon Method, Luke describes a bunch of workouts that the Hanson-Brooks team uses. None of these workouts are in the Hanson plan, and there is some warning about them not being recommended for non-elite runners. I did this about a week later than I should have, but I decided it would be good for me. I figured I was at a training volume where I could get away with it. This for me was a run in the middle of an 82 mile week, between 6 miles of cruise intervals and a long run.

  3. Mark, this is based solely on anecdotal evidence, but it seems that some runners, especially early in their racing careers, race relatively slowly compared to their training paces. Or conversely, these runners find that running as slow as they’re ” supposed to” according to training plans, calculators etc, is way too slow. I think the faster you are the more accurate the VDOT, McMillan calculator, etc. are. This is not a law, by any means, and some runners on the slower side will certainly find success following the pace prescriptions of these plans. It’s always important to go by feel. If 9:30 feels easy enough and you’re not just wishfully thinking it is, then you’re fine. I find the best pace for easy runs is the one without a watch and based completely on feel and not the clock.

    Re coaching – coming soon!