I thought I’d pen my thoughts on my experience with the two plans since I have the time. After my first two marathons, each using a different method, I can say both are very different and definitely requires different commitment and training beliefs.
These are just my experiences and not to say that everyone experiences the same. Also I am still somewhat of a novice / beginner having only ran 2 marathons.. So read on but do some of your own due diligence as well!
1st Marathon: Chicago Marathon [time - 4:30:01] using the Hal Higdon Novice 2 training plan
2nd Marathon: New Jersey Marathon [time - 4:04:13] using the Hanson’s Beginner training plan (*FYI for folks viewing this plan for the first time, “Speed” and “Strength” are actually repeat runs. Read book for more detail)
- Both plans are 18 week long
- I ran my the NJM 7 months after Chicago
- Trained in the summer for chicago, winter for NJM
- Time improvement could just attribute to increase in fitness since I have been running consistently since my chicago marathon till start of training of the NJM.
Major differences between 2 plans
- Mileage - MAJOR difference. Hal higdon (HH) peaks with 35 miles a week, and Hansons peaks at 57 miles a week. During the week, the longest non-long-run is 8 for HH, 12 for Hansons.
- Long run - HH peaks at 20 miles for the longest long run, you only run that once during peak weak. Hanson peaks at 16 miles, but you have 3 weeks of that.
- Concept - HH helps build up mileage gradually, aiming to prepare you mentally and physically to finish 26.2 miles. Hansons ramps up on mileage but holds at 45-50+ for 10 weeks, aiming to get your body used to cumulative fatigue, so you are training for the last 16 miles of your race, not the first 16.
- Ease - Although Hanson’s method I used says “beginner” - I really don’t think it’s the best first-timer plan. It will be too overwhelming to have someone who never ran more than 30 miles a week to ramp up to >40 so quickly. The 8 milers, 10 milers, even 12 milers DURING the week (not long run) also adds to the overwhelming factor
- Time - HH having lower mileage and “during-the-week” runs peaking at rest-5-8-5-rest is more doable. It also has 2 rest days and 1 cross day. Hanson’s method requires 6 run days, and “during-the-week” runs of 7-10-rest-12-6. That’s A LOT of time and commitment during the week
- Rest and recovery - HH gives enough time to recover from long runs, and have a rest day before the long run day. Hansons… well. they just don’t believe in full recovery - again the concept of cumulative fatigue - before the day of your long run you’re running 6-8. after your long run, you run 6 - 7 miles the next day, then a repeat (strength/speed) the next day, THEN you rest.
- Taper - HH traditionally tapers off with 5 miles or less during the week, Hanson’s still encourages your 9-10 mile tempos (total 12 mile + warmup/cooldown) during the week and you still run repeats. It really does not feel like a taper at all comparing to HH.
What I felt during each marathon?
- HH Marathon experience - with the HH, i feel fresh at the start but struggles near the end (it’s really a mental game at the end.. physically I know it is possible, but with fatigue kicking in, it’s all a mental game with the last 5-8 miles). Splits - starting at 10:06, later miles slowing to 10:41
- Hanson’s Marathon experience - Didn’t feel easy at the start, but I can feel consistency in pace and my muscles hold out pretty much till the end of the marathon, without a point where I feel like I can’t go no further. I.E. there was no hitting the wall. Pace - starting at 9:15, later miles slowing to 9:30
Overall, I like the Hanson’s. I like the scientific approach. I like that I run more to get used to the distance. It takes a huge amount of discipline to stick to Hanson’s, but using it I have also shaved 15 mins off my half (a PB which has been stagnant for awhile until I trained using hanson’s). So it HAS to have some sort of plateau breaking effect. I felt that I could run faster, longer, and stronger.
I like the longer mileage just because it trains you mentally even without you knowing it. Lesser rest means more consistency, less room for excuses. However hanson’s is hands-down more tough than the HH plan, even using the beginner’s plan.. So I will not recommend for first time marathoners.
edit: want to add another point that Hansons focus on running as your main form of workout. If you lift a lot or so other types of exercise on top of running, hansons may require you to do much less of the other type of exercise and focus 75-80 percent of your time on running alone.
If you have read everything till the end, I applaud you for your patience!