The Hansons Marathon Method: Pros, Cons + Does It Work?

An expert review of this training method so you can decide if it's right for you.

Most marathon training plans for recreational runners have at least one long run of about 20 miles during the peak week or weeks of the plan.

The Hansons Marathon Method takes a notably different approach, maxing out at 16 miles for the longest long run.

But, what are the other principles of the Hansons marathon Method of training? Are the Hansons marathon training plans good? Who should follow the Hansons Method for marathon training?

In this marathon training guide, we will discuss how the Hansons marathon method training plans work, who the plans are suited for, and potential alternatives to marathon training.

We will cover: 

  • What Is the Hansons Marathon Method of Training?
  • What Are the Hansons Method for Marathon Training Plans Like?
  • Is the Hansons Marathon Long Run Approach Good?
  • Who Is the Hansons Marathon Method Good For?
  • Does the Hansons Marathon Method Work?

Let’s jump in!

A person running in leaves.

What is the Hansons Marathon Method Of Training?

The Hansons Marathon Method was developed by brothers Keith and Kevin Hanson, who have been running as amateurs and professionals for a couple of decades and have been coaching for quite a number of years as well.

There is a Beginner Hansons Marathon training plan and an Advanced Hansons Marathon training plan, both of which are somewhat scaled-down versions of the marathon training approach that the elite Brooks-Hanson distance team follows in their own training.

Hanson Running Plan Principles

These are the key concepts of the Hanson Marathon Method for training:

  • Cumulative fatigue—running on tired legs will prepare your body and mind for a marathon
  • High-mileage marathon training 
  • 6 days of running per week
  • Few planned cross-training workouts 
  • More emphasis on speed work than most marathon training plans for beginners and with speed workouts right off the bat in the advanced plan (no base-building weeks)
  • Three weekly “SOS” (Something Of Substance) workouts: a long run, a speed workout, and a tempo run
  • A weekly tempo run at goal marathon pace
  • Longest long run is 16 miles for most training plans 
A person running using the Hansons Marathon Method.

What Are the Hansons Method for Marathon Training Plans Like?

In general, the Hansons Running Method is considered to be somewhat aggressive and challenging, and generally not thought to be the best marathon training plan for beginners.

Unlike some of our free Marathon Handbook marathon training plans or the Hal Higdon marathon training plans, the Hansons training plans for marathons usually involve little to no cross-training and six days of running per week.

Of course, we also have some advanced marathon training plans with high mileage and six days of running per week, but we tend to prefer at least one day of cross-training to reduce the impact stress of running on the body while still providing aerobic benefits and strengthening different muscle groups.

All that said, generally, what most running coaches consider to be the distinguishing feature of the Hansons Marathon Method is the fact that most of the Hansons marathon training plans do not have a 20-mile long run or longer; rather, the Hansons Method Marathon training plans max the long run at 16 miles.

This is ultimately radically different than most conventional marathon training plans.

It has almost become a given that no matter what type of marathon training plan you are following, whether it is a beginner or a more intermediate or advanced marathon training plan, you will have at least one if not two, or three long runs that are 20 miles or more.

In fact, the Hansons Method Marathon training plans were among the first popular marathon plans that did not include a 20-mile long run or the equivalent in minutes or kilometers, depending on the style of training.

A person running on a fall day.

Is the Hansons Marathon Long Run Approach Good?

The premise of the Hansons Marathon Method that distinguishes the Hansons marathon plans is that most conventional training plans put too much stock in the long run, or the one workout per week.

Rather, the Hansons Method tries not to “idolize“ or make the long run workout represent a greater value relative to the other marathon workouts.

Instead, the entire training week should be purposeful and help build your mental and physical endurance for the marathon.

Practically, how this plays out in the Hansons Method training plans is that the long run usually caps out at 16 miles, but you will see higher mileage during the week, particularly the day before the long run.

The Advanced Hansons Marathon training plan has back-to-back longer runs on the weekend or in the training week, rather than one longer run with a day off before or after the long run, as is often seen in most beginner marathon training plans.

A person looking at their running watch.

In some ways, this can be equated to the concept of splitting up your long runs, which you can read more about here.

The theory behind the Hansons Marathon Method is that you are building the same amount of accumulated fatigue in your legs if you do back-to-back moderately long runs on subsequent days rather than one longer run with a day off before or afterward.

Basically, the concept is that you will be running on tired legs for the second day of your long run by splitting it up.

This is because you are training six days a week running with the Hansons Method of marathon training, including a tempo run at goal marathon pace every week and a speed workout.

This can have potential physical and mental benefits.

For one, if the long run isn’t as long, it can be more appealing or motivating for people.

In fact, when people are trying to choose the best marathon training plan, the Hansons marathon training plans are often super appealing because seeing that you only have to run 16 miles on the longest long run can seem a lot more doable to someone than numerous 20 mile long runs throughout the training plan.

A person running on the raod.

For example, if you have already run a half marathon, which is 13.1 miles, only having to bump up three more miles to run a 16-mile long run, will give you a lot more confidence in your ability to follow the training plan and theoretically prepare to run your first marathon.

Another mental benefit of a shorter long run or the Hansons Method long run approach is that, as mentioned, there is less stock or value put in each weekly long run because you have two relatively longer runs in most cases rather than one long run.

This removes a lot of the pressure on that particular workout.

Also, if you end up not feeling well on your scheduled long run day, it’s not the end of the world and you don’t have to totally re-shuffle your training plan or feel like you have sabotaged your opportunity to run a good marathon because your long run was a bust altogether.

There can be some physical benefits of the Hansons Method Marathon training plan approach to long runs as well.

For one, there is always an inherent increased risk of injury the longer you run without stopping.

Repetitive injuries and the impact can exceed the capacity of your muscles, tendons, bones, joints, or connective tissues, leading to potential stress fractures, tendinitis, etc. 

A person running on the road.

Shorter runs with 24 hours of rest before your next workout can potentially reduce this risk as long as you are refueling well.

Moreover, while most marathon training plans and running coaches highly recommend running slow and easy for most of your long runs, if your long runs are not as long, as is with the Hansons marathon long run approach, you can run them at a higher intensity or faster pace, which can potentially improve your performance.

Who Is the Hansons Marathon Method Good For?

Not every runner will necessarily do well with the Hansons Running Method Marathon training plans.

Of course, every runner is an individual, but in general, the Hansons Marathon plans work well for the following:

  • Runners who prefer running over cross-training
  • Runners who have six days a week to run, including longer runs during the week, meaning you might need to have a more flexible schedule or time available to devote to longer daily runs during the week aside from a weekend long run
  • Runners who do not want to do super long runs for marathon training
  • Runners who like structured workouts such as tempo runs and speed workouts every week
  • Runners who like to do a lot of goal marathon pace work
  • Runners who are up for a lot of speed work and intensity, even early in marathon training
  • Runners who can handle high mileage well without injuries
  • Runners who are not training for their first marathon and have a good aerobic base under their belt
A group running.

Does the Hansons Marathon Method Work?

Many runners have had quite a bit of success with the Hansons Method Marathon training plans.

For example, American distance runner Des Linden, who famously won the Boston marathon in 2018 when it was essentially during a brutal nor’easter credits a lot of her marathon success to the Hansons marathon training plans.

However, it is important to note that she no longer uses these plans, which may speak to the fact that either she has found something better or that it was too tiring to continually strive for this “cumulative fatigue“ principle upon which the Hansons marathon training plans are based.

Particularly for older runners or injury-prone runners, this high-intensity, running-on-tired-legs tenet is a major drawback and risk of the Hansons Marathon Method.

That said, many non-elite runners have also seen great success with the Hansons Method marathon programs.

It never hurts to try something different, so if you have typically followed conventional marathon programs, you might want to shake things up with the Hansons Marathon plans.

If you want to compare plans to find the best free marathon training plans, check out the free Marathon Handbook marathon training plans for runners of different levels here.

People running a marathon.
Photo of author
Amber Sayer is a Fitness, Nutrition, and Wellness Writer and Editor, as well as a NASM-Certified Nutrition Coach and UESCA-certified running, endurance nutrition, and triathlon coach. She holds two Masters Degrees—one in Exercise Science and one in Prosthetics and Orthotics. As a Certified Personal Trainer and running coach for 12 years, Amber enjoys staying active and helping others do so as well. In her free time, she likes running, cycling, cooking, and tackling any type of puzzle.

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