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Health Research
Agnus Alexander | agnusalexander122

Training for a Marathon Versus Marathon Training

Dec 23rd 2013 at 3:29 AM

Traditionally, basic training to run a marathon consisted of a several-month stretch of running perhaps 40 to 50 miles a week. There were a few rest days every week and some very long runs towards the end, usually 20 miles or so to get you ready for the real thing. From what I’ve seen, injuries were not uncommon. Perhaps that was why, when I started running, I did not do it in the traditional way.

Initially I wasn’t training for anything, I just ran — not too far, perhaps two miles or so — but almost every day. I had a friend who lived a couple of blocks from the university where I worked, so after evening rounds, I would run on a measured course on the campus, and then go to his home for a while to just hang out before driving back to my home.

Eventually I ran longer distances, around five miles at a time, and eventually converted to a morning runner, but still ran almost every day before going to work. Over the next couple of years, I increased my distance to around 10 to 12 miles many days, but only very rarely ran further than that. I stayed relatively injury-free and just kept keeping on. I never wanted to run a marathon, although one crazy day I did run around 35 miles! I had originally intended to run somewhere near the 26-mile marathon distance, running from where I live on one side of town to a friend’s home on the other side, where I expected that they would give me a ride back home. To my surprise, they were not home! At that point, I ran to another friend’s home and was very happy to find him and he provided my return ride, but by then I had run the 35 miles! Fortunately, I took some money with me so “7-Eleven’s” were my go-to aid stations for something to drink on that hot Florida day.

I’ve never eaten on any run I’ve ever done. I always felt I could run a marathon, I just didn’t want to — mostly because of the potential for injuries, but I also felt that with the way training to run a marathon was designed, and with the strain of the very long 20-mile training runs plus the marathon itself, I would actually run less by running marathons. I never trained to run a marathon, I just did marathon training.

I recently saw an article about a new way of training for a marathon called “Hanson’s Marathon Method,” designed by two brothers, Keith and Kevin Hanson.

Unlike other marathon training programs, which typically have runs of 20 miles or longer, the Hansons’ method does not exceed a run of 16 miles. The training is hard, with runs six days a week, and midweek runs of up to 12 miles. The theory is to train on tired legs so that you will be ready for the last 16 miles of the race, not the first 20.

“Everyone asks, ‘Why a 16-miler?’ My question is, why a 20-miler?” said Keith Hanson. “I’ll tell you why. Because you’ve been brainwashed. Because every program out there has a 20-miler, so it must be right?”

The Hansons’ say their program trains runners to get ready for the marathon by building cumulative fatigue. I can relate to that!

The beginner program, where the highest distance week is 57 miles, includes three 16-mile runs. However, you do not get a lot of rest between them. The first 16-miler, for example, is done on a Sunday, after a six-to-eight-mile run on Saturday, a short run on Friday and a long tempo run on Thursday. Then Monday you run again, followed by an interval workout on Tuesday and a rest day on Wednesday.

The running schedule is based on the philosophy that no one workout is more important than another. “On some schedules, you rest the day before and after the 20-miler. That’s putting too much emphasis on one workout. For someone whose weekly mileage is going to top out at 50 miles, it means they’re doing 40 percent of their running in one day,” said Keith.

“Running on tired legs is a big part of our plan, because you’ve got to get used to it,” said Kevin. “It’s not a bad thing to feel tired. If someone can only run three days a week, I don’t think they’re going to be properly prepared for the marathon. You can’t possibly callous your body to the rigors of the marathon itself.”

It seems I’ve been doing this type of marathon training all along. It certainly has worked for me, especially that day when my training proved quite useful on that unplanned 35 mile adventure!

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