Prior to the 2016 Harrisburg Marathon, I hadn’t ever really used a training plan.
When I’d train for marathons, I’d get my long runs in and log some miles during the week. But I never had a plan stuck to the fridge.
I’ve had the Hansons Marathon Method: A Renegade Path to Your Fastest Marathon on my bookshelf for a few years now. (I am 90 percent sure my mom bought it for me because I like the band Hanson and I like to run despite the fact that they have nothing to do with each other.) I finally decided to try it out while training for Harrisburg. With my husband on board as “coach,” he wrote out my weekly schedule every Sunday night. My marathon PR is from 2012 (!), and I was sick of consistently running times near it, but not hitting it.
This plan works for a lot of people. I have read so many success stories. It did not work for me at all. I am so stubborn, I knew it wasn’t working for me pretty early on, but I stuck with it to give it a fair chance. (Here is a summary of the training plan if you are not familiar.) Like most things in life, there were some positives, so I will tell you what I liked about the plan, as well as it what I hated. For the record, I trained using a hybrid of the 3:25/3:20 plan.
What I liked:
Speed and strength workouts – I really enjoyed their speed and strength workouts. I thought they were hard but manageable, and I always felt sort of badass when I nailed them. An example of one of their speed workouts is 6 x 800, one of their strength workouts is 2 x 3 miles.
Running six days a week – I was previously a five-day-a-week runner, and I was nervous to bump it up to six, thanks to my injury history. However, I’ve learned that I really enjoy running nearly every day, and I also enjoy my non-running day a little bit more.
What I hated:
Tempo runs – The tempo runs caused me SO much anxiety. I would be a nervous wreck the night before and all throughout the run. I never once enjoyed one of these, because I was so stressed out. Also, 10 miles at tempo pace was just too much, too long for me. I never felt strong during these, I always felt like they were too hard, cue panic about race day.
One particular morning stands out in my mind, as I went to meet my friend for a tempo run, I started crying (embarrassing), I was just so tired, and so worn out, the last thing I wanted to do was run 8 miles at a 7:38 pace. So, we just went for an easy, normal run, and I felt so guilty about it. Stupid. Why was I crying about RUNNING? I also didn’t celebrate my birthday or my husband and my first wedding anniversary because I had tempo runs the next day. I regret that.
Being glued to my watch – The easy runs, the long runs, the tempo runs, everything is supposed to be a certain pace. As someone who likes to run watch-less, I felt like all I did was stare at my watch. Is my easy run easy enough? Is it too easy? Am I hitting the exact paces I need to? Can’t I just go for a run?!
The exhaustion – I sleep a lot as it is (8-9 hours a night), but I was completely and utterly exhausted during this training. Getting out of bed was a chore, and I felt like I was sleep-running constantly. I stopped lifting because I was just too tired to do anything but run. My friend Mike told me later that he really thought I was going to cry at the end of one of our long runs because of how tired I was.
The loneliness – I run solo about half of the time, and the other half of the time, it’s a social thing for me. My running friends are some of my best friends. But with them, I felt like I was constantly asking us to speed up or slow down. Instead of being lost in conversation and just running, I instead was completely obsessed by our pace, and not enjoying it.
Ultimately, this training plan didn’t work for me because it sucked the joy out of running. Instead of feeling confident on marathon day, I felt burnt out and completely exhausted. In the past two months, I’ve gotten back to basics, I lift and I run, and I have no idea how fast or slow I run, but I sure am a lot happier and look forward to each morning’s miles.