Imagine my excitement, after PR’ing last year in my marathon thanks in large part to training on Hansons Marathon Method (HMM) when I heard VeloPress was publishing a book on their Half Marathon Method (HHMM)! Until a couple months ago I never really thought about using HMM to train for a half, and I actually didn’t even realize they had plans tailored to that distance.
Well, the folks at VeloPress were nice enough to send me a copy of Hansons Half Marathon Method to review, and also a copy to give away to one of you! But first, my review….
What is HHMM all about?
If you’re only somewhat familiar with HMM, you probably know it for its 16 mile long run, or the fact that it requires 6 days a week of running. And these are definitely two factors that make it different from many training plans. But the training philosophy behind the approach is what really makes it unique, and the same philosophy forms the basis of the Hansons Half Marathon Method (HHMM) as well. The plan is developed around the concept of cumulative fatigue – a slow build-up of fatigue from the days, weeks, and months of consistent training. It’s challenging the body without reaching the point of no return, or crossing the line into overtraining. The book starts by laying out in detail the five key components of cumulative fatigue:
- Mileage: This program requires 6 days of running a week. The program doesn’t add more intense mileage on those extra days. It adds more easy mileage.
- Intensity: The program includes speed, strength, and tempo workouts that are focused tightly on goal pace. Yet the majority of the mileage is easy runs at 1-2 minutes slower than goal pace. These easy runs are a critical component of the plan and cause certain physiological adaptations to take place.
- Balance: The long run is not the primary focus of this plan. This method does not support having a large % of weekly mileage (e.g. 30%) in a long run. They feel that training consistency, volume, recovery, and intensity are lost when that is done. The program emphasizes instead a balanced approach to training consisting of easy runs and SOS (something of substance) runs. SOS runs include speed work, tempo runs, long runs, and strength workouts.
- Consistency: Planning is required to hit the workouts consistently week to week. This is a pretty regimented approach.
- Recovery: This plan definitely doesn’t subscribe to the idea that you should be ‘fresh’ for hard workouts. It emphasizes active recovery (through easy runs).
Another thing that permeates throughout is the idea that to get better at running, you need to run. As I read the book this kept surfacing again and again, and it’s really a foundational principle underlying this plan.
Overall Thoughts on the Book
My overall feeling about this book is that it’s accessible to a much broader group of runners than the HMM book is. I would never recommend that an inexperienced runner who’s not committed to attaining a specific goal train on Hansons Marathon Method. That is just a personal opinion, and others may disagree, but I do feel that the approach is quite rigorous and may not be best suited to a first-timer. This book, on the other hand, lays out an approach that can work for anyone from a runner who’s doing a charity run with the goal of just finishing, to a highly competitive running trying to PR.
The book is authored by Luke Humphrey, a Hansons athlete and coach. Luke discusses the difference between the HHMM and other training methods and then lays out the program very clearly. This book would be a great reference for someone training on the plan. When I followed HMM I found myself referencing the book almost daily, but at a minimum weekly.
The first chapter of the book lays out the philosophy, and I would encourage and almost say you NEED to read this before taking on the plan. In my opinion this is reason enough to pick up a copy of this book or borrow one from a friend. If you don’t understand the philosophy I guarantee you it’s going to be really easy to just give up about 10 weeks into this when your legs feel dead tired much of the time from the cumulative fatigue : ) Understanding what’s behind the plan will help you get through the touch patches for sure.
I like how in addition to the philosophy and the program the book also provides advice on finding the best shoes as well as tips on avoiding common issues during race week, at the expo, at the start line, and after the race. They also have advice on hydration and nutrition. I think that particularly newer runners will benefit from these chapters.
The book also has a great section of FAQs on things like what to do if you want to incorporate races into your training, or need to switch days around, or get injured and have to take some days off. They also include a chapter on selecting a goal. This is awesome, as this can be a pretty tough task! I’ve actually had quite a few people comment on this blog asking for help on picking a goal for a half marathon or marathon. It’s not easy but they provide some sound advice to help.
The HHMM Program
Unlike HMM, which offers just a Beginner or Advance Program (and I’d argue the Beginner is still really hard – I did that one!), this book lays out three half marathon programs.
- Just Finish – for runners who simply want to complete the race and have no specific time goal.
- Beginner – for runners who are either new to half-marathon distance, have raced shorter distances, or have a lower mileage base. This plan builds up to mileage in the upper 40’s, and includes four 12 mile long runs.
- Advanced – for experienced half-marathon runners, competitive racers, or runners with a higher mileage base. This plan builds up to 51 miles and includes three 14 mile long runs
The Just Finish program is part of the reason I mentioned earlier that this book will have a broader appeal than the HMM book. Luke indicates that the Just Finish program was inspired by the charity runners he has worked with over the years. The focus is on building a runner’s endurance to the point where the distance can be covered safely and with confidence. In this plan they remove the intensity, to avoid increasing the risk of injury. The highest mileage week is only 32 miles, and there is no speed work or tempo runs. All this being said, even this plan is still six days a week of running so I’d advise someone to make sure they’re up for that before taking it on.
The book includes over 10 different pace charts with prescribed paces based on your half marathon goal, so it’s very easy to know exactly what to do for each run if you’re training on either the Beginner or Advanced version of the plan.
Comparison to the Marathon Method
As someone who has trained on the HMM I was curious how the HHMM compared. The answer – it’s very similar.
Same weekly layout
The most important thing to mention is that the layout of each week is the same:
- Easy runs on Mondays, Fridays, and Saturdays.
- Speed/Strength workouts on Tuesdays and Tempo runs on Thursdays (they call these SOS – “something of substance” – runs)
- Long runs on Sundays.
Same number of days of running
Like with HMM, the HHMM plans require six days a week of running. Which, like HMM, leaves little if any time for cross-training so that is just something to keep in mind before deciding whether to train on this plan.
Lower mileage, but not much lower
I was kind of surprised that the weekly mileage is not too much lower than the marathon method plan, but given the type of plan it is I probably shouldn’t be. I have a feeling the half marathon plans I have followed in the past are just a lot easier than this The long runs are shorter, as you’d expect for a half plan, topping out at 12 miles for the Beginner plan, 14 for the Advanced plan, and 10 for the Just Finish plan.
As I mentioned earlier, the philosophy behind this plan really makes it unique, and that is consistent across both the half and full marathon plans. If you’ve trained on the marathon method I think you’ll find this approach very ‘familiar’ and comfortable. And if you’ve survived HMM you should be able to survive this one as well, or at least be more prepared as far as what to expect and where the tough patches are.
This is a great book that clearly lays out HHMM training program and prepares the reader to embark on the plan armed with all of the ‘why’ behind it. I recommend this book if you plan to or are considering training on HHMM. If you already have a copy of the HMM book like me you’ll find a lot of it repetitive, but I still learned some new things. I definitely plan to give this approach a try for one of my half marathons. Which one? I’m not sure yet. But if it sets me up for success the way HMM did then I’m all for giving it a shot.
At less than $15 on Amazon, there’s no reason not to pick up a copy of this book! I guarantee you it’s worth it. Great news though – VeloPress has also been kind enough to offer a free copy of the book to one of you! Entering the giveaway is easy – just use the rafflecopter widget below. Giveaway will be open until 12:00am on Saturday May 10th. I’ll post the winner on my blog on the 11th and then contact the winner to get an address so I can have VeloPress send you your book. Good luck!
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I have to end by saying one of my favorite lines in this book is in the forward. This pretty much sums up exactly why I run, and why I loved HMM, since it requires a LOT of running.
“In your hands you have the ultimate self-help book. Thumb through the pages and you may not see exercises on self-esteem building or the keys to happiness. But I dare you to head out the door, log some miles, and not feel like you made you a better you.”
– from Hansons Half Marathon Method
Disclaimer: I was provided a copy of Hansons Half Marathon Method to review and give away on my blog. I was not compensated for doing so. All opinions expressed are my own. I am not a running coach or fitness trainer. I’m simply a running enthusiast who enjoys sharing information, experiences and ideas. Views expressed on this blog are based on my own personal research and experiences. Please consult your doctor before beginning a training program.
- Welcome to my blog! I’m Gina, an avid runner living in St. Louis, MO. Check out my blog for tips on running, swimming, race recaps, book reviews, and recipes! Follow me on twitter at @ginabhawalkar, or feel free to contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks for reading!
March 9th - Quivering Quads Trail Half Marathon
June 1st - Steamboat Springs Half Marathon
August 30th - KT82 Trail Relay Race