Hansons Marathon Method – Book Review

Hansons Marathon Method: Run  your fastest marathon. Luke Humphrey with Keith and Kevin Hanson, 2nd ed, pub. VeloPress, ISBN 978-1937715489

This is a thorough guide for anyone aiming to run the marathon, either for the first time or in a better time. The first edition focussed on the latter, with Beginner and Advanced schedules aimed at preparing athletes to identify and achieve specific race time targets.  The word “beginner” is a little misleading, and initially steered me towards the Advanced program, until I read on and understood that the Beginner schedule could extend to experienced runners who had simply not got around to doing the marathon yet (and even to those who had run the marathon but hadn’t yet carried out a structured training program).  I saw that the Beginner plan was actually pretty demanding, certainly after the first few weeks, with the schedule being adapted according to the athlete’s target time.  The Advanced program is obviously at a higher level (though not hugely so, for given target times) and a new feature of this second edition was the introduction of a Just Finish program, aimed at those who are not currently serious athletes but want to safely complete a marathon, perhaps to raise money for charity.

The book is well structured, with introductory chapters outlining their basic philosophy and explaining the key principles of exercise physiology that underpin the programs.   These sections are thorough enough without being too onerous, and interest is maintained before we get into the nitty gritty of actual marathon training.   I particularly like the way the reasoning behind the recommendations is explained. For example, I was surprised to see that the longest run advised was sixteen miles, but this was justified via the principle of cumulative fatigue and with reference to the recovery issues associated with longer runs.  Sometimes I felt that the attention to detail was a little too much for me, and I can’t envisage weighing myself before and after a training run, then carrying out a series of calculations to work out how much water I need to take on board afterwards.  But someone might this useful, and I have taken away the idea that I probably need to drink  50% more than my natural thirst is telling me.

All my questions about marathon preparation were answered, plus some more that I hadn’t even thought of.  Apart from running schedules, clear and relatively concise guidance was provided in areas such as strength and flexibility, and nutrition and equipment, to name but a few. It was understood that personal circumstances, injuries and illness can disrupt preparation, and clear strategies were given to adapt your program accordingly, or target a new race when too many weeks have been lost (as the book helped me to conclude!).

When I began reading Hansons Marathon Method, I was immediately engaged and enthused by what was being offered, and had the idea of slotting into the final few weeks of the program to complete my marathon preparation.  But now it has helped me accept that I need set a new race target, and I am looking forward to resting up to get fully recovered from injury, rebuilding my general fitness through cross training, and then closely following the 18 week beginner program prior to what will hopefully be a successful debut marathon in the Autumn.