On to my first marathon – Race and Training Plan of Action

If you have read my blog posts so far, you’ll see I just got into running in March 2017, ran a few summer road races, then some fall half marathons. Now, entering 2018, I’ve registered for my first marathon and training has begun in full force!

The Course

I have chosen the Sugarloaf Marathon hosted each year by the folks at Sugarloaf USA in Kingfield, Maine as my first marathon. It is a spring marathon, and the 2018 date is May 20th. The friends that got me into running actually ran this marathon last spring, so I had lots of firsthand advice in regards to choosing Sugarloaf as my first.

You might think a marathon hosted by a ski resort would be treacherously hilly, but it turns out Sugarloaf is mostly flat with a gentle uphill the first 8 miles, a 250 foot climb that will get your attention between miles 8 through 10 miles, then a significant net downhill for the last 16 miles.

Here’s the course map and profile:

Time to start training!

The Plan

As someone who likes to be organized and do something the right way when I set out to do something new, there was never a doubt I would follow a training plan to prepare for the marathon. The only question was, which one? I have friends using Hal Higdon, apps on their phones, plans from professional coaching websites, plans from amateur websites, and Pfitzinger’s book Advanced Marathoning, to name a few.

At some point, though, I stumbled onto a video interview with Luke Humphrey by the folks at Runner’s Connect. Luke is the author of the Hanson’s Marathon Method books, as well as a professional coach. That video takes a little while to get through, but the main gist was that the 20 mile long run results in “too much time on your feet” for the average runner. Luke elaborates on his thoughts in this blog article — Hanson’s Marathon Method: The 16 miler.

But the Hanson’s marathon plan is by no means an easy plan just because it doesn’t advocate for the 20 miler. Hanson plans typically have you running 6 days per week, even on the beginner plan.

I chose a custom 45-60 miles per week 20-week Intermediate plan purchased through Final Surge that began on Monday January 1st. The early weeks were base building weeks for the most part, which I felt I needed with this being my first marathon and all. It has been a nice transition into the more marathon-specific training in the month of February. I’ll include more on my actual experience with the training plan in a future post.

The common layout of any Hanson plan in general — regardless of mileage — is 3 “easy” runs a week along with 3 “hard” runs/workouts. The hard days are called “something of substance”, or SOS days. An easy or rest day always precedes/follows an SOS day (they should never be back-to-back), and these 3 SOS days are as follows:

  1. An interval/repeat type workout typically run faster than marathon goal pace
  2. A tempo/steady state run at marathon goal pace, or a workout with longer repeats at marathon goal pace.
  3. The long run at a pace anywhere from easy to progressively faster, sometimes reaching marathon goal pace or faster by the end.

Easy days are run at recovery or aerobic pace (a pace that is always 1-2 minutes slower than marathon goal pace). The chart to know what paces correspond to the above terms (easy, recovery, aerobic, marathon pace/tempo, etc) based on your marathon goal pace is included below for reference, and the standard Hanson’s Plans can be downloaded here (Beginner | Advanced). However, I encourage you to get a hold of the book to get the full explanation of the Hanson’s method, and physiology behind the principles, if you’re interested.


As of the time of publishing this post, I’m already beginning Week 10 of the 20 week plan — so I’m half way through! The cumulative fatigue is definitely starting to kick in, and I hope to have a follow up post soon discussing the first half of training.




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