Thoughts on Hansons Method: Higher Mileage

Yesterday I posted about the benefits of easy runs that the book Hansons Half Marathon Method discusses. Today I'm focusing on a component of their training programs that is a little controversial: high mileage. The beginner half marathon program in the book peaks at 48 miles a week. The marathon program peaks at 51, and the just-finish program (where you don't have a time goal) peaks at 32.

The book argues that the high mileage won't result in injury because the majority of miles are at any easy pace.Some of you commented yesterday about their easy pace being really slow; they advocate very slow running to help runners "safely transition to higher mileage." But the high mileage does result in fatigue, which is the point of the program since the cumulative fatigue you experience in training mimics the fatigue you experience in the race.

But how much is too much mileage?

I've been asking this question for a while. I've read many articles that state the rule of thumb that you should run a weekly training volume of about three times the race distance for races shorter than a marathon. So you should run about 20 miles a week to train for a 10K and about 40 miles a week to train for a half marathon. The article "13.1: Not Just Half a Race" from Runner's World advocates this and includes a lower mileage training program that peaks at 40 miles a week and a higher mileage training program that peaks at 60 miles.

So, the Hansons method doesn't seem too crazy. The book says that, "Again and again we have seen that athletes who give their bodies adequate time to adapt to new training stresses are able to tolerate much more than they ever imagined to be feasible. Our program works to take up the mileage ladder one rung at a time, starting with lower mileage and gradually increasing both mileage and intensity."

The book does admit that newer, slower runners (who have a lot of room for improvement) will generally get better and faster by just running higher mileage (and not formally following their training program--but that's my impression, not what they said because obviously they want you to follow their program!)

Like a lot of things in running, it seems that the answer to how much you should run is really that it depends on each person. Some people really want to devote a lot of time to crosstraining or have schedule limitations that makes them want to or need to run less.

I like running most days, am not injury prone, and have somewhat of a flexible schedule, so the idea of a higher mileage program appeals to me. In fact, when I read the book Run Less, Run Faster (my thoughts on the book here), my first thought was, But I don't want to run less!

Again, I was considering the Hansons Method for my fall half marathon, so I am not following it yet. For the plan that I am following--a slightly modified Hal Higdon plan--I will be increasing my mileage by adding easy runs. One way I'll be doing this is to add easy warm-up and cool-down miles to my race-pace run and increasing the distance a bit on my easy runs. I'll reach a peak of 40 miles a week, an increase from 35 miles in my original plan. I'll see how I do with that mileage.

I'll be writing about my thoughts about this method overall and whether I think I'm going to try it in another post.