How strict is your plan?

If you aren’t aware, we have a very active Facebook group. There are lots of posts or sharing of workouts- usually of when they are crushed. On one the other day, I was mentioned in one of the comments, so I started thumbing through and was caught by one comment on particular. The gentleman wants to run a 3:20 and his comments centered around creating a buffer and not expecting to see a certain pace at any point (or that certain paces have no place in a 3:20 plan).

In another life, I would have been like, “whoah, hold on brotato chip!” Eh, who am I kidding, I still am a little bit. I was definitely taken aback a little bit, because I immediately thought, “what’s going to happen to this guy the first split he sees at that pace that shouldn’t be anywhere in his splits?”

There are two main points I want to discuss in this post. The first is in regards to what I interpret when a person is trying to create a “buffer.” The second is how the runner is going to react when they see splits during the race when they “had no room” for them in training.

What trying to create a “buffer” tells me

  1. You don’t believe in your plan or coach.

    I see this a lot in people when they post about their training in our group. The biggest example of this is the 16 mile long runs in most of our marathon plans. For a lot of people they can’t get past the 16 mile long run being enough because it has been instilled in them that everything in marathon training revolves around the 20 mile long run. Unfortunately, these folks will keep running in circles (literally) for years trying to do things the same unsuccessful ways they’ve been doing them.

  2. You don’t believe in yourself.

    The best example of this is a person who is trying to run a BQ or break a time barrier. Everything about what they are doing or have done in the past indicates that they should be able to run the time they are seeking. However, their own self doubt creeps in and they push the pace faster than necessary because they feel like it will mean they can fade back to their goal pace and even slower, but have enough time in the bank to stagger in under their goal. However, it usually just sets them up for failure during training or the race.

  3. You aren’t putting enough time on the other stuff.

    This is a position I have really changed my thinking on over the last few years. This is thanks to all the interaction with our online run club and the athletes in there. I have always been a high mileage guy and I still am. I truly think that if you want to reach your highest potential, you need to be able to handle mileage. However, now that is with a caveat. Now I would say, train at the highest amount of volume you can that still allows you to incorporate the other aspects of well rounded training- strength and flexibility/mobility. Too many times I see athletes who don’t reach a goal, but instead of reflecting back to what their true training needs are, they just assume that they need to up the mileage the next time. I sometimes seeing runners trying to break four hours in the marathon and putting in 70 miles a week! What I am saying is back that down to 50 miles a week and use the time they would have spent on that other 20 miles per week and address the issues I mentioned. Hint: all runners have something strength related that needs help!

If you aren’t sure where to begin, I suggest reading up on our self tests or getting a gait analysis from an expert.

What makes me worry when someone is preparing for no split to be faster or slower than a certain pace. The thing is, no race goes perfect. Even our best races have moments where we say “if I just woulda.” You really do have to ask yourself the question, “how am I going to handle x or y situation?” When a person is setting themselves up to run the perfect race by trying to force everything in training, I tend to assume that their race is going to end in disappointment. Why? Because most of the time these runners panic when the inevitable split that’s way too slow shows up. This may be due to an improperly placed mile marker, a hilly mile, a turn into a headwind, a drop in concentration, an off Garmin split, or whatever. Instead of assessing the situation mentally, or rolling with the punches, they panic. By panic, I mean they usually either throw in the towel prematurely or they try to push even harder and only fall further behind.

I’m not saying that you should have a “whatever it is is meant to be” type of attitude, but splits will be off. See what the next mile or two brings before getting drastic. The next mile might be fast and you’re right back on average pace. Go through your mental queues- is my jaw relaxed? How’s my arm carriage? Am I on track with my nutrition? Is there a group I can tuck in with to block some of this wind?

Don’t panic- assess, observe, and adjust if necessary.

The best way to do that is to experience these things in training. Be cognitive of how you handle adverse situations during training and apply a system that works for you for race day.

You hear me say often that your training has to resemble how you want to race. If you train in a matter where you push the envelope in training (on a daily or regular basis) that chances are that’s how you’ll race. Training is so much more than running a workout. It’s learning how to deal with a variety of situations. Learning how certain conditions affect you and how to adjust for those conditions. Give yourself a little bit of flexibility on splits with the goal of learning the pace and narrowing the standard of deviation.

Races rarely go perfect and it’s the person who can handle the deviations form those plans best that will be the most successful.

Training Components: Extra Credit

Here’s two pieces of extra credit for you. The first is a discussion I did on warmups and how to approach. The second is about the idea of metabolic efficiency (video and downloads below) – what it is and what it means for your marathon performance.

Metabolic Efficiency


In this lesson we discuss the most popular methods of recovering from your training. We’ll see which ones are the most effective and what is the way to implement into your training.

Modifying your training schedule

Module 1: In this first module, we’ll discuss the running related and reasons to modify your training schedules. We’ll offer our most popular options with the athletes that we coach on an individual basis. Then Hanson’s Marathon Method philosophy is sound, but we also know that things come up and adjustments need to be made in your marathon training.

Module 2

Module 2:
Here is a discussion regarding things like injury and illness, along with how it will impact your training. This is more about the short term modifications to your Hansons Marathon Method training plan.


In this lesson we discuss the most popular methods of recovering from your training. We’ll see which ones are the most effective and what is the way to implement into your training.

Choosing Race Goal

Choosing a race goal can be daunting, but it doesn’t have to be. We offer our advice and guidelines for choosing a race goal, what factors to consider, and finding a balance between being conservative and too aggressive.

Hansons Marathon Method: Shoes

There are two main goals with this lesson. The first is to cover the very basics of running biomechanics and how it relates to running shoes. The second goal is to show you the types of shoes out there and how they relate to your basic biomechanics. The end result that you may now make an informed decision on which shoe(s) you need to optimize your ability to train and race.

Training Components

While the Just Finish training program doesn’t include all of the components as the other schedules do, it is still important from an education standpoint. Here we discuss everything from warm ups to long runs and from fast running to slow running. We discuss how we break it up and what you are getting out of each workout.

Marathon Philosophy

Now that you’ve gotten information of marathon challenges and marathon physiology, you can now see how we’ve developed our marathon training philosophy. This is the last piece of building our knowledge base before we get into the actual marathon training!

Marathon Physiology

One of the best parts of the Hansons Marathon Method book (at least what our readers told us) is how the physiology chapter helped them. So, let’s take that info and break it down with a discussion. We’ll discuss everything you need to know about our marathon specific physiology. Understanding this will help explain why our training is based the way it is. I’ll warn you, it’s longer, but will be a huge benefit as you begin your marathon training.

Marathon Challenges

What are the challenges of the marathon? We’ll break down what are biggest pitfalls to the marathon from physical ability to social pressures. By breaking down these barriers from the get go, we can establish what we need to do to combat them and make our marathon training successful.