Speed (Not on track). Why I tell my athletes to not hit the track during marathon speed.

Think twice before heading to the track during marathon buildup

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If you purchase a schedule from us via our partners at Final Surge, you’ll notice the title of this post as a notation in the speed work days. While I hint at it very little in the book, it was brought to my attention that I never really give a full explanation. So, let’s set the record straight as to Speed (not on track)

Kevin and Keith Hanson
Kevin and Keith Hanson

The vast majority of Hansons Marathon Method comes from my experience with The Godfather’s, Kevin and Keith Hanson. I simply noted what I had observed through their coaching of these specific programs to the masses and the philosophy to individuals. You see, every year, starting in April or May (whenever the snow is completely gone) the brothers start a community speed workout day (Tuesdays) at Dodge Park. It’s great, as it is about a mile dirt path that allows complete viewing and easy cone placement. The speedwork then switches over to follow the marathon program for The Detroit Marathon beginning in mid June. So, here, not doing it on a track easily allows larger groups of people to participate.


Now, admittedly, the first reason was purely about logistics and nothing particular about physiology, there are specific reasons as to why I personally prescribe it that way. The main reason is that in the classic schedules, you are doing speed work every week for several weeks in a row. If you aren’t used to doing speed work on a track regularly, then it can be a setup for developing injury. All the torque of the turns on that left leg has stopped more than one runner. Speed itself is a risk factor for injury, so let’s minimize it by taking the constant turns out of play.

Think twice before heading to the track during marathon buildup
Think twice before heading to the track during marathon buildup


The second reason is that I know you. I know that when I say 10k pace, you’ll cheat it down to 5k pace. That’s easy to do on a track. If you have to do it on the roads, 10k pace is usually hard enough to nail. So, in a sense, getting you off the track is a built in speed governor. In combination with above, I can drastically reduce your injury potential while giving you plenty of hard work.


The third reason is that while I want to maintain balance I want you to develop that marathon mindset from the beginning. On the track, you can zone out to a degree. Here, I can force you to be aware of your surroundings. You’ll have to pay more attention to what you are doing, the terrain you are running, and how you are approaching what’s ahead of you.

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Shovel winter track
Shovel winter track

The last reason is purely practical as well. Over the years I found that the majority of my runners either wake up and head straight out the door or head out right after work. Much of the time that means that a track is more than a warm up jog away. this way a runner can program their gps and just go do the workout without feeling like they are missing something by not being on the track. It also takes into account the winter variable.

Unless you are willing to shovel off lane one in January or February, this makes it a lot easier to just go out and get a workout in.



To wrap this up, it’s not imperative that you avoid the track, I would just prefer not to make it a weekly habit during marathon training. Remember, the speed we are working on is relative to the distance we are racing. Unless you are racing marathon after marathon, we would dedicate specific segments to shorter and faster races that would allow you rip some fast work on the track. That friends, are the simple reasons why I say Speed (not on track).

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