When training for my first marathon, I used Hal Higdon's Novice Program. I'd used several of his programs for other races, and I liked them, so I figured it would be a good fit. Unfortunately, after my long run was up over 15 miles, I injured my right knee. Rather than taking time off of running to let it heal, I continued to run through the pain. It got so bad that eventually, I had to start giving myself walk breaks when the pain got unbearable.
My first marathon experience was miserable for a number of reasons, but a big factor was my injured knee. I walked a LOT during the last three miles of the race. The injury, plus the heat (the heat index was over 100 that day), and stomach issues made a bad race experience, and my finish time was 5:26:14.
I was determined to redeem myself, and have a GOOD marathon experience, so I immediately registered for a fall marathon--the Detroit Free Press Marathon in October 2012. This time, I figured less running would be better to prevent injury, so I chose to do a three-days-per-week program that focuses on three good quality runs per week.
My right knee managed to heal, but once again, when my long run got up to about 15 miles, I injured my left knee. I had a very hard time with my training, but a better race. The weather was great, which made a huge difference. But once I hit mile 18 or 19, my legs just didn't want to run anymore. It was everything I could do to keep going. My legs just weren't prepared, and I had to keep stopping to stretch for a minute or two at a time.
I finished in 4:51:51, below my goal of 5 hours, but I wasn't happy that I wasn't able to power through and run the whole thing. I had to keep stopping to stretch for the last 10K or so, because my legs cramped up so badly. But I was happy enough with the time that I just decided I was done with marathons.
|Jerry had to pull my pants on for me, because I couldn't move!|
Then my friend Andrea mentioned running her first marathon, and in the excitement of being in Key West at the time, I said I'd be happy to run it with her! We chose Chicago because it was a halfway point between our houses. I originally wrote my own training plan based on what I learned in my RRCA class. My knee, which was totally healed by then, started giving me a couple of twinges when my long run got up to about 14 miles. That's when I heard about the HMM, and considering the longest run is only 16 miles, I thought it might be good for my knees. I really didn't want them to become injured again!
I found the running schedule online, and started following that. But because it was SO different from everything I'd learned, I decided to buy the book to hopefully understand it better. The book was mind-blowing. It explained the science behind the whole method, and it made so much sense. Over the next few months, I ran hundreds of miles; I was running six days a week, 5+ miles each day.
I followed the schedule right to the letter. With the way the HMM works, you can't skip workouts or even swap your runs around. They have to be done in order for a reason. I just trusted the program, and to my surprise, I felt better than ever. I remained uninjured, yet I was running more miles than ever before (50-ish miles per week).
I started to second guess the training when "everyone else" was doing 20-milers, and I "only" had 16. But again, I trusted the program. I figured the worst that could happen was that I'd have a bad race. During the last week before the marathon, I felt like I was in the best shape of my life. I felt more prepared than I had for the previous two, and I wasn't even nervous about running the race.
To keep from being redundant, you can read my Chicago Marathon race report here.
My thoughts, now that the race is over? I think I found a winning program! My legs felt FANTASTIC through the whole race. If it weren't for my stomach issues, which I think was from eating too much during the race, I'm sure I would have finished in around 4:10; and that wasn't even pushing the pace. I felt like I could have gone faster through the first half of the race, but because I didn't have a time goal, I kept my pace on the conservative side to feel my best.
I didn't even start to feel remotely tired until about mile 19, when my legs were still going strong, but I started to feel the effects of all those miles. I'm disappointed that my stomach caused me problems for the last 10K, but I am really happy that I powered through and finished strong, even though I had to slow my pace to keep from vomiting on the side of the road ;)
The thing that has been most amazing to me is my recovery. I am so shocked at how quickly my legs recovered! About an hour after I finished, I speed-walked/ran the two miles to my hotel. I never could have done that after my previous marathons! I didn't have to take any ibuprofen, and by the next morning, the only thing that was a little sore were my hips. But I was up and moving around all day, and my legs felt great. Today, I feel 100% back to normal. (I'm still taking the Hansons' recommended 1-2 weeks off, though!)
Some things of note about the HMM:
- It's very important to follow the program as-written. The runs are in a particular order for a reason, so you can't skip or swap runs.
- This program was NOT easy. It first appealed to me because of the 16-mile long run, and I thought the program would be a piece of cake. As it turned out, this was the hardest training I've ever done!
- I don't think I would recommend this program for beginners/first time marathoners, unless you are running 30+ miles per week, consistently. I ran over 200 miles in August and again in September on the HMM beginner plan. That's a lot of miles!
- I would highly recommend reading the book before you start the program, because it explains in detail WHY the program is written the way it is. (Here is an Amazon link to the book, Hansons Marathon Method; if you are planning to buy it anyway, and you buy it through the link, then I get a small commission).
- It's very important to follow the pacing recommendations in the plan. If it says to do an easy run, then keep your pace easy. Again, there is a reason for this. If you do the easy runs too quickly, you won't be able to hit your paces on your faster runs; you are also risking injury. When I did my easy pace, I felt like I was going SO slow, but I just trusted the program.
- The downside of the program is that it takes a lot of time. I'm a stay at home mom, so I was able to be flexible with the times I could head out for a run; but for someone with a full-time job AND a family, it would be hard to juggle everything.
If I were to ever do another marathon (I'm not saying I am!!), I would definitely do this plan again.