Saturday, December 28, 2013

HANSON TAPER (Six Months Too Late)

This post is a long time coming and approximately six months overdue.

See, this one time I ran a marathon. This past June, in fact. I put a ton of hard work into training and was rewarded with an awesome race day. Finishing the marathon wasn't the life-changing event I think it was supposed to be, but it was SO MUCH FUN.


One of the main reasons I enjoyed marathon training (and the marathon itself) so much is that I followed the Hanson Method. If you've been around the interblogs for any length of time, you've probably heard of this plan. You know, run every day but max out at 16 miles. The plan that crazy people follow.

Although my glory days are behind me (and yet to come, hopefully? I don't think it's a stretch to call the present the "not-so-glory" running days), a lot of people continue to stumble upon this blog via Hanson searches on Google, the most common of which is some variation of "WHAT IS UP WITH THE HANSON TAPER ARE THEY CRAZY WILL I DIE?" Which led me to realize that I never actually talked about the taper after the race! So, given how much I freaked out about it at the time, I figured I owe it to all the Hanson wannabes out there to give my opinion post-race.

Before I do that, though, here are some posts on the Hanson Method, now in one easy-to-find place!

Hanson Method And A Hike - the beginning of the end (or, my thoughts prior to starting the plan)
Let's Talk Hanson Tempos - my thoughts on running tempos at a significantly slower pace than most training plans
Hansons!! Where's My Taper Time? - freaking out about running a billion miles just prior to the race.
"It's Mostly Pictures, I Swear!" Mayor's Marathon Recap - the marathon recap, in case you're interested.
Hanson Method Review - my overall impressions

My Review of the Hanson Marathon Method - I didn't actually write this, but it's a good and very thorough review from Gina (the Runivore), who also had a lot of success with the plan.

Anyway, you can breathe easy, Hanson-ees, because the Hanson taper is awesome. It truly is. This will likely come as a shock because Runner's World and "common sense" tell us this can't possibly be the case, but it is!

First, the Hanson philosophy vis-a-vis taper:

"... consider how you would feel if you were accustomed to drinking a couple of cups of coffee in the morning and then suddenly gave it up cold turkey. Your body probably will react with a dull headache. If instead you cut back to one cup, you limit the effects of withdrawal and usually end up feeling better. This is the same idea - reduce the stress while keeping the body happy and in its preestablished routine. By continuing to run fewer miles, but still running the same number of days, you reduce the number of variables that are adjusted. Instead of reducing frequency, volume, and intensity, you are tinkering only with the last two."

This, for me, proved true. From what I've read, the main issues people deal with while tapering are:

1) losing fitness (in fact, the Hansons do believe a 2 - 4 - week taper will cause you to lose fitness)
2) being even more tired/sluggish than during peak training
3) going insane from being sedentary

I didn't have to deal with any of these things. My main concern was that I was unnecessarily wearing myself out, but that concern faded a few days before the marathon. And on race day, I felt fantastic: no aches/pains, fresh legs, optimistic and excited to run. It's impossible to know whether I would have felt better had I tapered differently, but looking back it's hard to see how it could have gone any better than it did.

I haven't read anyone else's thoughts on the Hanson taper (Gina didn't run for a couple of weeks prior to her race because of shin pain) so my experience could well be unique. I think you'll be successful with this plan no matter how you taper, but if/when I use it for a future race, I plan to follow their taper again.


  1. Never trained the hanson method before, so I can't comment on that approach.
    But--I do think on my next race, I need to do less of a taper. I get so worked up on race day, that I think I actually need my legs/body to be tired in order to run a good race.

  2. Haha - "The plan that crazy people follow" - I definitely would agree with that! It is a crazy plan but I am so glad I did it. It's really helpful to read about how well the taper went for you. As you mentioned, I never got to find out (or make the decision on whether I'd stick to it as prescribed) since I got hurt a couple weeks before my race, but if/when I do Hansons again I'll be more likely to stick to their taper based on your experience.

    And thanks for sharing my review!

  3. As a fellow Hanson devotee - I have to agree! No taper madness there. Even though I remember thinking, 'dude, where's my taper?' (9km on the Thursday before the marathon Sunday. Mmm. Fortunately it was in a totally new place so I got to go runsploring.)

  4. All of your posts on your opinion/experience of the Hasons training plan are so helpful! And now they are conveniently linked all in one place. Woohoo! If all goes well this spring, I am hoping to start training for marathon #2 in July, with my sights set on an October marathon. I want to try something different from what I used for my first marathon, so I bought the Hansons book and have been reading through it. It's yet to be decided, but I'm thinking I'll go the Hansons route.

  5. thanks for this post - it's exactly what i was looking for! i've been using a modified version of the ryan hall training plan, but wanted to incorporate some elements of the HMM - and now that i'm in the final taper week i wanted to see if i could switchover to the hansons' approach to tapering ... and i think that i can!

  6. This is exactly what I needed to hear! I got here via suggestion by Gina @ The Runivore and boy am I glad I did... I have been following the HM strictly so far and didn't want to diverge from their wisdom at the last minute by following conventional wisdom in regards to tapering! Thank you thank you thank you!

  7. I'm a little late to this. I am running Marine Corps 2015 and I'm in the middle of my Hanson taper and getting nervous so I started googling stuff. This made me feel better and we'll stick to it and see what happens. The only point I would clarify in all these strings about Hanson is the 16 mile long run. I read that chapter differently and I still did my 20 milers - I would warm up for 2, then do 16 at the recommended pace and then cool down for 2. 2+16+2=20.