I'm also going to breakdown the plan into three phases because while I was going through the training, I felt like I went through three different stages. I'm going to classify the first month or two of the training program as Phase One. So what happens in this phase? If you already have a solid mileage base, very little/minor changes will be evident. If you are coming back after taking extended time-off or a long rest due to injury, you will experience the most change.
Sometimes change can be good and also bad which is the case for this training plan. HMM is an 18-week training plan that will have you running 6-days a week with one rest day. This is true even on the beginner's plan. The beginner's plan peaks at 57-miles and the advance plan peaks at 63 about three weeks from the race date. This seemed crazy to me at first. Crazy and scary.
I decided to go with the advance plan only because I had already built up a modest base by the time I started this plan. So my experience with this plan will be based on someone who had normally trained 3-5 days a week of running mixed in with cross-training.
The book does mention that if you are training for your first marathon and don't have a time goal aside from finishing that the beginner's plan is the way to go. Having said that I feel like the beginner's plan might be challenging if you've never ran before...like ever. The beginner's plan is also a good introduction to the running 6-days a week thing if that seems daunting.
The first week or two will be tolerable and you'll feel really proud of yourself because you're running 6-days a week. That's only because there are no 'workout' runs yet. You will however feel tired by Sunday. Your legs may even feel sluggish towards the end of your Sunday long runs.
Week three is where the speed (track) and tempo workouts start. This week will seem shocking at first especially when you look back. I had a hard time maintaining pace on the final miles of my first tempo run. Do yourself a favor at this point and don't look ahead on the schedule because it will just freak you out but take comfort knowing that by the end you will be doing everything on the schedule and feeling awesome about it...for the most part. You will be tired but you will feel awesome! Trust me. Tempo runs will become your most favorite thing. Just me?
When you reach the end of the first month, you will feel really fatigued. I mean really really TIRED.
I remember just crawling into bed every night at 9 pm and be dead asleep in five minutes. You will wonder if you will be able to carry on with the plan because this is only the beginning and things will just add on. I was constantly talking about being tired at this point. I did skip a couple of runs the first month because I was so tired and I didn't want to get injured running with poor form due to fatigue. Looking back maybe I could have benefited from starting with the beginner's plan like a friend had suggested but I guess my ego got in the way. This feeling of fatigue will go on for another couple of weeks while your legs and body adjust to the 6-days of running regime. The important thing to do at this point is HANG ON. Just hang on no matter how tired you feel or how much you hate the plan. Just keep moving. Slowly if you have to but don't give up on the plan because the feeling of fatigue will ease. It's almost like going up a hill. At some point, you will reach the summit and you will be glad that you stuck with it.
I mean it's not going to be cake after Phase One but you do acclimate to the new normal. Your body is amazing, you can put it through hell and it will still come through for you. Believe it or not more crazy stuff starts to happen in Phase Two.