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Marathon Training In Adverse Weather

by Karl Gruber
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One of the key things you will learn to deal with as you progress through your marathon or half marathon training is adverse weather conditions. While winter weather is on the minds of almost all runners in North America right now, runners in the southern hemisphere are dealing with heat, sun and humidity. Whether you are training in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil or Pittsburgh, eventually you will have to train in less than ideal weather. Learning how to run in bad weather during your training can be a lifesaver for you come race day!

A few years ago, I was coaching a local charity’s marathon training group for the Kona Marathon, which is usually scheduled for June. The daily temperature in Kona, Hawaii typically runs between 75 to 85 degrees (365 days a year) and is usually accompanied by some pretty intense sunshine. Though the group began their training in February, in the heart of winter, but they would be running 26.2 miles in the exact opposite conditions come race day. 

I remember taking the group on a training run on a Sunday morning; it was only 8 degrees outside with six inches of fresh snow. It was ironic since they would be running in Hawaiian heat and sunshine, wearing as little clothing as possible on race day! 
The bottom line — for them and for any runner who will be traveling for a race — is that you train in whatever weather you’re given and then simply prepare yourself for race day conditions as best as possible. 

You may already know this, but most runners tend to tend to run better in — and enjoy —colder conditions. Cooler temperatures keep your body from burning up your fuel too soon, overheating, and dehydrating.  Here are some tips for you runners having to deal with cold weather during your training:
 
  • Wear layers of mostly polyester or spandex clothing. This allows for insulation of your body’s core temperature, while also allowing much of your sweat to be wicked away from your skin. This is important since any moisture retained in your clothing causes you to become colder.
  • Run with a pair of pullover cleats or tracks on your running shoes to keep you upright and safe when running on ice and compacted snow.
  • Protect you neck and face with a neck gaiter. A neck gaiter is another piece of technical gear that will keep freezing air from wafting down your neckline, as well as be pulled up over your nose, mouth and ears to stifle the frigid wind chill factors.
  • Shoe gaiters are also available to cover the tops of your shoes. Usually you see trail runners using these to keep rocks and dirt from getting inside their shoes, but they are also perfect for keeping the snow and slush out, too.
  • Consider wearing water resistant or waterproof running shoes. Waterproof shoes are often trail running shoes, but they are also perfect for snowy, wet and slushy conditions because of their enhanced tread pattern designed for better traction.
Runners who have to deal with warmer climates have to learn to adapt in other ways. Some have been known to do stationary running in a sauna or put on lots of clothing and run indoors on a treadmill. But for you those of you simply experiencing hot weather right now, here are some tips to beat the heat during your training runs:
 
  • Wear lightweight, technical — again, mainly polyester — clothing to allow your skin to breathe and keep you from overheating.
  • Apply plenty of sun block, especially if you are training in a tropical part of the world. As a former resident of Hawaii myself, I learned within just a couple days just how intense the sun’s rays are in the tropics. Without a good sun blocker like 50 SPF sunscreen, a sunburn can quickly derail your marathon training.
  • Carry a water bottle or run a course with very frequent water stops! Even if you are new at training for a long distance race, it won’t take you long to learn that dehydration leads to poor running performance and can be a danger to your well-being.
  • Wear a sports hat with a brim to protect your face from the hot sun. There are now hats with not only a front brim but a long piece of fabric hanging from the back that covers the back of your neck. Again, this is all designed to protect you from getting sunburned and keep you running your best.
  • A tip I learned during my time in Hawaii is to grab some ice at one of the aid stations and put it on the top of your head under your cap. This is a very effective way to stay cool, and keep your core body temperature down, especially on race day.
  • Run before the sun comes up or after it goes down!
These tips are great for training season, but what are you to do if you’re forced to run your marathon in the opposite conditions you trained in? While hardly the most definitive advice, all you can do is adapt as best as you can to whatever weather on race day.

I wish I could say that preparing to train and race in bad weather was an exact science, but sometimes it’s a bit of a guessing game as the weather can change drastically in a short amount of time. Simply take some of these tips and run with them. Prepare as best as you can and keep your sights set on that finish line!

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