Marathons: Spring Vs Autumn

Is it better to train through the freezing Winter…or the sweltering Summer?

Frankfurt will be my first autumn marathon.  The previous 3 have all been spring marathons which means cold dark nights, cold early mornings and bloody freezing long weekend runs.

This Winter was one of the coldest in history, so cold in fact RW editor Andrew Dixon said ‘Those who’ve marathon trained through this UK winter are 23.7777% tougher than in previous years. Fact.’  This prompted my Dad to respond with ‘When I was steel fixing in 1963 and the snow was 4ft thick for 3 months and I was riding my bike to and from work was 100% tougher than any marathon runner’ but whatever, it was cold and I was brave!

Britain Weather

Finding the motivation to head out for an after-work run after a warm cozy tube ride home or a 3 hour weekend run when it was snowing was challenging to say the least.  The seasons are changing, I don’t think I got a single long run in when it wasn’t really cold, and inevitably the day of the marathon itself was warm and sunny which wasn’t ideal considering training conditions.

When I signed up for Frankfurt I promised myself no pressure.  There’d be no slave to the plan, no regimented mileage and no ‘junk’ miles.  I did all that for London and it didn’t improve my time.  This time I planned to run smarter, run less, recover more, and remember that I’m doing it for the love of running (and the new bling…and the mini break abroad…and the post race celebrations…)

For the most part, training through the summer has been a pleasure; warm light evenings and sunny days beat the cold, dark and dodgy ice patches anytime, it lifts your spirits.  There have been downsides of course, we had a couple of heatwaves earlier this Summer and it made the long runs tougher than I had appreciated, my pace slowed, I had to get out the door early and I needed to take on more water than I was used to.  But I wouldn’t complain about it!

brockwell-park-brixton-2012-10

My long runs have generally been slower than in the Winter.  I don’t know why, in all honesty I feel fitter than ever so it doesn’t make sense to me.  I’m hoping it’s because I’m putting more effort into weekly tempo and track sessions which weren’t part of my schedule before and therefore I’m not as fresh on the long runs as I might have been.  Or it might be the increase in temperature (when it’s -7 you run as fast as you can just to get it over with), but I’m trying not to let it worry me.

So, is it better to train through the Winter or the Summer?  No doubt the Summer is much more enjoyable but how will this affect my race?  Has my pace been compromised?   Jury’s still out, my marathon time might have the answer…

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2 thoughts on “Marathons: Spring Vs Autumn

  1. This is a tough one. I legitimately enjoy training in the winter. I live in Chicago, so the weather can be brutally cold between December and February, but I bundle up and gut through it. I’ve done it for the last four years and actually like it. The problem is when you’re training for a marathon in April or May because it can suddenly warm up out of nowhere, killing your groove.

    Fall marathons are definitely the way to go. You build up heat tolerance in summer and then murder your expected time come October or November. That said, you have to do it at the expense of running in heat and humidity, which strangle the enjoyment out of any run. It’s a tradeoff, really, but we learn to live with it. Great question 🙂

    1. That’s what happened in London this year, it was a really sunny day so I struggled after spending the winter layered up.
      I’m hoping to kill it in Frankfurt after some warmer weather over the last few months!

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