Why you Should Train for Grandma’s Like It’s a Warm Weather Race
If you’re training for Grandma’s Marathon, your training is probably getting underway right around now. So here’s a thought and suggestion that is timely, if a little strange on first impressions: You should train for Grandma’s like it’s a warm weather marathon.
Let’s start with a few uncontroversial training principles that underlie this suggestion, that are all variations on the idea that training should be specific. We’re all familiar with this idea as it touches pace. If you want to run a marathon in 3:05, 7-minute miles have got to feel pretty comfortable, and so on up and down the range. But the principle applies to other areas of training, and intersect with the pace requirement since running a given pace is easier or harder under different conditions.
- You should train at the same time of day as your race. Admittedly 7:45 — the Grandma’s start time — is not convenient for many people with jobs, but you don’t need to do this every day. Some training around the time of day you’ll be racing is a good thing.
- You should do some training on the same kind of terrain you’ll be racing on. Grandma’s is not an especially challenging marathon, but if you can throw some hills in towards the end of your run you’ll not be phased by Lemon Drop hill at mile 22.
- You should train in the climatic conditions you can expect in your race.
- Finally, full adaptation to pace and conditions takes 4-8 weeks.
Here’s where you need to get specific and recognize how your Grandma’s training weather may not prepare you all that well for Grandma’s race weather.
See, here’s the thing about Grandma’s. You’re doing the bulk of your hard training for Grandma’s in the Twin Cities in April and May. As the graph above shows the average dew point (the best way to measure humidity) at 8 a.m. is well below 50 for most of your training period. 50 is around the point where humidity will start to affect your performance in a marathon ever so slightly, at 55 you might be a minute shy of the best you could expect on the day, and at 60 most people’s performances will be impacted a couple of minutes.
But at 11 a.m. at Canal Park in Duluth on the 3rd Saturday in June, when many people are finishing the average dew point is 55, and there’s a 1 in 4 chance the dew point will be 60 or higher (the 10 a.m. dew points are pretty similar for the elites). All of this makes the weather you can expect at Grandma’s significantly more humid than the weather you’ve probably been training in. Of course, there’s a good chance, about 1 in 4, that the weather will be close to ideal for marathoning, with dewpoints and temperatures below 50. That’s great, and you’ll enjoy it all the more if you’ve trained for hotter weather.
But let’s say you’ve trained through the Minneapolis spring, enjoying the 55°-60 days in your t-shirt and the low humidity we average in spring. You’ll feel comfortable for the first half, but in the second half a fairly typical Grandma’s weather situation: 57° dew point, 59° temperature, for example, might well start to catch up with you. That’s the dirty secret about marathons, a lot of the disasters feel pretty good until about 15 miles…
The good news is that you can expect Grandma’s won’t be really hot, or even really humid. It’s highly unlikely the dewpoint will get past 65° in June, or that the finish line temperature will be above 70. You don’t have to train as if you’re jumping out of a Minneapolis winter to run a summer marathon in the Australian outback. But you do need to train for a marathon that on a typical day has high relative humidity, and higher dew points than you probably experienced for your hardest workouts.
How to Train for a Warm Weather Race
A marathon is a gamble, and what I’m going to suggest doesn’t guarantee a good performance. Nothing does. But I’ve enjoyed some better than expected warm weather marathons doing what I suggest you do: Dress one layer warmer than normal for some key workouts and long runs.
Let’s take a pretty typical April or May morning in the Twin Cities with temperatures in the 50s and maybe hitting the mid-60s by 11 a.m. Nice day for a run. A lot of you will probably strike out for a long run in a t-shirt. Stop, and add a thermal layer as if the temperature was really in the upper 30s or 40s. You don’t need to add a hat, that’s overkill. Now, just keep that thermal top on for your speedwork or long run. You’ll be sweaty and uncomfortable, and you’ll want to take off the thermal top.
Drink more to compensate for the fluid loss, and get to a shower once you’re done because you’ll be gross. That’s all there is to it. 2-3 runs a week, ideally one of them a workout or long run. If you have a day that approximates Grandma’s weather: dew points in the upper 50s and temperatures just above that, you can just get out and train in it. Run long or run hard and get used to the humidity again. The thermal top is for the typical slightly cooler days.
Fair warning that because many fountains don’t get turned on until May you’ll need to think about fluids on the run more carefully doing this. Know your routes’ gas stations and convenience stores, stash water along the route. Or, I suppose, convince someone to bring you fluids. Whatever it takes.
Good luck and good training!