Dear Fall Marathon: It’s Not You. It’s Me.

Based on some of the responses I got from my Rut post last week, it seems I’m not the only runner-in-training who’s in a bit of a funk right now.

Which got me thinking about the downsides of training for a fall marathon.

Sure, spring marathons have their own winter training challenges: ice, snow, polar vortexes, to name a few.

But training in the summer brings its own special sort of hell.

1. Heat. I know there are people who dream of running Badwater. I’m not one of them. I can barely stand to sit by a pool in the heat, let alone do something to raise my VO2 max threshold.

2. Humidity. Even worse than the heat. Truly. Lately, I may as well have been running on a treadmill in a steam room. While smoking.

3. Schedule. It’s been many moons since I last sat in a classroom, but there is still a part of me that sees “Summer” and wants to take a vacation from everything “Schedule.” Even if your training schedule is as half-assed as mine, it is still a schedule. Screw schedules. I want to be a Grasshopper in the summer, not an Ant.

4. Exhaustion. Summer training kills my sleep. If I want to get a solid run in on a weekday, I’m out the door as the raccoons are heading off to bed. I like to get up early, but there is a difference between getting up early and having coffee in bed vs. getting up early and doing intervals. No rest for the weary during summer marathon training.

5. Social Life. Because I have to be careful of what I eat and drink so I don’t puke on my hot, humid run at dawn, marathon training sure does put a damper in those Summer Nights. No midnight margaritas on the deck the night before a tempo run. If you have my stomach, there is also no: beer, wine, Mexican food, pizza, dairy, salad, anything spicy, or anything that ever touched a vegetable or fruit. I can stomach pancakes or scrambled eggs the night before a long or intense run. With water. Not exactly standard fare at summer soirees.

6. Chafing. When it is cool, I have an idea of where you will chafe, and can glide up properly before you head out. All bets are off when it is hot and humid. I can glide the hell out of every area that touches a waistband, bra strap, pocket – you name it – only to find (when I hop in the shower – Youch!)  that there was a random seam on my singlet that got soaked with sweat and chafed my shoulder blade. I developed a chafing rash on my sockline a few weeks ago. WTF? Short of gliding my entire damn body and slip-sliding all 19 miles, summer long runs are hard lessons in the odd places one can chafe.

7. Sandals. I’m not vain, but I also don’t like scaring people. Which is why I hate baring my marathon training feet to the world. Honest truth: every time I go to my local nail salon, they send a guy over. Apparently, my feet are a man’s job. (???) Nothing worse than putting on a cute pair of sandals and realizing that beneath the dainty straps, all you can see are callouses, healing blisters and missing toenails. At least in winter, no one knows what lurks beneath my Uggs.

8. Dehydration. I am either dehydrated, or recovering from being dehydrated, or worried about being dehydrated. All. The. Damn. Time. I am sick of carrying a water bottle everywhere I go. I am tired of Gatorade. I don’t want to add chia seeds to everything. I don’t want to check the color of my pee. I am still a little confused by salt pills. I want a beer. I want more beer.

9. Outdoor time. In the winter, running gives me a good reason to head outdoors. What other excuse do I have for getting some fresh air and Vitamin D when it is 8 degrees? In the summer I have lots of reasons to be outdoors, many of which involve shade, a cool drink and a book. I don’t need the lure of a 3 hour run through the rainforest to motivate me to leave my house.

10. Performance Depression. No matter how hard I run, how much water I drink, how well I fuel, if I look at my pace on my Garmin, I know I will not be impressed. I know, I know – training is more about effort than pace. Even Hanson says so. BUT, there’s something a little thankless about running your heart out only to find that you actually are moving at a snail’s pace.Almost backwards at times. Say what you will about cold temps, but they at least make you zippy.

Two of my bucket list marathons – New York and Chicago – are in the Fall, so I’m probably not done with the fall marathon yet. And the truth is, the fall is a GREAT time to race.

I just wish the summer was a good time to train.

How do you feel about training in the summer? The winter? Ever? Which races are on your bucket list?

52 thoughts on “Dear Fall Marathon: It’s Not You. It’s Me.

  1. I’ve thought about this before, but the way I think of it is that we always train through the hardest seasons so that we can try to race during the best. It would be awesome to train through fall, but you never know what you’ll get in the winter. Except suckage.

    • Good point. I don’t think I’d like to race in winter. I sure do love to train in winter, though. At least when you finish a 20-miler in the snow, you feel a little badass. When I finish a 20-miler in the heat, I just feel sick.

  2. Both winter and summer have some evils, but at least training in the summer is easier with early morning sunrises, late evening sunsets, and the lack of ice or other slippery substances all over the ground. Maybe I’m just bitter because with the exception of 72 miles outside, the rest of my 650 miles this past winter training for Boston were done on the treadmill.

  3. Ohhh great post and expressed perfectly. I’m training for several half marathons and running towards 50ish+ miles per week and I have to tell you, I’ve been truly aggravated with summer lately. I’m so ready for cooler weather. Humidity and dew point really bring my runs down. I’ve been having a tough time mentally and physically lately. I can’t hit any of my speedwork and it seems most runs are miserable and I love running. This summer has been an awful one as far as humidity and dew point. I’ve finally decided just to let go and things will get better. If I don’t hit my speedworkouts perfectly it’s fine! I’ll be fine! 🙂 I love running in cold weather!! Good luck with your workouts! Just remember it’ll get better! XOXO

    • Absolutely we have to let it go, let it goooooo! I just hate that feeling of running through peanut butter. And feeling depleted instead of invigorated afterward. But yes! Before we know it, it will be crisp and cool. And then downright cold.

      • Haha, you’re so funny! Yes, I love the reference of running through peanut butter. So so true! Yes, I can definitely relate to feeling depleted after runs! But YES it will be nice and cold one day soon (hopefully very soon)! 🙂

  4. I’d much rather be breathing in snowflakes than tasting the humid air. All the cow farms I run by are 100% more smelly in the humidity too! I also can’t stand the sun in the summer. My Irish skin can’t handle it! In the winter I LOVE the sun! I’m actually getting a little excited for winter now 🙂 haha

    • My irish skin and family history of melanoma don’t jive with summer sun either. I love running through snowflakes. Bring it!!
      Oh, my, on the cow farms. I have never run past a farm in the heat, but running through Manhattan in the summer could get pretty stinky. Yuck.

  5. Amen. I’m an old runner, new triathlete. I learned the beauty of salt from my tri friends after I salt bonked in Boston (my body strongly dislikes racing long in anything over 55-60 so when it was 70+, I sweated out all my salt). Base salts are like little happy bits in a bottle. They’re perfect. I started marathon training with endurolytes and now use base since it comes in a handy little bottle you can carry and it’s easier to digest. Seriously, if you don’t use salt, get some and you’ll notice a difference, if not in your running, in your recovery!

    • Thank you so much. I use S Caps and I do think they make a difference. I might need to be more vigilant about using them during my runs – not just before. I confess, I am TERRIBLE about fueling during runs because I am always so careful with my stomach. S Caps don’t seem to give me trouble, though. I’ll definitely step it up for the rest of this heat wave (which I think is breaking this weekend – fingers crossed!)

  6. Love it! So true about the difference between coffee in the morning vs intervals in the morning! I also have Chicago on my bucket list and it sounds a whole lot better than MCM right now because it would mean I’d be done in 6 weeks vs 8 weeks! I’m in grad school so this extra 2 weeks of training & school overlap is killing me. Put me down for “never ever” training for a marathon again. P.S. I hate grad school.

    • I seriously don’t know how you do it. I am in awe. How much longer do you have in grad school? And do you really really hate it or just what it is doing to your life? Either way, kudos to you.
      But -MCM!!! You will love it! I promise!

      • No, I don’t really hate it. 😦 I hate that I can’t be a better runner right now, that’s all. And I have a year left of school. Can’t wait to hear about your Chicago though because I really want to do that one year! Everyone I know who has run it has loved it.

  7. I kinda like running in the summer heat. Training in it provides a huge or as President Trump might say a Yoooooge boost once the cooler temps roll in. Bucket list marathon – Paris. Reality – I may pack up my marathon shoes after Philadelphia in November and just run halfs. Is there a half in Paris? And beer, beer is good.

    • I have had a particularly hard time with sports bras. At some point, it isn’t even chafing anymore. It’s a laceration. The best one I have found is Lululemon Ta-Ta Tamer. The band and straps are wide and completely smooth and it has made a huge difference. People also love the C2 sports bras that Target carries, but they don’t fit me properly.

  8. I have learned this: Salt is my goddamn BFF. It’s been my salvation this summer training with Hansons. Which is slowly killing me……

    You know how badly I SUCK in the heat. I still SUCK. But way less so lately.

  9. I agree to all of this…especially the delicate stomach, which is so agitated in the summer. Plus, I find it sometime hard to push myself in the fall because I so not used to running in the cooler temps and decreased humidity (I am in Houston, TX).

  10. I feel you 100%. For the last 2 summers, I dealt with everything you mentioned to train for fall marathons. I ended up injured last summer and missed the marathon.
    For redemption, I signed up for a spring marathon. Although it was cold and winter vortex was in full effect, I found it easier to train in the cold. The only disadvantage was logging treadmill miles when the roads were not clear to run outside.
    With that said, I have taken the entire summer off and only run to maintain fitness (20 miles a wk max).
    Now, I am starting to ramp up a little for some fall halfs.
    Hats off to you and all the others staying committed to fall marathons during all this humidity.

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  12. At this point in my training I feel that training, any training, makes running work and sucks the fun out of it. Ask me again after I cross the finish line at the MCM and I might answer differently.

    As for bucket list marathons, it’s any one of these 3-NYC, Boston, or MCM. (I am about to live the dream, thanks to you, and run MC). Would also love to run one in Rome or Paris.

  13. Everything about this post made me feel better. Maybe that’s not what you were going for, but knowing others are feeling the same way means I’m not alone in this angry place, haha. I’m sitting here at work watching the sun get higher and the temps rise (we are looking at 92, sunny and humid here today), and I’m feeling more and more angry about my 12 mile tempo run. I have to be at work by 7 am and I live on a busy, hilly road – even if I got up at 2am, I would have to drive somewhere to do it. I’m cranky. I’m ranting. I know we are at the finish line with summer, but it needs to be done. Oh, and the exhaustion thing you mentioned – struggle bus right here. I went to bed early. I slept a little later. I should feel well rested. I don’t. That special kind of hell you mentioned? I’m in it with you sister!

    • I’m glad I made you feel better. You are not alone. And if I gotta be in hell, I do appreciate having good company.
      I’m cranky, too. And I understand that feeling of “even if I get up at 2…” – we can be as flexible (and crazy) as we want and sometimes the schedule is just going to suck. Or not work out. Ugh. Good luck today.

  14. It’s just gone Spring here and I can’t wait for Summer. This year at the height of the season (December to February) we aren’t training for anything major at all, I’m looking forward to a no-running-schedule Summer…You must almost be in Autumn so not long now for the cool change. Hang in there.

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