Conquering a tough marathon workout in awful weather

With rain falling in torrents, and a southerly wind gusting, I took on my most significant marathon-specific session.

Tick. Or checkmark, as I used to call it, in Canada. The universal symbol for a job completed. In some very wet and windy conditions, I tackled the biggest marathon workout of my training block so far.

And I’m pleased to report it went pretty well.

The marathon workout was part of a 37km Sunday long run. The goal was to run 4 x 5km at 3:20/km pace in the middle, with the efforts coming off a 1km float (at approximately 4:00/km).

My pal Greg, who is also training for Canberra, was running a similar marathon workout (5 x 5km). We had planned a 5km route beforehand, and set-up a drinks table (i.e. ironing board) at the midway point. We wanted to practice pulling bottles and getting our fluids and gels down at pace.

Greg was targeting 3:35s, which he nailed. But because our pacing was different we were staggered for almost the entire run.

Despite running solo, it was good for accountability to know someone else was putting in the same effort, and we’d give each other a holler as our paths crossed.

Team effort adds energy

And it wasn’t just Greg helping out. This marathon workout was a massive team effort. My coach, Barry Keem, braved some God-awful conditions to guard our drinks table and mind our gear.

And the rest of our crew sacrificed more enjoyable long-runs to come slog out their respective 25-35 kms on a relatively short stretch of bike path, all to cheer us on and occasionally hop-in with Greg for some stretches.

Their help and energy out on the course was invaluable, as we weren’t exactly gifted with optimal (or more accurately, fair) weather. It was downright dismal. When I got to Fairy Meadow beach at 5:55 am to set-up our drinks table it was still dark. There were some menacing grey clouds overhead, and there was a strong southerly wind, but the skies hadn’t yet opened-up.

That quickly changed. The first raindrops started to fall around 6:45, about 4km into the warm-up. By the time I hit 7km, and was ready to dig-into my marathon workout, it was coming down more forcefully. And before that first 5km effort was finished, I was as saturated as I could have been. Head-to-toe, soaking wet. On top of that, each 5km south-bound effort had us running into a near 40km/hr headwind.

Now, this could have been taken as a negative. It would have been pretty easy to start feeling sorry for ourselves, and our water-logged feet, and take a kilometre or two off. But this marathon workout was all about simulating race day; everything from dinner the night before, down to our morning routine of breakfast and bathroom. We actually saw this inclement weather as a good thing.

Bad weather = great training

I don’t want to curse myself and say race day conditions couldn’t be any worse; but they couldn’t be much worse. We were fighting through downpours and wind during long stretches of our marathon workout, but we remained calm, ran in rhythm, and persevered.

I’ve written before about why I love running in the rain, and why runners should embrace bad weather, and one of my main arguments has been this: braving the elements helps makes you race ready.

If you train in sub-optimal weather, you won’t dread those same conditions on race day, if they happen. And you’ll be all the more ready to smash your goals if the conditions are perfect! As one teammate commented afterwards, running in conditions like we did is character building!

Overall, it was a solid marathon workout, and my longest run of the training block. I nailed my targets, running 3:21/km average pace for the first block, into the wind (16:45), 3:18s for the second effort (16:30), 3:20s for the third (16:42) and 3:18s for the final effort (16:31). It was a good finish to another solid week.

Entire training week at a glance

  • Total KM: 136. A slight taper, factoring in the big Sunday session.
  • Longest Run: 37.5 km. This was a the Sunday long run and marathon workout.
  • Toughest run: The aforementioned marathon workout, not because of pace, but certainly because of the conditions. I also ran a Mona Fartlek on the track on Tuesday (see below).
  • Biggest confidence booster: The marathon workout. This was all about simulating race day and it went well. It was also one of the milestone workouts in our training block, so it was great to get it ticked-off. The body was feeling (mostly) good throughout the entire run, and I seem to have pulled-up reasonably well.

Key session

The original plan was to race a half marathon on Sunday, but I couldn’t get down to Canberra for the Weston Creek race. So we modified the program, and I did 4 x 5km instead. Had I raced, I would have had a light 1/2 Mona session on Tuesday. But with no race, I ran the full workout.

My goal with the Mona Fartlek was to target 5k pace for the efforts (2:55-3:00/km), but to not let my floats get slower than marathon pace.

I felt pretty good throughout the session, and ended up running about 6.4 km (or 3:05/km for the 20 minute workout). The stats are here. The rest of the week was easy running leading into Sunday.

Concerns moving forward

There are a lot of positives to take away from my training and from the marathon workout on Sunday.

But I’m also conscious there are some things I need to be diligent about managing over the next four weeks, as race day approaches.

My foot is still sore, and as I got into the later stages of my workout, I could feel it beginning to ache more acutely. I was running in Nike 4%, which is the shoe I plan to race in. It’s a shoe I love, but one where you seem to get the most benefit when you strike in the mid-foot and rock forward.

However, because of my foot, I was doing a lot more landing and taking-off on my toes, which negates the benefit and also takes a toll on the calves. Over the next few weeks, I’m going to do everything in my power to alleviate the pain in my heel.

Sore foot, nagging hamstring

Another minor concern is some tightness I’ve been experiencing in my left hamstring. It’s been there, off and on, for the better part of a few months now. Not necessarily painful, but most definitely annoying when it decides to act up. And recently, that’s been on almost every run.

I’ve spoken to my physiotherapist about it, and I’ll mention it again this week when I see him. It’s something I’m trying to correct over the long-term with a better strength regimen, but over the next few weeks, I’ll try to stretch and foam roll the area to keep it agreeable.

Despite these little aches and annoyances, I’m feeling pretty good and excited to race in Canberra, which is fast approaching. I’ll be back next week with another update, on what should be a big week of mileage, but relatively easy from a speed vantage point.

For now, you can follow me on Strava. Or message me if you have any questions or tips at myles@runcreature.com. And you can help us grow RunCreature by reading and sharing our great content.

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I’m Myles Gough. I’m a distance runner, writer and teacher. I started RunCreature to tell stories about athletes, runners, and the issues that matter to our community. 

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