What Should I Wear When Running A Marathon In Winter?

Marathon running is difficult enough without considering inclement weather. These races take months and months of preparation even for those of us in the best shape. Normally marathon runners will find a spring, summer, or fall marathon in which to participate — but running marathons is a year-round activity, and some are even organized in the coldest winter months. What should you wear when running in a cold-weather winter marathon?

First, you need to be prepared for a variety of different weather phenomena. Second, you need to practice running in those different weather phenomena. Third, you need to check the weather before your race.

One of the biggest obstacles to winter marathon running is knowing what clothing to use. Normally, athletes who run or hike in winter weather use a crafty layering system. Once you begin to exercise, your body produces a lot of heat and you will start to sweat. Do too much sweating in cold weather, and you could soon find yourself suffering from hypothermia.

While not as effective, you still need layers when running a marathon in winter. Since you won’t have anywhere to pack those extra layers when you decide to shed them, you’ll have to tie off the unwanted clothing around your waist. 

Here’s the golden rule: Never, ever wear cotton. It gets wet and stays wet.

  • Start with a base layer. When running in especially cold weather, you’ll need a form-fitting base layer. Look for merino wool long underwear for both your legs and torso. It’ll keep you warm and wick extra moisture quickly.
  • Add a middle layer. If necessary, add a thin fleece or synthetic hoodie over your base layer.
  • Add an outer layer. This layer is meant to trap any body heat that escapes the other two layers. Normally you would wear a “puffy” synthetic or down coat with a hood. These are very thin but also very warm.
  • Add a shell. You won’t always need this outer layer, but you’ll want a thin rainproof coat or poncho. Look for water-proof and wind-breaking jackets and pants to make your shell.
  • Add Headgear. Your body loses heat through your head. Try wearing a ski balaclava, ski goggles, and buff. These should keep you warm under the two hoods, but add a quick-dry cap if needed.
  • Gloves. Poor circulation can quicken hypothermia, so when choosing winter gear make sure you have free-range of movement — especially when choosing gloves. Try a fleece base layer underneath a thicker, weather-proof outer layer. Make sure you choose gloves you can clip to a belt or another piece of clothing so you can take them off when you get warm.

  • Shoes/Boots. Running in boots is nigh impossible, so you’ll want to do your research and try on a number of different options. Start with trail runners for warmer weather, and then move on to form-fitting boots for colder weather.
  • Socks. Be sure that your socks are thin enough to fit in your footwear, but thick enough to keep you warm on a cold run. You’ll want wool or synthetic socks — never cotton.

What Is A Trail Marathon And How Can I Train For It?

Most runners will attempt a half-marathon and then a subsequent marathon at some point in their lives. These feats of strength are not for the faint of heart, and they can be both a test of willpower and endurance in addition to mental fortitude. Those with even more drive might embark upon an ultramarathon, some of which span a distance of hundreds of miles. And then there’s a completely different sort of beast that only the most patient, persistent, and capable runners will attempt to tackle: a trail marathon.

Many typical marathons are routed along streets and sidewalks, which means you’ll spend most of your time on pavement. While this can result in the same overuse injuries as those sustained by other professional athletes, they aren’t necessarily difficult for those who have trained in earnest. A lot of marathons also avoid hilly areas.

And therein lies the difference between a marathon and a trail marathon. 

The latter option is for those who prefer a steep climb surrounded by the natural world. When tackling a trail marathon, you won’t have to deal with vehicular traffic — you’ll just have to deal with making it up that next hill, and then down the other side without sliding off a cliff. No big deal, right?

For example, the Iron Mountain Trail Run takes place in Damascus, VA (Trail Town USA) each year and costs a nominal fee to register. The race itself takes place on the old Appalachian Trail (which was eventual redirected to the nearby Grayson Highlands), which was renamed the Iron Mountain Trail. Portions of the route will take runners on the road as well, depending on the course chosen.

There are four options: 16, 30, 40, and 50 miles. That means the IMTR isn’t just a trail marathon — it’s potentially a trail ultramarathon.

Those who fail to train are doomed from the start.

Before even thinking about a trail marathon, runners should do things the old-fashioned way. Run regularly, bike, and swim to build muscle and endurance, but be sure to give tired muscles a chance to build back up. When you’re ready, try a half-marathon, and then a marathon. If you handle those with enough grace, then it’s time to train for the trail marathon.

You should go on long-distance backpacking trips in order to build the muscles that don’t get used during other forms of exercise. You’ll be surprised how much everything hurts after each outing, but slowly you’ll start to feel better about the upcoming trip. Once you’ve grown accustomed to backpacking, it’s time to start running up mountains on the regular. After a few months — you’re ready to register for a lesson in pain.

How Often Are Runners Injured Or Killed While Running A Marathon?

Those who run know the risks — but without risk there is no reward to savor at the finish line. When the London Marathon started in 1981, there were only 6500 runners. Now there are an average of 32,000 who finish the race each year. Because it is the largest “normal sized” marathon in the world, it’s a good source of information through which we can sift to find our answers. How often are runners subject to injury or even death when they try to finish a marathon?

First, it’s important to note that not all marathons are conducted the same way. The London Marathon provides would-be runners with medical advice prior to the race, asking them to agree to only participate should their general healthcare provider agree that they are fit enough to do so. 

On the day of the race there are 40 first aid stations at regular intervals from start to finish — at which point runners will find themselves next to two fully functional field hospitals, one of which has its own intensive care unit for runners who have incurred serious injuries. At least 1000 medical staff are on standby to provide assistance to anyone who gets into trouble.

In other words, the London Marathon is conducted only with the greatest care in mind. 

We’ll start with deaths, the rate of which is fairly low. Over the entire twenty years during which the race has been conducted, there have only been seven deaths — which equates to about one in 67,414. Alternatively, you might consider that one person died for each two million miles run in total during the marathon. 

Casualties or “contacts” are recorded whenever someone stops for medical assistance, even minor, during or after the race. If someone has a bad blister in urgent need of draining, that counts as a contact. In 2000 there were 4,633 contacts out of 32,600 runners. 38 visited the intensive care hospital.

What does this all mean?

Well, you can take it to mean that learned runners are well aware of the risks and often take their own precautions before signing up for a long race, which is why the numbers stay so low. Because most of these contacts are for smaller injuries that don’t necessarily threaten to remove someone from the rest of the race, many runners are also smart enough to have any injury, however small, cared for.

What Happens To Your Body When Running A Marathon Without Training

Training for anything can be tough both mentally and physically. It won’t happen overnight. When you train for a marathon (or even a half-marathon), the idea is to gradually build strength and endurance in order to reduce the strain and impact that long-distance running has on your various metabolisms. Without the proper training these activities can be dangerous! This is what happens to your body when running a marathon without the proper training.

  • Injury. It’s almost unavoidable under these conditions. The sudden increase in physical activity will result in colossal strain on your muscles, bones, tendons, and ligaments. Repetitive activity done without providing your body the time it needs to build itself up can result in the degradation of any of these important mechanical body parts.

    You will feel the pain in your muscles first. They will ache. Many people mistakenly believe lactic acid builds up to cause this pain, but the truth is that damage is done to muscle tissue when they are forced to work harder. The same is true for bones, tendons, and ligaments. They can wear down if you don’t build them up slowly over weeks and months. Bone density can be severely impacted.
  • Blisters. Technically an injury, but part of the reason you’ll get blisters is because you aren’t accustomed to using your footwear to run or walk long distances. You’ll want to break them in over time. Another reason blisters form is because your feet aren’t dry. The friction between your footwear and wet feet creates heat, which in turn damages multiple skin layers and causes serum to collect beneath the now dead outer layer.
  • Hallucinations. You might not expect such a high level of mental decline, but it happens to those who aren’t properly prepared for the rigors of a marathon. Most unfit human specimens can handle about thirteen miles before they experience true mental fatigue, but 26 miles? That’s something else entirely. You might start to see bright colors, objects that aren’t really there, or experience forgetfulness. This is because the data-processing that occurs between the eyes and the brain is severely broken down in these circumstances.
  • Reduced Immune System. When your body is struggling to keep up with the strain, you might experience heart scarring, a weakened thyroid gland, weakened adrenal glands, and more. After the race is over, you might experience infection more easily (especially infections of the respiratory system) and osteoarthritis at a younger age. Even running one marathon without proper training can change your life for the worse.
  • Temperature Regulation. Your body may also have a difficult time regulating temperature. This can be especially dangerous if running in even mild weather when there is a slight wind chill, because hypothermia can set in quickly. Those who aren’t accustomed to strenuous physical activity may not sweat as easily. Although it sounds counter-intuitive, athletes produce sweat more quickly than the rest of us. Their bodies adapt and learn to recognize when it might be necessary to start cooling the body.

 

Should Runners Use The Keto Diet?

You can’t go anywhere these days without hearing about someone who is losing a tremendous amount of weight on Keto. And while it might be great for weight loss, is it beneficial for runners especially those who plan on doing marathons?

Unlike other diets like South Beach or Atkins, Keto is very strict about what you can and cannot eat. The diet is comprised of 80% fat and then about 20% protein. Almost no carbs at all. The average Keto diet consists of only 20 grams of carbs a day. If you enjoy eating fish, meat, eggs, and dairy then Keto is a great choice for you. But if you enjoy healthy carbs like whole wheat or fruit – you are out of luck.

People lose weight because when the body is unable to break down carbs for fuel it will then resort to fat. This is called ketosis. When a body is in ketosis it will produce something called ketones to help break down fat.

But can that actually fuel the brain and muscles in your body? There have been some studies on how athletes adjust to the Keto diet. One study showed that during a 10 week Keto diet the athlete’s body did improve appearance but it did not improve their overall performance. In fact, in the early stages of the diet, many of them had reduced energy and weren’t able to perform high-intensity workouts.

Sometimes people go on the Keto diet and don’t actually get into Ketosis. This is why it might be flawed unless they are continually monitoring their urine for ketones. However, long-distance runners have the tendency to put themselves into Ketosis during a long run, especially when the body has ran out of carb fuel. Scientists believe that marathon runners will adapt better to the Keto diet than those who do a quick jog around the neighborhood because their body is already used to going into Ketosis.

So marathon runners? Will you try the Keto diet?

How Do I Run With A Prosthetic Leg Without Hurting Myself?

Running with a prosthetic leg is a big hurdle for many amputees, but the task is easier than it used to be. Prostheses have advanced really far and the “blade runner” in the 2012 olympics was a controversial and surprising sight for a lot of people who didn’t know it could be done. No matter your circumstances, running with a prosthetic is still more difficult than running without one, and there are a number of things to keep in mind as you set out to accomplish what was once unthinkable.

First, your body will inevitably expend a lot more energy with a prosthetic than without. This is especially true for those whose amputations occurred above the knee. First and foremost, train your body using endurance exercises to mitigate the increased effort requirements. In addition, you’ll need to pack in extra calories and fluids if taking part in long-distance running competitions like marathons or ultramarathons.

Even if your prosthetic is designed to help you run more efficiently (and if you’re a runner, you should find one of those), it’s very difficult to find the right balance. The natural inclination of an amputee is to place weight on the healthy leg. That means that even if your prosthetic leg is perfectly fitted for your body, you’re still more likely to deal with asymmetrical loading issues. This can cause overuse injuries or undue straining.

Another issue that is difficult to overcome is discomfort. Even a great prosthetic can still become uncomfortable at times, leading to soreness or even pain. These issues can be greatly exacerbated when trying to run. As soon as a problem arises, you must speak with your prosthetist. Consider keeping a diary for the first week or two in order to keep track of results.

When starting out, don’t overdo it. Run for ten minutes. Check for injury, redness, swelling, and inflammation. Rinse and repeat. The second day out, check every twenty minutes. Take your time and you should avoid serious injury.

If you’re not sure whether or not you have the proper form, then find a friend to help you out. Consider videotaping yourself while running to determine whether or not improvements can be made and where. Don’t be afraid to share your journey with your prosthetist.

Important Breathing Exercises For Running A Marathon

Are you having trouble breathing when running long distances? Training for a marathon can be difficult if it’s something you’ve never done before. The key is to start slow and gradually work your way up to a high level of endurance. It doesn’t happen overnight, and it’s important to remember that no one can just jump into good health.

You need to find a pattern when actually running. The right rhythm. For experienced runners, you should be taking long, slow breaths instead of hyper-frenetic short breaths. The idea is to relax. If you’re too stressed or running too hard too soon, then it’s difficult to find the right pattern for your pace. Try experimenting with different songs. If you listen while you run, your body will more naturally fall into a rhythm.

Breathing exercises will help improve your lung capacity, which in turn will help you increase your pace for more extended periods of time. One good method is to work on your diaphragm. While lying down, place a hand beneath your rib cage and another across your chest. Breathe in slowly, and then strain your stomach muscles as you breathe out.

If you require a warm-up, then try belly breathing exercises. While lying down, place your hands on your stomach. Try to notice the difference between taking air into your lungs and your stomach. For the purpose of this exercise, your stomach should be filling. Do it a few times, and you’re ready for your run!

When you’ve got those exercises down, you need to work on breathing while running. In order to reduce the opportunity for injury, you should try to avoid exhaling when you land on the same foot over and over. Breathe into your belly while alternating exhalations with each foot-strike. You might find inhaling and exhaling every three strikes will help you drift into a relaxing pattern. If you’re not experienced enough, you might have to reduce the pattern to every two strikes.

Each time you land, the force of three times your bodyweight hits the ground–and your feet. That force is increased when you land during exhalation, which is why experts believe that alternating feet with rhythmic running can help you avoid injury.

If you’d like to try something else, then yoga is a great option. Not only is yoga all about breathing, but you’ll work all sorts of underused muscles that are helpful for safe running.

What You Don’t Know About Running An Ultra-Marathon

Running events can take many different forms. You’ve heard of a 5k run or walk, a 10k, a half-marathon (13.1 miles), and a marathon (26.2 miles). If you haven’t run one, then you’ve probably at least heard about an ultra-marathon, which is any event that covers a distance of more than 26.2 miles. These marathons sometimes require runners to cover dozens, even hundreds of miles. Here are the things you don’t know about running an ultra-marathon.

  1. You get to EAT. When you compete in an ultra-marathon, get ready for a buffet table like nothing you’ve ever experienced before. They’re lavish and expansive, and the best ones even include beer and coffee (not that those substances will help you finish). Your body will need as many calories as it can get in between long bouts of exercise, so eat up!
  2. You WALK. If you’re going fifty or a hundred miles, then guess what? You won’t be running them as often as you think. Your body needs to conserve as much energy as possible to manage that kind of distance, so you need to be careful when deciding when and where to run. If you’re headed uphill, you’ll be walking at a leisurely pace. Other times when you need a rest, you’ll be jogging as slowly as possible. And eating. Did we mention the eating?
  3. It’s MENTAL. If you’ve ever gone without your eight hours for an extended period of time, then you know what we’re talking about. Everyone needs sleep to thrive, but an ultra-marathon isn’t about thriving. It’s about surviving. Wait until you reach the finish line, and you’ll be shocked to find how much you could achieve on so little fuel. It’s an effort worthy of a giant, and you are one.
  4. It’s SOCIAL. These events draw quite a few people, and not all of them will be killing themselves at the front. The adrenaline rushing through you–or the lack thereof, at points–will turn you into a chatterbox if you let it. Talk to the people around you, find out about their journeys, and use the overall sense of euphoria to fuel your own.
  5. It’s EASY. Well, it’s easier than you think. Most ultra-marathons occur on soft terrain over pavement. That can make a huge difference on your feet and joints after a huge number of miles, making this experience easier than the traditional marathon. Then again, when you’re ready for a 100-mile test of endurance…well, you get the picture. Good luck!

The Worst Advice You Could Possibly Give A Runner

Here at Hunter Valley Marathon, our goal is to provide all of our readers with safe and sound advice so they can make the most of their marathon experience. Unlike us, there are other websites that think they are helping but in fact, the advice that they are given is detrimental. We are going to bust some myths. 

Myth 1: You Shouldn’t Drink Water

When you run, regardless if you are running a marathon or on a treadmill, you will sweat. The more you sweat, the more your blood volume decreases. The more your blood volume decreases, the harder your heart has to work to deliver oxygen to your working muscles. Therefore it is imperative to stay hydrated and drink over the course of the marathon. There are other beverage options such as Gatorade and Powerade but good old-fashioned water is just as good a choice. Also, some blogs claim that you can become overhydrated if you drink water the entire race. While we recommend that you only drink water when you feel thirsty, we still recommend that you drink water. 

Myth 2: Carbo Loading Doesn’t Actually Work

Although the Keto diet is on trend right now, runners not only need to carbo-load but they need to carbo-load correctly. We have to talk a little about science. When you eat carbs, glycogen gets stored in your liver as well as your muscles. Glycogen is what our body uses to give us energy. However, at some point during the marathon, our body runs out of glycogen and has to resort to burning fat for energy. This is commonly referred to as “hitting the wall” by marathon runners. Therefore, carbo-loading works, it’s just choosing the correct combination of carbs to avoid hitting the wall. Carbs that do not have a lot of fiber are the best option because too much fiber can cause tummy troubles midrace. Also, to fully maximize the amount of glycogen in your muscles, you should begin carbo-loading 2-3 days before the race. 

Who Is Shalane Flanagan?

Shalane Flanagan Winning NYC Marathon

She might just become a verb.

Her name might just be describing the ending of a drought or some other stretch of time when an American didn’t’ have success.

After all, Shalane Flanagan, last year, became the first American woman to win an American marathon race – specifically, the New York Marathon – in about 40 years.

She shalaned the drought.

A very American marathon race, once of the largest and most revered distances races in the world, before 2017 had not been won by an American woman since the Carter administration. Achieving that feat by itself is impressive enough – but to realize that it was achieved by a woman who was 36 years old at the time?

Now that takes ageism to a whole other level of absurdity.

Shalane Flanagan has been regarded as one of the best American distance runners for a number of years, even dating back to her days as a standout distance at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She was on the verge of retirement when she won the New York Marathon, and was on the precipice when she finished seventh in her most-beloved race, the Boston Marathon (she grew up in the Boston area and considers the Boston race the one she most wanted to win).

However, she has found new life and is looking forward to defending her New York Marathon title in November. Her guide in this journey is her newly created team of female runners, whom she calls the “Bowerman Babes,” named after the track club where they train. These women are especially recruited by Flanagan and her coach to be training partners – and they are among the best rising stars in distance running in America –and all of them are at least 10 years younger than Flanagan.

And that Boston Marathon? While Flanagan finished seventh, one of her Bowerman Track Club teammates, Des Linden, wound up winning the race – so American marathon dominance remains in the “family,” so to speak. 

A woman, who was so close to hanging up her running shoes for good, is now training as if the best is still yet to come. Could a 37-year-old woman win the New York Marathon? Could an American woman win it for the second straight year – the first time that has happened since Miki Gorman in 1976-77 (the last American woman to win, by the way)?

Now that last year happened, who can say for sure that it’s impossible? Flanagan ran the third-fastest winning time since the course record was broken in 2003. Flanagan’s performance just means that some of us are Flanagan just shalaned any ageist beliefs. No reason to doubt her now.