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Amelia Island Runners is proud that nationally known running coach Roy Benson is a member of our club and an active volunteer. He provides free individual coaching advice at our Wednesday group runs and works with our 1st Wind Runners youth running group, and with the FBHS cross country team. Now Coach is sharing his decades of knowledge with us in written form -- with this column written especially for AIR.


This time of the year is ideal for us NE Floridians to run marathons. While chances of perfect marathoning temperatures of 50-55 degrees are better now than in the middle of the summer, we still need to be ready for a wide variation of readings on the old thermometer. Cold spells in the 30’s are not unusual in the Dec-Feb time frame. And, the opposite, a humid heat wave, co uld just as easily greet you on the starting line.


Everyone understands that PR’s are very hard to achieve in the heat. And, for runners trying to run fast times like under 3 hours, high temps can be disastrous, even deadly. On the other hand, temps under 40 degrees, can be equally counterproductive to slower runners who will have to use precious energy just to stay warm.

So, what in the name of Phidippedies, is a marathoner to do to prepare for these potential wide temperature variations on race day?


Tip #1: Pack heavy.


Have 4 types of tops at the ready, all of them dry-fit material: a singlet, a tee shirt, a long sleeve, zippered turtle neck shirt, and a rain/sweat suit jacket. While deciding which to wear, keep in mind that most runners over-dress in the cooler weather. Don’t create your own personal, mobile sauna that sweats away your precious cooling fluids. Use the cold air to cool your engine, not your radiator system. How come?

Because as your blood plasma decreases, your heart rate has to increase to compensate for the declining blood volume. Your circulatory system is a finite loop, but the volume is variable depending on your exercise intensity, the temp/humidity reading and your fluid replacement practices. If your rate of sweating exceeds your hydration ability, your rising heart rate can cause an aerobic effort to become anaerobic even at the same pace. That in turn, forces your muscles to burn off your precious supply of glycogen at a faster rate, thus making your collision with the WALL bound to occur sooner than 26.2 miles. And that, as every veteran wall-banger will tell you, is not a good thing.


With all of the above in mind, on a cool day, stay warm until the start by wearing enuf clothes. Then, either shed them in the Good Will heap, or take off the extra layer and tie it around your waist once your effort warms you up. If the weather changes during the race and the temp drops, you’ll have a back-up layer handy. On the other hand, if the temps go up, keep stripping as much as your decency levels allow. Just remember, we are not the original Greek Olympians anymore.


Tip #2: Taper Longer


Doing all the above planning is going to take a long time so do it while enjoying a full taper. You’ll need some extra activity to use up all the energy that you’ll be storing as you cut back on your mileage. So go shopping for all of the 3 weeks of your taper because I have found over and over that the standard 2 weeker is almost always too short.

How so? Because only 5 people in the entire history of the marathon were truly under-trained at the time the race started. The other 94 were wildly over-trained due to the length of their program.

Folks, trust me here. You’ve probably been training for much longer than the ideal 12-14 weeks that I find works best for all but the most rookie, beginner runners. Furthermore, if you are typical, you’ve been testing yourself each long run by seeing how hard it was to run at goal pace. Big mistake. Those test long runs have been as hard on you as the actual marathon even tho they have not been nearly as far. Why? Because you have not been tapering for them since they have come at the end of a week of typical training, not tapering. That training has, in fact, moved the wall to distances like the 15 or 16 or 17 mile marks. As you have exceeded those distances, you have been punishing yourself more than you realize and now you need a full, drastic crash plan for tapering. So check this: one week before the race, your long run is ony 9 miles. Two weeks before the marathon your long run is just 12-13 miles. Three weekends before the race your long run should be only 14-15 miles.


People, stop feeling guilty because you are not working as hard as you have been. The horse has been ridden hard and put up wet too often. The hay is in the barn. Now keep him in there longer. Let him feed on some of that good old carbo hay. Put some energy back in the legs by cutting back the miles. Three weeks is not too long.





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