Shaping A Plan

“I trust that everything happens for a reason, even when we’re not wise enough to see it.” – Oprah Winfrey

Three days until the Fargo Marathon – and this year is nearly guaranteed to be different than any of the first 5 years. There are new races, new courses and that weather forecast.

In the past, the Fargo Marathon has been dogged by the weather. Snow and sleet have been part of the festivities. And plenty of wind.

I remember starting at the starting line in 2006 with a cold drizzle pelting everyone – but not dampering the runners’ spirits. In 2007, the day before the marathon was gorgeous, but by race morning, the weather turned very gray, windy and cold, and I recall sitting on a bus until the last possible moment before running the final leg of my team’s marathon relay. The following year, the weather was picture perfect at the start and quickly turned: It turned warm and very windy as Elm Street turned into a death march for a lot of runners, particularly marathoners. And last year, I can’t imagine running a marathon in colder temps with the thermometer at 33 degrees – and a wind chill factor of 27.

This year, though, a week’s worth of summerlike weather appears to give a pretty good indication of what we can expect. I’m planning my race, expecting to see temps in the upper 50s. A stiff south wind will also be part of the equation.

My best advice is simple: Adjust your pace goals this week as you’re tweaking your strategy. Go out 10 to 15 seconds slower per mile early on, and slowly pick up the pace (about 5 seconds per mile every 5 miles) so you’re running at goal pace around the halfway point in the marathon. Half marathoners also would be wise to slow it down. Running too fast early in the race can sink a race and months of training, and make for a very painful finish.

Click on this link to read more tips for runners, courtesy of Fargo’s MeritCare Hospital.

At last year’s Grandma’s Marathon, it was extremely warm: 79 degrees by the time I finished. Nearly everyone I talked to had issues with the heat and it wasn’t pretty. A friend of mine who ran the race described it as a death march. Ironically, it was the first marathon in which I implemented a strategy of going out slower and picking up the pace. My strategy was in place weeks before the race, but it turned out to be the single most important factor that saved the marathon for me (also marking the best finish I’ve had compared to the rest of the field).

Grandma’s also had another couple factors going for it that made the race: Cups of ice at aid stations (I’d grab a cup and stuff the ice beneath a skull cap, keeping my head cool) and spectators along the course set up sprinkler systems for runners to go underneath. If you see sprinklers set up along the course, running under a mist of cool water can really help. I never miss a sprinkler, and always thank the spectators as I run by for doing it.