Racing in bad conditions

2002 Lakefront Marathon

The 2002 Lakefront Marathon was run on a day with 25-30 mile per hour winds gusting to 50 miles per hour. Almost the entire race was run with a headwind.

Over its history, the Boston Marathon has included snow, historic winds and extreme heat. On a few occasions, they even have had good conditions.

No matter how much we prepare for a race, sometimes there are things we simply can’t prepare for. True, we can toughen ourselves up so we’re ready to handle extreme conditions. However, they will affect us and there’s nothing we can do about some aspects of how they will affect us. Running in rough weather, whether strong wind, torrential rain, or extreme heat or cold, is going to slow you down no matter how you prepare for it.

So what do you do when facing these situations?

Control what you can

Your first step is to control what you can.

First among these is your fitness. Get yourself in the best shape you can and you’ll be as prepared as possible to handle whatever life can throw at you.

You can also prepare for heat. You can do things like overdressing to prepare for an unseasonably warm spring race even if you’re experiencing cool winter weather in training.

Adjust to what you can’t control

Another thing you can control is how you respond to the things you can’t control. Be ready to adjust.

If the weather is bad, have a backup goal and plan to deal with it.

If you were planning to finish in a certain place and unexpectedly strong competition shows up, adjust your plan.

Don’t stress over it

Once you’ve made your adjustments, there’s no use wasting energy stressing over what’s out of your control. You’ve done what you can. Stressing over it will just waste energy and take away from the focus you need to overcome.

My usual suggestion when someone is going to run a race in bad conditions is to go in with a sense of adventure and a sense of humor. Remember that this race will be an experience you will remember and tell stories about for the rest of your life. I still reminisce about my debut marathon at the 2002 Lakefront Marathon, as well as other wild races such as high school and collegiate cross country meets on very muddy courses or in snow.

In the end, you can’t control some things but you can control how you respond to them. The weather, as the most obvious example, will affect everyone in the race the same way. How people prepare for and respond to it and how that affects them will differ significantly. This is where you can both get a competitive advantage and come out with the best experience possible.

Note: This post was originally published on 4/14/2016. It was edited and republished on 1/19/2023.

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