In the attempt of reaching the World Record of 1000 marathon with an average finishing time of 3 hours 20 minutes Steve Edwards faces many and different challenges during the year. Here some tips from the Man Inside The Machine!
How much weather conditions and seasons affect your training before a marathon?
In terms of the way I train and prepare for marathons, there isn’t really a massive difference between Winter & Summer. I always aim to do all the sessions I need to do whether it be running, cycling, weights or core work whatever the time of years. With running though I’ve especially found it important to run in all conditions to not only help make my body more resilient but also learn to better cope with those conditions, both physically and mentally.
There are some differences though, in the Winter if there’s ice or snow around I will still go for a training run albeit it will be slower than normal but it’s important that I get out and put the miles in. I hate treadmills and would rather trudge along in the snow if I have to. Part of my training programme does involve cycling to work and back 2 or 3 times a week however during the Winter months I do cut it back as won’t risk cycling if it’s icy or during the shorter day period when it’s too dark to cycle home on the country lanes where I live because it’s too dangerous. Obviously, clothing is a key factor when it’s cold, I tend to wear a long sleeve compression base layer top to not only help keep me warm but also help improve the blood flow. Gloves are a must as your hands are the last thing your body will try to keep warm as are your toes so I also wear double skin socks. If it really is freezing cold, I find wearing a fleece lined hat helps keep the heat in as well. As I’ve got older I find that I feel the cold a lot more which does affect my performance so it’s important that I wear the layers to try and keep as much heat in as possible otherwise the body will have to expend more energy than it has to. There’s also a massive difference between running in dry & wet conditions, when it’s very cold there’s nothing worse than getting wet through so I find wearing a lightweight weatherproof jacket over the base layer works very well.
In the summer of course, cycling to work and back isn’t an issue and as I’ve got older I much prefer running in warm conditions than in cold, but if it starts to get very hot, then other things come into play like adequate hydration and protecting myself from the sun. Hydration is of course always important but even more so when hot so I not only drink more water but also make sure that I’m taking in more electrolytes than normal when I train and race. I also use sun screen on my shoulders, neck etc and wear a cap to protect my bald head! In extreme heat I like most people do find it particularly draining on the body and I’m therefore more tired after a day at work especially having cycled there and back and run at lunchtime! It’s therefore more important than ever that I get adequate sleep to help the recovery process.
When things get tough during a race because of the heat/cold, what is your main concern and how do you cope with it?
During a race, I always account for the conditions and plan accordingly. Checking the weather forecast in the days leading up to the race is always a good thing to do but whatever the forecast I always carry a variety of clothing in my kit bag to account for all temperatures and conditions, be prepared as they used to say in the cubs/scouts. Of course, I’m aware that extreme cold or heat will generally compromise my performance especially as I’ve got older, but I will always give it everything accepting that it will be tougher than racing in milder conditions. However, I also remind myself that it’s the same for all my fellow competitors, everyone is going to find it much tougher, which then means it becomes more a battle of mental strength which for me has definitely improved with age as it’s something I’ve developed over many years. The main thing though is that I take all the possible precautions I can to make sure that I’m not putting any avoidable stress on my body. So for instance consuming more calories in the winter as I know my body will burn more energy trying to keep warm and keeping hydration & electrolyte levels topped up more in the summer when it’s warmer. Just adapting to the prevailing conditions and taking all possible precautions.
In terms of recovery after a race, that side of things is pretty much the same whatever the time of year. A protein rich drink as soon as possible followed by further refuelling with sold food and of course water to help flush out the toxins which helps with the DOMS. I also self massage my legs with Fisiocrem which also helps the muscle recovery process and then wear compression leggings for travelling home as well as overnight that evening. As always, good nutrition, hydration and adequate sleep are very important in my recovery process.
What’s your advice for new marathon runners?
In terms of advice to new marathon runners facing the challenges of the weather, it really is a case of facing it full on and learning to cope with it. So for example, when it’s warm, people will say do your training runs early in the morning. However most races I know start around 9-10am, some even later! The best way to prepare for the heat is to run in it and learn how to adapt. Like wise in the winter months, don’t swap your rest day around just because its freezing cold and pouring down in rain, get out and face the music, I guarantee it will help make you a more resilient runner and help to improve your mental strength. At the end of the day, the better your preparation the better you will perform!”
Thanks for reading