Is Marathon Training Better in the Winter or Summer?

WINTER. Because you can only take off so many layers of clothing. – Megan Hetzel


I grew up in the desert, enduring afternoon track practices in temperatures hot enough to make the mercury boil over the brim of the thermometer, an effect reflected in my cherry-red post-run complexion. Not to mention, no matter how much I hydrated before or during my runs, I still felt sluggish, like I was slowly melting into the radiating footpath. And that was dry heat.

Now when I complain about marathon training in the sauna that is a Queensland summer, I’m often asked, “You should be used to running in this weather, right?”

My default response? “I might be used to it, but that doesn’t mean I like it.”

So even after a bone-chilling winter, I stand by my preference for winter training. Sure, the icy roads are sometimes (literally) a pain in the butt, but I’d argue that running uphill – spinning your “tires” because of the lack of traction – makes you even stronger.

Plus, there’s nothing quite like the feeling of generating your own warmth, sweating despite the cold. Once you’re toasty, the frigid air actually feels refreshing. Get too hot? Strip off a layer or two. Can’t say you can do that in the summer, huh? (Unless you want to run in the buff.)


SUMMER. Vitamin D and humidity will get you to a new PB. – By Caitlin Giddings

Autumn is prime time for marathons, but in order to cross a finish line and make it to that first round of post-race beers, it’s imperative that you survive the gauntlet of summer training.

No, summer training doesn’t come easy ¬– it can come with about 100-per-cent humidity and a “Feels Like” index of “catapulting into the sun.” But it’s out there on the fiery-hot February footpath that courage, fortitude, and the ability to stomach badly mixed Gatorade are forged. Running in the heat will only make you stronger for a comparatively breezy autumn race.

Summer training makes you spring out of bed at 5am on a Saturday to knock out your long run before the rest of the world wakes up, and then summer training grants you the entire rest of the weekend as a reward. Would winter training jostle you out of bed at such an hour? No, winter training would grant you about five hours of daylight in the middle of the day – just enough time to pile on the many layers needed to trundle out into the fog.

And let’s talk about those layers, or more specifically the lack thereof when it comes to summer running. Throw on a singlet and a pair of shorts, and you’re ready for a late-January run.

Winter training plays you hot and cold and always keeps you guessing. Light jacket or heavy jacket? Base layer or no base layer? Leave a trail of sweaty clothes behind you as you run, or keep piling them up around your waist until you look like a human garage sale roaming the neighbourhood?

Summer training would never make you answer those questions. Summer training demands only a single basket of laundry. Summer training doesn’t even care if you wear a shirt. Summer training is FREEDOM.


Coach Marathon

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