Whether you’re a veteran marathoner or debating toeing the line for your first 26.2-mile race, now is the time to make that ever-popular decision: Am I running a full marathon this fall? From Los Angeles to New York City, there are loads of options for races spanning from late August through December — perfect for checking off your marathon bucket list.
“The fall is the best time to run a marathon,” says New Jersey-based coach Sam Tooley, owner of Alpha Performance Studio. “Spring marathon training is a daunting task, since you have to slog it out through the cold months of winter and the race day conditions can be dramatically different than what your body is used to if you catch a hot day.”
For races with autumn dates, you can enjoy cooler temperatures with a lot less bundling come the big day. Still, there’s a certain strategy that goes into perfecting a summer-to-fall training schedule.
Here, experts give us the lowdown on everything you need to know if you’re planning to run a full marathon this fall.
REACH FOR HYDRATION … OFTEN
Getting adequate hydration is extra important when training during the summer. Temperatures can reach extreme highs as early as 8 or 9 a.m., which means you need to have a hydration strategy in place — especially for longer runs.
“Often times, simple water won’t cut it,” says Lauren Neroni, DPT, a running coach. “Use your training as a chance to try out different electrolyte-replacement products to find the one that works best for you — both from a hydration standpoint and for your digestive system.”
So how much fluids do you need? Before you run, have 6–8 ounces of water or sports drink. While you’re running on a hot day, aim to take in 3–6 ounces of liquid every 15–20 minutes, ideally a sports drink with carbs and electrolytes to replenish lost sodium.
START TRAINING AT LEAST 14 WEEKS BEFORE RACE DAY
The last thing you want to do is amp up your mileage way too quick, and then land yourself on the injured list. Remember: There’s no one-size-fits-all way to train, and you’re looking at at least a 14-week training plan regardless of your level. “The length of a specific training plan greatly depends on past running experience and fitness level,” says Ellie Abrahamson, a coach in Atlanta. “You’ll likely be running between 300–500 miles leading up to your race.”
GRAB THE SUNSCREEN
Also: Make sure your SPF is made specifically with sport in mind, since sports formulas are made specifically to withstand sweating. Standard protocol is to apply every two hours, but on long runs (Read: extra sweaty ones) it’s smart to do so every hour or so. This holds true even if you aren’t running in the middle of the day — you’ll need to be conscious of the strength of the summer rays.
TRAIN YOUR MIND, TOO
No matter the time of year, it’s important to get your mind right for race day just like you do your body. “The more you can get comfortable with being uncomfortable, the more prepared you’ll be for race day,” says Tooley. “We physically prepare ourselves as best we can for the big event but it’s almost more important to be mentally prepared.”
Remember: Very few, if any, races go entirely according to plan. The more you can learn to deal with the conditions, and accept that you can’t control them, the better.
DRESS LIKE IT’S 15ºF WARMER THAN IT IS
It’s already hot enough out there during your runs. The last thing you want to do is contribute to possible overheating by wearing too many layers. Come race day, temperatures can be much lower early in the morning at the start than when you’re in the middle of your 26.2. “Dress accordingly,” suggests Abrahamson. “Be sure to warm up before the run starts, which will give you a sense of what kind of gear will be most comfortable for your run.”