7 Ways to Train For a Marathon in the Winter

Molly Hurford
by Molly Hurford
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7 Ways to Train For a Marathon in the Winter

It’s a valid question for many marathoners: If you’re snowed in, how do you do the big miles needed to prep for an ultra or marathon in the spring?

For those living in milder climates, winter might not affect training, but for those who are snowbound or dealing with sleet and icy rain, it can be tough to balance getting in miles and staying safe and warm. Let’s face it: No one in the history of running has ever claimed a 3-hour run on the treadmill ‘just flew by.’

Here are a few survival tips for getting through this season without sacrificing a PR:



Unless you live in the Arctic, you have outdoor running options — even in snow and sleet. The biggest challenge is the snow piles on the side of the roads after the snowplow comes through — when they’re there, it becomes difficult to run safely on the shoulder. To avoid those snow piles, try running short loops in low-traffic areas like parking lots, subdivisions or your local park.



For endurance efforts, like a 3-hour long run, consider swapping the run for cross-country skiing or a hard snowshoe. You can even split the difference: For a 3-hour run, you could hop on a treadmill for 45 minutes, ski for 90, then finish with another 45 on the treadmill.



As soon as possible, tackle any of your nagging injuries, soreness or imbalances. When the weather takes a turn for the worse, it’s the perfect time to check in with your body and take any necessary off time or swap your long runs for short runs while adding mobility, yoga and physical therapy sessions. If you’re uninjured, skip this step — but many runners realize they have at least one small issue or imbalance worth addressing.



Run with the weather: If you have a warmer Tuesday, but snow is forecasted for Wednesday through Friday, opt to go longer on Tuesday to take advantage of the break in the weather and do your short, easy run or cross-training the rest of the week.



If you have a race in the early spring and you have the ability to plan a vacation in the winter, aim for a warmer, run-friendly destination. Even a fun family week can involve early morning longer efforts, you might just have to skip that second glass of wine with dinner and accept that this is a training vacation more than a vacation-vacation.



If you can’t make a full week of vacation in a warmer spot happen, break it into two shorter bursts. Even a three-day training block in a warm climate beats skipping runs completely. Avoid any long-duration travel for these short weekend blocks: You don’t need to spend 24 hours in transit.



A big part of an athlete’s success when it comes to long winter runs is simply gearing up and getting outside. It sounds harsh, but sometimes you just need to throw on every layer you own and get out for your run. Remember when we were kids and heading out to play in the snow was the absolute best? Rekindle that joy; once you get over the initial chill and start to warm up, you’ll probably realize it isn’t that bad after all.

About the Author

Molly Hurford
Molly Hurford

Molly is an outdoor adventurer and professional nomad obsessed with all things running, nutrition, cycling and movement-related. When not outside, she’s writing about being outside, travel and athletic style on TheOutdoorEdit.com, or she’s interviewing world-class athletes and scientists for The Consummate Athlete Podcast. You can follow her adventures on Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat at @mollyjhurford.


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