training tips for go! st. louis

The GO! St. Louis half and marathon are only about 7 weeks away, meaning that those of us training for it should be about halfway (or more) through our training.  The first half of training is all about developing a good training base, building up endurance and mileage.  Guess what, friends?  The easy days of training are over.  The second half of training now is all about getting into tip top racing shape for the big day.

I’ve ran GO! St. Louis 5 times – 4 half marathons and 1 full marathon.  Of those 5 races, I’ve ran at least 3 different courses.  They are all very similar, but those slight differences can really impact your race, especially when you feel like you know where you should be running from prior experience!  However, I am still far from an expert, but I feel that I have enough experience running this race that I can give some decent tips on how exactly you should train for this race.  Don’t worry!  It’s not too late to add some key things to your training to help you prepare for April 7th.

There are 2 key variables that can make or break your race for GO! St. Louis:  weather and hills.  One you can control, the other is completely out of your control.  Here are some of my tips (from my own experience) to help you adequately prepare to race in 7 weeks.

Weather:  Will It Be Hot or Cold?

Unfortunately, those of us who are actually from the Midwest know all too well that the weather out here is totally unpredictable.  It can be snowing one day and 80 degrees and sunny the next.  It’s a crap shoot.  You really have no idea what you’re going to get.  And unfortunately, it’s totally out of your control.

I’ve run this race with weather in the 50s, and I’ve run it with weather in the 80s or 90s.  And I know people who ran it just a few years ago in pouring down rain (thankfully, it doesn’t snow or ice too much in April).  And of course, unfortunately, right now we are training in mostly cold temperatures, which doesn’t quite prepare us for the chance of those 80 degree temps.

How to prepare for it:  Utilize the cold weather as much as you can now.  Get some good runs outside when it’s chilly.  Normally the start of the race will be in the upper 30s to 40s, so you need to be ready to be cold, at least at the start.  But, like I said, it could definitely be cold that day and your body needs to be ready for that.

As for being prepared for hot weather, practice what you would do on a hot day.  Hydrate early and often.  Figure out if you can tolerate a sports drink while running and what’s going to be the right amount of fluids for you.  It’ll be different of course in hot weather, but you can at least prepare your body. 

I also tend to over dress myself on my long runs outside in the cold.  I add one extra (light) layer to my upper body, just to simulate running in warmer weather.  It’s enough to keep me from overheating, but also allows me to get a feeling of being a little bit uncomfortably hot.  If I get too hot, I can always take it off.  Will this work?  I have no idea.  But, it’s something…

Hills:  Will We Ever Get a Break?!

The simple answer to the hills is NO!  You don’t get a break!  The hills are why I absolutely hate this race.  Why I keep running it year after year is beyond me.  But, to be blunt about it, the hills SUCK.

However, that doesn’t mean you can’t be prepared for them.  And I’m not trying to freak you newbies out.  We’re not running Pikes Peak or anything.  The hills are far from steep.  But, some of them are long hills.  And really, there is virtually no flat parts to get a break.  Your break is the downhill, and once you’re done with your downhill, it’s time to go back up again!  Ugh.  Be prepared for your hammies to be yelling at you on April 8th.

So, yes, rolling hills.  Most of them are short to medium uphills, but there is one in particular, right around mile 7 or 8 that is ridiculously long.  You’ll know it when you get there.  It’s totally not fun.

How to prepare for it:  The best piece of advice I can give you for preparing for hills is to GO RUN SOME HILLS!  Seriously.  It’s that simple.  Your body won’t know how to handle hills unless you go run some.  I suggest adding in some hill repeats once every other week to help you adequately prepare, especially if you are doing most of your running on a flat treadmill.  Here’s a treadmill workout for you to do that should help:

photo 2 (12)

Repeat if you dare!

As for my outdoor runners, make sure you are varying your routes, even if your everyday route has plenty of hills.  Again, your body begins to adapt to those hills and starts to learn exactly how to run those same hills.  You really need to change it up.  Or, try some hill repeats:  Start with a 1 mile warm-up. Find a hill that is 1/4 to 1/2 mile long.  Run as hard as you can to the top.  Jog or walk down.  Repeat 4 to 6 times.  Cool down with another mile.  Killer.

Is my advice going to completely prepare you for race day?  Oh, heck no.  But, I’m hoping it can at least get you a little more prepared than you were before.  Keep running and happy training!

If you’ve run GO! St. Louis before, what advice would you give to newbie to the race?  How do you prepare yourself to run a hilly course or in unpredictable weather?