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A very unique Boston training season

Posted by Ty Velde  March 29, 2012 09:00 AM

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As race day approaches and I look back on my training for this year’s race, it has definitely been one of, if not the most, unique training seasons. Why? Simply stated, there has been no snow!

For me, one of the most difficult aspects of running the Boston Marathon is the time of year that you have to train for it. The primary period is January – April, and typically during this time of year (especially January, February and often early March) the ground is covered by snow, ice, slush or some sort of combination of two or all of them.

snowchart.jpgJust how unique has this year been? Since I started running the Boston Marathon in 2002, there has never been this little snow.

In fact, looking back at seasonal snowfall totals for Boston going back to the winter of 1890 – 1891, there has never been a winter with this little snow. Just to drive this point home and put things in perspective, this time frame encompasses the entire 116 year history of the Boston Marathon!

Additionally, over the past 11 years, while there have been a few years with light snowfall, such as the winter of 2001 – 2002, this year’s seasonal total in Boston was still 37 percent fewer.

For a complete look at seasonal snowfall totals for Boston, MA from the National Weather service going back to the winter of 1890 – 1891, click here.

So what does this really mean, in my opinion?

First off, training has been easier. Running in snow is more difficult. A mile in the snow feels like two on a dry surface. However, what really makes running in the snow most difficult is not necessary the snow itself, but the after-effect. What I mean here is that snow melts and when the weather turns cold again that snow then turns to ice. Running on ice and other slick surfaces is very difficult. Not only do you need to have a great sense of balance, you need to be very careful how you approach each step on your run, as you can very easily start to slip, slide and/or fall.

This brings me to my second point. Training has been much safer. Without the snow, ice and slush the risk of falling or twisting an ankle is definitely reduced. I say this from experience in that during my training for the 2007 Boston race, I was running on a snow covered path next to the Charles River and got completely laid out on my back. Besides this I’ve taken countless spills during my training because of running on snow-covered surfaces, and yes, I do wear ice cleats when necessary. While they do provide stability they can’t always prevent a mishap.

Additionally, training this season has been more comfortable. Besides not dealing with the ice, there has been virtually no slush to deal with as well. Therefore, my shoes, socks and feet are staying much dryer and warmer than they have in the past.

Finally, training has been much more manageable. What I mean here is that there have been no “snow days.” When you are typically dealing with a seasonal snowfall of anywhere between three and seven feet, this is definitely going to cause some training disruptions. However, because the roads have been clear and the snow virtually non-existent, it has not really factored into my approach to or disrupted any of my training for this year’s race.

Ultimately, when it comes to marathon running and training, the weather is always a factor and good or bad it can certainly impact performance. For many of us in New England simply surviving the winter training season and making to the starting line in Hopkinton on race day is an accomplishment in itself.

As for race day, we can only hope that the “weather gods” will look favorably upon us, but I will say that they have at least made the process of getting to the starting line this year a little bit easier.

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Look for updates, news, analysis and commentary from the following.
  • Steve Silva, Boston.com senior producer, two-time Boston Marathon sub-four hour runner.
  • Ty Velde is a 16-time Boston qualifier who's completed 12 consecutive Boston Marathons and 25 marathons overall. Ty is now training for his 13th Boston run and will provide training tips for those who train solo and outside, no matter what temperature it is.
  • Rich 'Shifter' Horgan is a 19-time Dana-Farber Marathon Challenge team member who runs in honor of his father, who died of colon cancer. He will provide updates on local running events with a focus on the charitable organizations that provide Boston Marathon entries for their organization's fund raising purposes

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