Jeff Kolpack, Published January 22 2013
Cold doesn't slow training for Fargo MarathonFARGO – It was 33 degrees below zero one morning a few years ago when John Peterson got dressed for marathon success. In other words, he went out for a run.
A word of warning: Know what you’re doing. An accomplished area runner for the last 25 years, Peterson prefers training outside for a spring marathon as opposed to indoor methods like a treadmill.
“My biggest fear in the winter is not the temperature or the wind,” he said. “Quite often it’s the ice.”
The marathon has seen increasing numbers on an annual basis, so it’s not like training in cold weather has been a major road block over the years. And it appears that won’t be a detour this year, either.
Race director Mark Knutson said registrations are ahead of the pace of last year’s record turnout of over 24,000 entries in all of the events. The marathon has 946 registered runners, the half-marathon just over 2,100, the 10K 550, the 5K just topped the 1,000 mark and the marathon relay has 250 runners.
“Our numbers are pretty strong right now,” Knutson said. “I keep thinking every year they’re going to go down, but for whatever reason it keeps rolling.”
Keeping rolling in the middle of January can be just as much a mental game as it is physical. Knutson prefers the treadmill route when the weather gets too extreme, and he has the results to prove it works.
His fastest marathon time came when he trained almost exclusively on a treadmill.
“Make the treadmill your friend,” he said. “It’s hard. I don’t necessarily like it but it’s also not worth going out in this type of cold. The amount of benefit you get at 10 to 15 below is minimal. You’re better to do five, six, seven miles on a treadmill at a steady pace, and plus you don’t have to worry about slipping and falling.”
That’s precisely why veteran runner Keith Berndt prefers a treadmill in the winter.
“Treadmill training takes some getting used to,” he said. “The hardest part is if I do a long run on the treadmill. Two hours is a long time and psychologically it’s hard. If you do a long run in the summer, you have some scenery.”
For runners who don’t have access to a treadmill, Knutson suggests the indoor tracks at the Fargo South Arena, Veterans Arena in West Fargo or the Moorhead Sports Center.
The Fargo Marathon has turned into a three-day event May 16-18, with the Youth Run on Thursday and the 5K on Friday. The average high temperature on May 18 is 70 degrees and the average low is 46.
The high on Monday was minus-4 and the low minus-14, and the high on Tuesday barely got above zero.
If training outdoors, Peterson said he dresses in layers with the outer shell a breathable windbreaker. He prefers face protection when the weather drops below 5 degrees. The popular theory is to run into the wind first, but Peterson said he almost prefers going with the wind or run in a crosswind initially because it’s easier to get warmed up.
“Do a mile loop before your main course,” he said. “If you’re not dressed right, you can stop at home and adjust.”
He’s completed 10 marathons and is entered in the Fargo.
“I’ve been running outside in the winter for about 25 years,” Peterson said. “It can be done.”
Forum reporter Jeff Kolpack can be reached at (701) 241-5546. Kolpack’s NDSU media blog can be found at www.areavoices.com/bisonmedia