TOUGH MARATHON TRAINING
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After the Berlin Marathon, I rested for a week, but needed to start training again toward Valencia. In Berlin, the last 15 km was basically a jog, which clearly helped with my recovery. My muscles were not as destroyed as they would have been if it were a maximum performance. The marathon left behind more mental than physical injuries. The failure weighed on me for several weeks, but it also provided additional motivation for the rest of the fall. The desire to train and succeed the next time out is growing.
The biggest training challenge in late autumn is the change of seasons. The beautiful and relatively warm autumn weather begins to change for the worse in October. First, the rain comes, which quickly turns to snow. In the Arctic Circle, the first snow already falls at the beginning of October, but luckily it melted away pretty quickly. Snow has come several times since then, causing difficulties with the grip and running form. As the weather turns cold, the roads become icy, making high-speed running almost impossible. The risks of being injured increases, so that’s when I have to run on the treadmill. At these latitudes, a treadmill or indoor sports hall are a great option for training especially when winter brings temperatures of negative 30 to 40 degree Celsius.
Another challenge is darkness. Kaamos (polar night) is an annual period in winter when the sun does not rise above the horizon. The phenomenon occurs in the polar circle and at higher latitudes. As Kaamos approaches, the bright time of the day gets shorter each day. There are only a few hours of light these days, so most of the workouts are run in the dark. Luckily, my last long run before Valencia took place on a sunny Sunday. I enjoyed the sunlight as much as possible as it might have been the last time I see sun for a while in Lapland. The constant darkness has an unusual mental effect. Many people experience depression with the darkness. It’s a constant feeling of fatigue that is present throughout the days. However, it is part of the northern year cycle and Lapland runners struggle with the same challenges as half a century ago. Jouko Elevaara, perhaps the most legendary endurance running coach in Lapland, wrote about it in the 70s:
"A Lapland boy and girl practice much more in conditions that require hard will and effort than young athletes in the South. But, those who win first within their own mind will then overcome the conditions and succeed....Spring is coming - light, warm, and then come the summer days when the results and achievements from autumn and winter training pay off in many ways."
Despite the challenging circumstances, I am content with my training. Usually, this time of year is the off-season, but it's been a rewarding change to continue with hard training toward the end of the year. I received confirmation of my improving fitness when I traveled south to race on the roads. It felt good to leave the snow and ice behind. Someone might think it is crazy to travel 800 kilometers south to run a 10 km, but for me it's quite normal. Most of the good races are in southern Finland particularly this time of year. If you want to race in good conditions, you need to travel. The 10 km race went according to plan and was my fastest time in years. The success boosted my confidence, and I look forward to racing through the streets of Valencia. Now it's time to taper!