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How to train if your spring marathon got cancelled

Advice from Malindi Elmore on how to train if the date for your goal race has changed

Due to COVID-19, many spring marathons have been postponed until the fall or outright cancelled. While this is disappointing for runners everywhere, it’s also a sensible health precaution. If you’re one of the runners whose spring race got axed, here’s advice from Canada’s best on how you can maintain fitness (without suffering burnout) between now and your rescheduled race.

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Malindi Elmore is the Canadian marathon record-holder. Elmore ran a blazing 2:24:50 at the Houston Marathon in January to shatter her personal best by eight minutes and set the new national record. But her road to Houston wasn’t smooth–in fact, Elmore was originally scheduled to race in Toronto at STWM, which doubled as the Olympic Marathon Trials for Canadians. Due to a hamstring injury, she pulled out of STWM at the last minute. However, she didn’t let her fall build go to waste and successfully carried her fitness into January.


Elmore says that pulling out of a marathon due to injury is very different than being unable to run a marathon due to cancellation. She reminds runners, “If you have an injury, you need to first treat that injury.” However, if your race was cancelled or postponed, Elmore says the first step for runners is to move forward.

“You have to reframe and move on. You can only control so much, and you can’t control the fact that there’s been a big change to the original plan. Have your moment, then move forward with the new plan.”

Start of the 2019 SeaWheeze Half-Marathon. Photo: lululemon

Elmore recommends taking some time away from the high mileage of marathon training to freshen up with some speed work. “You want to continue to build on all of the work you’ve been doing, without the high mileage of marathon training. I think people get fatigued when they do year-round marathon volume. Take this time to work on a different system.”

The workouts she did to stay fresh

Elmore’s favourite speed workouts for marathoners are hills, fartleks and intervals of under three minutes. Examples are: 20 x 400m at 5K race pace, 10 x 1 minute hill repeats with jog-down rest or a fartlek-style run that includes two sets of 1, 2, 3, 3, 2, 1 minutes of running at 5K pace.

Elmore says the goal should be to freshen up with a few weeks of speedwork before doing a condensed build that’s working off your mileage from your initial training.

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Finding your mojo (again) **** I have had 4 different athletes ask me in the last week how to handle low motivation episodes…enough to inspire this post 🙂 I call them “mojos” (low motivation)…this is the best I can offer: – acknowledge that to be human is to have motivation that ebbs and lows – by mid February it is particularly easy to feel a bit low as the novelty of winter is over – that it is impossible to be high energy / emotion 24/7/12 My best advice is to “keep on keeping on”. Get out the door. Run. Try running more dynamically: throw in a Fartlek, strides, leg swings, drills or anything else to give yourself some pep. Substitute hard workouts that tend to come with “judgement” like km intervals for Fartlek that are more by feel. Heck – leave the GPS at home and go entirely old school / by feel. We often do “GPS free Mondays” and I find them liberating and inspiring – I can run on slow trails and lose my mind without worrying about my metrics. Be non-judgemental with yourself and focus on what you can control. You can control how you interpret the feelings and choose not to be too hard on yourself and read into it too much. And mostly, unless a medical reason, I would say try not to give yourself an out. Accept that it may not be your best run / series of runs, but that doing them is better than not doing them at all. And when the mojo returns, you will likely be just where you should be! @candidapplephotography #running #runningmotivation #marathon #canadianwinters

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Elmore’s spring racing plan

Elmore doesn’t find out until May 31 if she’s on the Canadian Olympic Team (though chances are looking high). For now, her spring plan is based around the Olympic Marathon, and includes a handful of 5K, 10K and half-marathon races. She says she won’t start her actual marathon build until May.

March 22 – Carlsbad 5K
April 19 – Vancouver Sun Run
April 26 – Montreal Half-Marathon
May 23 – Ottawa 10K
June 21 – Canadian Half-Marathon Championships, Winnipeg