Mitigate Elevation Effects on Running

Each year, we receive a lot of questions about the altitude of the Colorado Marathon. With a great deal of out-of-towners running the Colorado Marathon year after year, we’re familiar with these concerns and want to help runners who live at sea level to properly prepare for the elevation gain they’ll experience here in Fort Collins. The elevation effects on running are no joke, which is why we’re here to give you some tips on how to mitigate them!

While the Colorado Marathon course is a steady downhill, it does start at ~6,000 ft. and ends at ~5,000 ft. This is high-altitude territory, and we want each participant to be prepared mentally and physically, even though there is a steady decline in elevation throughout the course.

If you’ve found yourself Googling “how to train for high-altitude running in low altitude” lately, look no further. There are a few things you should keep in mind in order to mitigate elevation effects on running during your 2019 Colorado Marathon. Check them out now:

Arrive early.

Do yourself a big favor for the 2019 Colorado Marathon by arriving a day (or a few days) early. Give your body the chance to acclimate to the high elevation. This is a key component to success when you travel from a low elevation to run a high-elevation marathon.  

The great thing about the Colorado Marathon is that it takes place in a really amazing town to visit. Fort Collins, Colorado is full of fun – hence, its nickname “Fort Fun” – including breweries, more restaurants per capita than most large cities, hiking, camping, fishing, and more. Rocky Mountain National Park is just a short drive away, as is Denver and other mountainous cities with plenty of activities to do.  

With the thought of other outdoor activities aside, we highly recommend making Fort Collins your home for the few days leading up to the 2019 Colorado Marathon. Keep in mind that you should come a few days early and just relax. Don’t plan a huge hike or an end-of-the-season ski day before the Colorado Marathon. Simply come early and relax to give your body time to get used to the elevation. Especially if you’re coming from sea level, giving your body a couple of days to adapt to the high elevation is a really good idea.

Set Realistic Time Goals

The Colorado Marathon course is a gentle jog down the Poudre Canyon, but you will still be at a high elevation throughout the race. We recommend being conservative about your anaerobic stress. Take it easy, don’t push yourself too hard, and go with a pace that feels good for your body. Don’t compare your pace at the 2019 Colorado Marathon to that of the last marathon you ran at sea level.

With less oxygen to breathe, your pace could likely be slower. According to Runner’s World Magazine, “if you normally run a 9:30 pace at sea level for an easy run, at altitude, you may have to run at 10:30 to 11:00 pace to remain in the easy effort zone.” This may not be the case for each runner, but we still want people to be realistic about their expectations for a high-altitude race like the Colorado Marathon.

If possible, simulate the course.

Training properly is the key to a successful marathon race, so do what you can to simulate the course beforehand. Since the Colorado Marathon is a steady downhill, train on hills – primarily going downhill – to train your legs properly.

Check out the marathon course here and the half marathon course here to get an idea of how to simulate the courses during your training.

Boost your hydration and carbohydrate levels at elevation.

Avoid altitude sickness by staying hydrated! From the moment you land in Colorado, drink plenty of water – more than you normally would – and replacement fluids. Take all the measures you possibly can to stay properly hydrated before, during, and after the race. We all know that drinking fluids during a race is important, but at altitude it is vital! That’s why we’ll have plenty of aid stations with replacement fluids provided by our sponsor Nuun Hydration along the courses.

While each individual is different physiologically and reactions to elevation can vary depending on the person, these guidelines are simply just that. If you have serious concerns about the elevation of the Colorado Marathon and the training involved, please seek advice from your physician.

The elevation effects on running are real, and they can be troublesome if you haven’t planned accordingly. By following these simple guidelines, you will have a stellar Colorado Marathon experience this May, regardless of what elevation you’re coming from. If you haven’t committed to running the marathon, half marathon, marathon relay, 10k, or 5k with us yet, go ahead and register now to ensure your entry!