Don’t Try to Beat the Heat

Guest Blogger Eric Jorgensen

If Charlie Johnston ran the Boston Marathon in 3:03, you know the heat that day was brutal. If I ran a marathon in 3:03, you know it was on a bike. Probably downhill.

Monday’s Boston Marathon, which was one of the hottest ever, is a great learning opportunity for racing in the heat. Before I dole out advice, I always like to give this disclaimer: I am not professional runner nor do I hold doctorate in, well, anything. What I am is an experienced amateur, and this is my advice:

If race day is sweltering, don’t run.

That is tough for me to say, because I am a notch higher than competitive; I am crazy. I’m also sure many of you will disagree with my saying not to run, but I’m telling you: Don’t try it. A 5K you could get away with, but anything longer is a risk, and it’s not worth it.

I ran a sprint triathlon in mid-summer Kansas heat and I regret it, two years removed. It was in the 90s and humid and it was probably the worst I’ve ever felt during a race or workout. Only pride kept me moving forward, and I believe had that race been any longer my well-being would have been at stake. I was cramping, light-headed and nauseous by the run, which I stumbled through like a Walking Dead zombie. When I crossed the finish line I was totally out of it. I immediately vomited and sunk into the grass. A nurse and a race organizer threw my arms around their shoulders and drug me into the aid station where they threw me in an ice tank and force fed me Gatorade. I was legitimately scared.

Fifteen minutes later, I was back. I kept my Gatorade down and felt my body temperature return to somewhere near normal. If I had competed in an Olympic distance race, I was either going to pass out on the course or end up in the hospital.

I wish I had not run that race. I continually over compensate when I hydrate because of my experiences that day, and even though it is far in the past by now, it was awful enough that I wish I had never experienced it.

Luckily for us, our marathon is the San Francisco Marathon—a real scorcher. Like clock work, it’ll be 55-60 degrees.

If you are running a race when the heat index is triple digits and you can’t get your entry fee back and don’t want to feel gypped out of a couple dozen bucks, do not try to P.R. Just take your time and hydrate like you were walking into the Sahara for a couple days. There’s nothing wrong with caution, and there’s always another race.

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