Hot weather races—How to adjust and still have a good experience

photo credit: Solomon Lieberman

photo credit: Solomon Lieberman

You may have a race coming up and notice with growing horror that the temperature is going to be very warm on race day.

You may have heard my recap of the Lincoln Marathon, this episode will give you a frontseat look at how hot weather affected my race.

There have been a few notable races that were hot this year including the LA Marathon in March. Since it takes approximately 2 weeks of training in warmer conditions for your body to acclimate you may not have that much time to adjust pre-race.

Here’s what you can do:

How weather races—How to adjust and still have a good experience

Remember, if you’re racing in the spring and have an unusually warm day it will require that you proceed more carefully and listen to your body. Any temperature above 60 degrees F requires your body to work harder at cooling while running. Any humidity can decrease the evaporation of sweat adding to the perceived heat.

If you’re unused to running in warm conditions it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to PR at a warm weather race. But you can still have a good (and safe) experience if you follow a few simple guidelines.

An article in Runner’s World discussed the optimal race temperatures:

When French researchers analyzed the finishing times of 1.8 million marathoners over a 10-year period, they found that a race-day temp of 43.2°F produced the quickest times overall. But faster runners, who generate more heat, benefited from cooler temps, with the top one percent (green line below) peaking at 38.9°F. Midpackers (red line) do best in the mid-40s.

  1. Manage your expectations. This may be time to go to plan B in your race strategy. You will need to pace yourself more conservatively and carefully monitor how your body is responding. This is a time to run by effort. Don’t be afraid to take walk breaks if you notice yourself starting to overheat. Heart rate is increased during warm weather so any sign of shortness of breath, dizziness, or extreme thirst should be taken seriously. If you have preexisting medical conditions then any signs of dehydration, heat exhaustion or heat stroke can be even more dangerous. Be sure to seek the help of the race medical stations for any signs of trouble.

  2. Dress for the conditions. As a general rule wear light colored, technical gear that allows for decent air flow. If the morning starts off a bit chilly a throw away shirt is preferred to wearing a long sleeve running shirt. A hat is also important to keep the sun out of your eyes and sunscreen is a must.

  3. Take in proper hydration and electrolytes. Be sure to go into the race well hydrated and take an electrolyte tab or two pre-race. Too little and too much fluids can both be dangerous so make sure you’re taking in water and electrolytes in small regular amounts. As a general rule you don’t want to consume more than 24 oz of fluid in an hour. Sucking on ice can actually help regulate your thirst and be good for cooling your body between aid stations. Be sure to continue hydration post-race as well. For an electrolyte source I use Endurolytes by Hammer.

  4. Stay cool. A good strategy during warm races is to consume some water at the aid station and dump the rest on your head. If they offer ice carrying a small cup can be very beneficial. You can suck on a piece, put it in your sports bra and rub it on your face and the back of your neck. At the A2A Marathon in Oklahoma they offered cold wet towel and sponges to help runners stay cool. Take advantage of any shade on the course too. During the Missoula Marathon many homeowners turned on their sprinklers for people to run through.

  5. Be careful about consuming alcohol, ibuprofen and large amounts of caffeine pre-race. These products can lead to a higher risk of dehydration, electrolyte imbalances and kidney problems.


I’d love to hear from you. Have you ever run a hot marathon?

5 Responses to Hot weather races—How to adjust and still have a good experience

  1. Ben Shatto May 18, 2015 at 9:15 pm #

    Hi Angie. These are great tips. Especially tip #1. Hot weather really can take its toll on a person. It is particularly hard to go from cool spring training to hot racing season. Sounds like the Lincoln race was a warm one. I had recently written an article on heat acclimatization as well. Here is a link if anyone is interested

    http://www.thephysicaltherapyadvisor.com/2015/04/22/how-to-quickly-become-heat-acclimated-for-your-race/

    Thanks to you and Trevor for all you awesome information. I’ve been a fan and listener since the beginning.

  2. Collette May 31, 2015 at 10:46 pm #

    I ran a race in Las Vegas a few years ago. It was in July. It was an “extreme heat” race that many ultra runners used to train for Bad Water. The start time for the half was 12 noon and the temp at start one was about 115f. Oh. My. Lanta. It was brutal.

    The insulated water bottled (which was required by the race officials) was my saving grace. It was tough as I had come in from
    boston and went to a very dry climate and had been training in humidity. I would fill my bottle with just ice and it helped regulate my intake. Just as ice would melt enough to get a bit of water out, I would drink and it was enough for me to drink and not overhydrate.

    Aside from the insulated water bottle, I second the cold rag, and do research about the fluing stations before you go. If it’s going to be a hot race, don’t hesitate to email or call, or just go ask before you start about ice, rags, buckets of cold water to re-wet rags and other Important items for hot weather running.

    I also may have tossed some ice cubes down the sports bra at a few stations. 🙂

    • Angie Spencer June 1, 2015 at 1:09 pm #

      Great tips! Ice is a saving grace during hot weather races. The one you did sounds way hotter and tougher than Lincoln was. Way to go!

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