Hot Weather Running

With the recent and persistent heat waves on the eastern half of North America it seems only natural to not only commiserate about the heat with other runners but also to write about it. I’ve written about running in heat and humidity before and as I thought about this post I went back to read what I wrote the first time to see if anything had changed or if I had missed some important details in the first discussion. I was pleasantly surprised to see that the post from two years ago was still relevant. The only thing that changed is the temperature. Two years ago when I was complaining about running in crazy hot weather it was only high 80s and 90s. This year, as anyone who has been outside in the last few weeks knows, its been high 90s, low 100s with humidity so thick it’s hard to breathe.

Yet, we crazy runners continue to lace up and head out for a run. Or rather a slow, slow shuffle.

How Does Heat Affect Running?

Negatively. At least for me. Never have I been more frustrated with running than over the last few weeks. My training plan for the Marine Corps Marathon currently ranges from 3-6 mile runs on weekdays and no matter the distance and no matter how early I started, each run involved walking. Each run was slow with heavy breathing and droopy form. I would intentionally slow down to see if I could run the whole distance and inevitably would have to walk, returning home drenched no matter how slow I’d been.

These negative affects of heat on my runs started to impact me mentally as well. With each run I felt defeated and frustrated. I felt as though I might never bounce back. I obsessively watched my pace recalling how I used to be fast. Fortunately, I had enough determination to go out for each run, settling with the knowledge that if I had to walk I’d walk.

The August issue of Runner’s World included an article on running in high temperatures and how to survive. It’s an excellent article with good information on heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke among other important details about how running in high heat will affect the body. I highly recommend it to understand the ways to overcome running in the heat but also the dangers that come with it.

How to Run in the Heat?

The Runner’s World article does include plenty of great tips and there is no question that heat will affect runners differently. Here’s what I’ve learned so far about how to run in the heat:

  • Accept that pace will slow down at least 30 seconds to 1 minute
  • Run/walks are sometimes the only way to cover the distance
  • Run as early in the day as possible and on as shady a route as possible
  • Wear a hat, shading the face is critical
  • For long runs, freeze fuel belt water bottles overnight (no need to thaw them out before the run, they’ll melt quick enough)
  • If it’s just too damn hot to run, bike, swim or train inside if that’s an option

Have you seen the heat affect your running? Any tips for how to power through the heat?


2 thoughts on “Hot Weather Running

  1. Greg

    Interesting stuff here. I’m signed up for a Olympic tri in a couple weeks that starts at 1:30pm (Boulder Sunset Tri). It’s been warm here in Colorado (as everywhere else) and I’ve got some anxiety over the afternoon start. I’m interested to see how it impacts my speed, but have been trying to do some afternoon runs and rides to get more acclimated. I believe my runs have been about 20 seconds/mile slower at 90 degrees vs. 70 degrees. Just an observation and not scientific. I’ve upped my hydration, but one of the big issues i have is with sweat. I sweat more than average and wear a headband under my helmet and then a visor when I run. When I do an afternoon run/ride, I’m sweating through my headband/visor and sweat drips into my eyes. I need to figure out a better way to deal with this.

  2. Natalie Post author

    Greg–very interesting on the afternoon start. I wonder why? I would imagine though if you don’t have the humidity it will be very comfortable. You’ve done the right thing trying to train at the same time as the race. Re; the sweat–have you heard of Bondi Bands? They have some more of the sweat-absorbent bands I’ve ever used. I also just read a sunglasses review in Runner’s World and I think one of the pairs they reviewed had a special design to help prevent sweat from dripping into your eyes. Also the ‘headsweat’ brand of visors and hats seems to be more absorbent than others. Good luck in your tri!


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