Every year in March, I do my best to get into the Marine Corps Marathon. Every year in July or August, I curse past MCM Mama for thinking this was a good idea. It’s not that I don’t love the Marine Corps Marathon. I do. I love it so much that this will be my 4th time running it. What I hate is training for a fall marathon through the summer in the south. Case in point, yesterday when I went out for my run, the “feels like” temperature was 97*. At 9:30 in the morning. Ugh. I managed 4 miles outside and then finished the last 2 on the treadmill (with the AC unit next to the treadmill going full blast.)
With the New York Marathon, the Chicago Marathon, and the Marine Corps Marathon all within a short number of weeks, as well as many smaller marathons, there are a LOT of people out there training for a marathon in the summer heat. So, how do you survive it?
- Run early or run late – If you are my Facebook friend, you may have seen that I’ve actually had some early runs lately. I am not a morning person (slight understatement there), but running under the broiling sun in the heat of the day is the worst possible time to be out there. Around here, morning is cooler and shadier, but often more humid. Evening is often still warm from the heat of the day, but is often the least humid time. Either one offers less intense sun (or none at all depending on your timing) and more shade options.
- If you have to run in the heat of the day, slow it down – Sometimes you have no choice. It’s a lunch time run or no run at all. Slow down! If the humidity is up, slow down even more. The heat index (or the “feels like” temp) is a combination of the humidity and the actual temp. Basically, the higher the humidity, the higher the “feels like” temperature will be. This is the number you should be paying attention to, especially in the humid states.
- Explore all of your local options – So, it’s hot. You can’t get out in the morning or evening. And you don’t have a treadmill. What’s a runner to do? Check out the local community centers! Many of them have indoor tracks and will allow you to use them for small fee. Others have treadmills that you can pay to use. Find a trail with all day shade.
- Go by perceived effort, not pace – I have the hardest time with this one (and this is what got me in trouble yesterday.) I was running “slowly”, but in reality my pace was not slow given the heat I was dealing with. I was running my perfect weather recovery pace, not my “running on the surface of the sun” recovery pace. And my heart rate clearly showed it and put me into the red zone. My only options at the end of mile 4 were to get inside on the treadmill or walk the rest of the run. If I’d actually run the appropriate pace, I may have been able to do it all outside. One chart I saw suggested that with a temp over 80* and humidity over 60%, I should have been 3:00 per mile slower than normal. Oops.
- Recover smartly – Make sure you hydrate smartly. Get some electrolytes. Have an ice cold towel waiting for you after your run (my friend had these for after our run on Tuesday and they were amazing!). I drink pickle juice or chew a couple of the Salt Stick Fastchews. Otherwise, I end up spending the day searching the house for salty things to eat.
Summer running is no joke, but it is possible to survive and thrive. Besides the above tips, one thing that works for me is using the Hansons Marathon Method. Since I have a hard time adapting to the heat and humidity (give me below freezing any day…), running more often for shorter distances is more achievable for me than trying to manage more than 3 hours out in the heat on my long run.