Every spring, my FOMO overrides my common sense and I end up signing up for the Marine Corps Marathon. It’s kind of like having babies – you conveniently forget the bad parts and only remember that cute squishy baby you ended up with. This year, FOMO REALLY got the best of me and I ended up signing up for the Marine Corps 50K. Know what that means? It means I’m already up to 16 mile long runs. (For those playing along at home, I usually use Hansons Marathon Method, which means 16 miles is my longest marathon training run. Yeah.)
So, for the first time in years, I’m running some really long runs during the hottest months of the year. Yes, we are talking 80+ degrees with matching humidity. Running when the air feels like you are breathing water. Running when the only difference at 6am is that the sun is not beating down on you. Long runs in this weather take a little extra planning. So, here are my tips to survive running in hell (or Virginia in the summer.)
Find a race. This is my absolute favorite way to get in a long run. Having water stops and support go a long way towards getting my miles in, even if I have to run before and/or after the race. I’ve already done it at the Lawyers Have Heart 10k and I have two half marathons and a full marathon tentatively scheduled to get me through this year’s training.
Get up at stupid early. Yes, it might still be just as warm and it’s probably at the most humid, but not having the sun beat down on you makes a huge difference.
Set up a hydration station. If you like to wear a hydration vest or carry lots of liquid on you, you can skip this. But I find that the hotter it is, the less I want on me. I fill a cooler with ice pack, ice water, cold nuun, and Gatorade. I might even throw a damp hand towel in there. I circle back to the cooler (usually in my car, parked at a central location, usually near a bathroom) regularly to refill my bottle and maybe wipe my face with the cloth.
Find the shade. I know where all the best shade in my city is. And that’s where I run. I will run shady hills any day before I’ll choose flat and in the sun.
Run loops. I confess that I don’t mind running the exact loop over an over again if it means shade. But you don’t have to. Find a place to start that allows you to go in different loops. I find that my first loop will be the longest and that my loops get progressively shorter as it gets hotter and I get more tired.
Break it up. I mentally break my run into pieces. First I run 5 miles. Then I run 3 miles. Then I run/walk another 3-5. After that, I break it into small loops. I do whatever it takes to get through each piece without worrying about how much more I have left.
Slow it down. There are lots and lots of charts out there that tell you what heat and humidity do to your effort level. Pay attention to them! Trying to maintain your normal pace when the weather says not to is just a recipe for either not finishing or having a long walk at the end. (Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge fan of adding a walk at the end of a long run, but it should be because that’s your plan, not because you can’t run all of your run miles.)
Cut yourself some slack! I sometimes run for a set amount of time instead of a set distance because I know I’m going to run slower. I also walk as much as needed to keep my heart rate where it should be. And if it’s really awful with poor air quality? I either skip it, run at an indoor track, or suck it up and use the treadmill. I’d much rather be undertrained than to hurt myself on a run when it’s not safe.