Remember that stretch of mid-90s heat several weeks ago? Yes we survived, and by now most of us are used to hotter weather, even though it's uncomfortable. According to a July 11 Chicago Tribune article, heat adaptation takes about two weeks. Cedric Bryant, chief science officer of the American Council on Exercise, asserts "A heat-acclimated individual will sweat sooner and that sweat will be more dilute."
That certainly matches my experience with those early spring hot spells. Sweat stings my eyes, but as hotter weather continues, the sting goes away as perspiration gets less salty and the body becomes more heat-efficient. A couple of years in Thailand during the 1960s showed I could adapt to tropical climates, and many years of running in our humid Midwestern summers confirmed it.
However, we've all had occasions when we register for a spring race, but the nice, cool weather is suddenly replaced by a draining blast of heat. So we struggle through a miserable race. But as warm weather continues, running gets easier.
Though we may groan about our Chicago heat, Ellen Pavlovic, a member of the Oak Park Runners Club, has been living in Dubai for the last couple of years where she is employed as a physical therapist.
She runs regularly with a local running group in Dubai and writes, "Last year it took me awhile to get used to running in the heat, but now my body is pretty used to it. I can run 10-15 kilometers (6-9 miles) in 115 degree heat and 60-70 percent humidity fairly comfortably. I think this is mainly because I've run consistently all year with a gradual buildup in this heat. In higher heat my group runs at a much slower pace with more water stops."
In another email, Pavlovic added, "I actually just came in from the run. It was 110 degrees outside with 30 percent humidity – a 'nice' run according to my running mates. The general consensus is that we can handle the heat, but when it gets really humid (over 50 percent), it can be pretty tough. Today we decided to run 18 km (over 11 miles) because it was less humid."
Her group totals about 120 runners who separate into several smaller groups depending on pace, but the group shrinks to about 80 in the summer.
And just like in the United States, these are Dubai's hottest months, so races and other athletic competitions are scheduled for the "cooler" months between September and April when temperatures get down into the frigid 70s and 80s.
Also, in a Muslim country, the holy period of Ramadan calls for no food or drink between sunrise and sunset, so even non-Muslims are not supposed to drink in public. Pavlovic and her fellow runners carry water bottles hidden in bags, and rehydrate discreetly (out of public view) every three miles or so.
There are lots of people around the world like Pavlovic running in hotter weather than ours, but here's to hoping she gets back to Oak Park where she belongs.
Paul Oppenheim is a member of the Oak Park Runners Club.