Ugh! Ninety degrees with humidity to match. Running can be a real chore in weather like this – not very enjoyable, slower pace, and race times that are way below your usual target. But hang in there, things will get better in a few weeks. The dues you pay during these hot summer runs will pay off when the weather cools.
Of course, everything I do these days is slow, but in prior years my 5K times were about a minute slower in hot weather and 10K times were about two minutes slower. Then as September phased into October, those faster times came back.
Currently, on my morning runs with the OWies in River Forest, Don Offermann and I trot along at the back of the pack, sometimes recalling our younger, faster days (the older we get, the faster we were, according to OWie member Harry Parker). And on hotter days the mid-run pauses are usually a bit longer, with more time for conversation. A frequent subject is politics. Heat and politics – two depressing topics these days.
We’ve all heard those cautions about drinking lots of water — hydrating – and I’m tired of seeing that word. Just drink when you’re thirsty. One summer when I was in college I worked at a steel mill. There were salt tablet dispensers on the wall next to the drinking fountains. Then salt became a bad word, but later we have decided that it’s okay to ingest sodium (check the ingredients in those sports drinks). I also once heard a sports medicine doc say that if you become light-headed or nauseated from sodium depletion during a race on a hot day, an emergency remedy is to lick your arm – sort of recycling your own sweat. Disgusting, but interesting.
I’ve never been a fan of longer races during the summer months since I think the risk of heat-related health problems is a significant factor. I know that there are a few 10 milers and half marathons during the summer race lineup, but why? Yes we can acclimate to the heat to some extent, and Oak Park Runners Club member Ellen Pavlovic has been living in Dubai for a few years, running in incredible heat. But she is an accomplished runner, and is well heat-conditioned.
I once witnessed a victim of heat stroke get dragged into the medical tent after a summer 20K race, and it was an alarming sight. He almost died. That image has stayed with me ever since.
Those who are training for fall marathons will obviously have to work through their longer mileage runs during the summer, but rest stops and slower paces on hot days are part of the routine, whereas competing in races tends to make you push harder, perhaps leading to problems.
So go ahead and train through the heat, but be sensible. And feel free to complain; it’s an essential part of summer running.
Paul Oppenheim is a member of the Oak Park Runners Club and the OWies.