What if It's Rainy? What if It's Sunny?

This week summer arrived in La Crosse! Well, maybe it wasn’t really summer, but we did have three or four days of blue skies, sunshine, and temperatures in the 70s.

running in the rain I was outdoors during the noon hour a couple of days ago, and while I was certainly enjoying the day, it also got me thinking. If the La Crosse Marathon were taking place on this day, the marathon runners still on the course would have been at it for four hours--with maybe an hour or more yet to go. If these runners had been training in the La Crosse area (or anywhere with a comparable winter) they might not be adequately prepared for these conditions. Quite likely they would be hot, dehydrated, sunburned, and…well, you get the idea.

An old adage among marathoners is, “When it’s an ideal day for the spectators, it’s not a good day for the runners.” While opinions vary, I think that if it’s above 65 degrees it’s probably too warm for most marathoners, and if it’s above 75 degrees it’s much too warm for everyone (except possibly some Kenyans). This rule of thumb is true at anytime, but if a runner has not had a chance to get acclimatized to sunshine and hot temperatures, a warm day can present a real problem. A 65-degree, sunny day may be wonderful weather for marathon in September, but probably not for one in April.

Of course, you can’t control the weather. And you’re not going to skip the race after four months of training just because the temperature late in the race might get to 70, right? So, what should you do?

I guess you could pray for cool weather and cloudy skies, but this has never been effective for me. (Perhaps somebody else was praying for ideal beach weather that day.)

If the forecast for race day calls for warmer temperatures than you’d like, here are a few things you should do:

  • Hydrate well the day before
  • Run a bit slower early in the race than you had been planning
  • Take two cups of water at every water station (Note: Do not do this if the day is cool and overcast—over-hydration can be a serious problem!)
  • Pour some water over your head
  • If you really start feeling overheated, take a few breaks in shady places.

If sunshine is expected:

  • Wear good UV sunglasses
  • If you tolerate a sunscreen, use some on your face and your shoulders
  • Wear a loose, white dry weave shirt (no cotton!) and/or a wide-brimmed hat

Finally, since this is supposed to be a training blog, here’s a suggestion for the last two weeks: Take advantage of every warm day between now and the marathon to get acclimatized to heat as much as possible. (Yeah, I know, there might not be any more warm days before then.)

Do whatever runs remain on your schedule during the warmest part of the day that you have time to run. When possible, get out in mid-day sunshine with bare legs, arms, shoulders, and whatever else is likely to be exposed during your marathon, even if it’s just to walk, mow grass or garden. You do not want skin that hasn’t seen a ray of sunshine for months getting a two- or three-hour dose of direct sunlight that day. Finally, after you finish (you will finish!), get out of the sun or wear long sleeves and other clothing to protect against additional sunburn.

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