How to run a race in heat
If you’ve entered a summer time race, you know you’re likely to be running in warm temperatures. You needn't worry however because everyone is running in the same heat, so this disadvantage won't be unique to you. Plus, there are plenty of ways to keep yourself cool and give yourself the edge.
Keep up the water
Stay well hydrated both during your race and in the lead up to it. It's too late to begin hydrating a few hours before your race if your body is already dehydrated.
Start in the days before the race by taking in additional fluids. Top up before the race but don’t overdo it. Stay hydrated during the run by taking small sips and don’t forget to add electrolyte supplements to combat the extra perspiration. Tip: trial these during training sessions, it's best not to try a-new on race day!
Keep the sun off your skin
Running during the summer can lead to some pretty rough sunburn. Wear light coloured, long sleeves made from wicking materials. If you can find clothes with mesh or vents, all the better and apply a high-quality sunscreen to any exposed areas. A visor and sunglasses will help to reduce any discomfort caused by the glare.
Tips: put any sun cream on in advance, allowing sufficient time for your skin to soak it up. Find one that's effective and water resistant but not too greasy – this just isn't comfortable when you're sweating. The Riemann range is very light and great for day long protection. Read the Runner's World recommendations for Best Sun Cream for Runners.
Super charge your sweating
If you have access to water stations along the way, grab one cup to drink and another to pour over yourself. The water will evaporate as you run, helping to cool you down further (just as sweat does). Don’t hesitate to slow down at water stations to ensure you get what you need.
Change your race plan
Running in heat is likely to make the race challenging. In fact, it's almost guaranteed to slow you down as much as 20-30 seconds per mile. Don’t try to ignore the conditions – adapt to them instead.
Tip: Start slow and steady and conserve your energy for a stronger finish. Discipline is one of the most valuable qualities of competitive runners. You can't control external conditions such as heat and humidity but you have full control over how much you have 'left in the tank'.
How to spot heat stress
If you don’t take care of yourself during the race there's a lot that can go wrong. Dehydration can lead to fainting, due to electrolyte imbalances. Heat stress can develop into heat stroke – identifiable by a raised body temperature of over 104 degrees, nausea, vomiting or headaches. It’s tempting when combatting hot weather running to drink too much water. Manage your intake or you can flush the salts from your body too quickly, leading to a condition called hyponatremia. This can be really serious, so don’t overdo it (hence 'small sips'. That said, it's difficult to over-hydrate, so don't wait until you feel thirsty to drink.
More tips for remaining comfortable during your race
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