Friday, May 16, 2008

26 Tips for Marathon Training and Racing: #9-Acclimatization-

photo by Jose M. Osorio

Don't let this happen to you!

In April of 2004, the Boston Marathon was run in temperatures that reached well into the 80s. Emerging from an entire winter of hard training, most of the 16,743 finishers were not prepared for such brutal conditions. More than 1,100 runners were treated for heat-related problems that day, and thankfully nobody died.

One man in the 2007 LaSalle Bank Chicago Marathon was not so fortunate. Conditions at that race, held in early October, became so oppressive the normally well-stocked aid stations ran out of water, forcing race director Carey Pinkowski to halt the race after 4 hours. More than 300 were removed from the course by ambulance, and nearly 11,000 did not finish. One of those was Chad Schieber, a 35 year old police officer from Midland, Michigan, who died from apparent heat-related complications.

The lesson is clear. Never underestimate the importance of preparing for heat. You can be in the best shape of your life but it makes little difference even on a moderately warm day unless you've acclimatized your body.

Heat acclimatization is accomplished through repeated running is hot or humid conditions. Over the course of about 2 weeks of hot weather training, your body adapts by dissipating heat much more efficiently, with the effects remaining about a week after you stop.

The ideal temperature for marathons is mid-40s. As your race approaches, if there is any remote chance of temperatures rising out of the 50s, you would be wise to over dress for all training runs starting 3 weeks beforehand. If it's cool outside, wear 2-3 layers. If it warms up during the day, if possible wait before you start your workout. Plan to drink extra water, and don't forget to weigh yourself before and after your longer runs.

Believe me, acclimatization works. I recall wearing sweats in preparing for my NAIA marathon race back in 1975 and 76, knowing the Arkansas heat and humidity was going to be tough. In 2002, I ran 2hr 59min in the Singapore Marathon, where the temperature at 6:30 am was reported at 85 degrees. At the time I was living in Okinawa, fully aware that even those temperatures were not going to be hot enough without additional clothing.

It may be uncomfortable for a few weeks, but you'll be thankful on race day.

(c) Dave Elger 2008 All rights reserved

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