The thing is, I don’t think I’ve had a single email from a fellow runner lately where ‘this damned heat’ hasn’t been mentioned at least once. We have all discussed it, until we are blue in the face, or in my case, extremely red. And yes, we are all agreed that it makes going for a run a bit of an uphill struggle and adds at least 10% to normal training times.
If I’m honest, I’ve always tried to avoid running in any kind of heat, generally waiting for nightfall, or at least rainfall, before I run during the Summer months.
Which is probably why, every time I arrive at the start line for any kind of race, and it’s so unseasonably hot, which it always, always is, that I have such a hard time dealing with it. All of which simply feeds my Arthur Dent-like paranoia, that even were I to run the Arctic Marathon there would be some kind of fluke heatwave on the day of the race.
Paranoia aside, however, the fact must be faced that while I’ll never be able to run the Saharan Marathon des Sables (After all, it took several St John’s Ambulance persons to talk me away from the pretty white light and towards the finishing line at the FLM last time I ran in 23 degrees heat), I feel that I really should be training myself to handle warm days a little better.
But is that really possible? Well, I’ve done a little bit of research, and it seems that while some of us will always fare worse than others in the heat, particularly during sporting activities, some acclimatisation is beneficial to all, even sweating, red-faced weirdos like my good self.
Now, before getting to the serious business of sharing my findings on acclimatisation training, there is just one thing I’d like to share with you, for no reason other than that I’m plainly a very bad person. And it is this: according to the American Medical Association: “Exertional Heat Stroke (EHS) can affect seemingly healthy athletes even when the environment is relatively cool. EHS is defined as when the rectal temperature becomes greater than 40 degrees Celsius.”
Ohhh-kay! Thanks so much for that particular mental picture…which surely brings a whole new terror to post-race changing areas.
But back at the serious subject of acclimatisation, current scientific thinking is that after as little as 14 days of light exertion in a hot climate, the human body is capable of re-prioritising blood flow, sending more of it to cool at the body’s surface, thus reducing fluid loss and also the strain placed on the heart by having to pump more blood during exertion in hot conditions.
So, while it’s currently 22 degrees outside, I think I’m going to go for a slow 6 miler anyway, complete with a Camelbak full of iced Taut, and see if I can’t improve my performance the next time I run in the heat.
Or, at the very least, avoid the possibility of a paramedic checking me out for EHS…