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Wednesday, October 07, 2009

How do I prepare for a marathon that may be cool or hot on the day?


I have just run the Berlin marathon on Sept 20. The marathon website had indicated to expect temps of about 16 degrees but there was a "heatwave" and it was about 26 degrees! I had done all of my training in our winter at temps of about 13 max and usually a lot cooler. So I found it prettydraining and nearly fainted at about the 31 km mark and had to walk from then on! But I got there and it was a great day with huge spectator support and a wonderful course around the city.
Are there ways of coping with such a large increase in temperature from the training regime to such unexpected heat in the actual marathon? I drank lots of water and ate about 5 bananas on the run from drink stations at about 2 km intervals.

Photos: Lorraine Moller: Sub 2.30 marathon in stinking Barcelona Heat to come 3rd in the Olympic Marathon. Note the signs of dehydration. An athlete must anticipate the conditions of the day and train to withstand them as best one can.

I am a very late starting marathon runner at age 63. My first was New York last year when I did 4 33. Berlin I did 5 hours. I was running at about 6 min km pace up to 31 km when I had the problem and walked from there. I had done 3 33km training runs without difficulty at 6 min pace to give 3 hr 20 min.

Gary responds:
A couple of weeks ago, I competed in a grueling mulitsports race in Australia with my two brothers, Bruce and Gordon. I was told to prepare for weather conditions that may range from 5c to 30c or more.

It was a Wellington winter, so I prepared by frying in a sauna a few times a week for several weeks beforehand. Please read my earlier article about using a sauna. I also took Lifestream Astazan.

Other than being better able to handle heat stress, there is the benefit of an increase of blood volume by a few percent which means a larger fluid sink for oxygen and other nutrients on one side and for wastes like carbon dioxide and acids on the other.

On race day it was mild weather but I had 38km of intense mountain biking to complete. I used the sponsor's drink bottle which was a bad mistake. First swig just minutes into the race and it became apparent that the plastic bottle was not going to resume its shape - it consequently fell out of the drinks cage! That meant another 36km without a drink and I was already sweating!

But, no worries, I knew I was heat acclimatised and had that extra blood volume. I rationalised that the loss of the bottle meant I had 600gm less weight to lug up steep and muddy slopes.

The upshot of all this is I finished the distance without any water and without any problems with dehydration. I finished sixth out of the entire field and first veteran. Our team won the veterans category and we were sixth overall.

I hope this helps answer your question.

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