Things I learned from an 89-degree spring marathon

Hopefully we will never have to use the lessons below, but just in case you find yourself racing in heat to which you’re not yet acclimated, here are my Hades Marathon takeaways:

  • Forget your goal pace and run a smart race: Unless you’re training for Badwater, adjust your goal. Start conservatively, evaluate realistically, and back off before you need to. Don’t let yourself get there.
  • “Hydrate early and often”: After running my last marathons with minimal mid-race water and Gatorade intake, I was nervous about getting a stomach cramp, having to pee 62 times, or just feeling sloshy, but when the White Kenyan tells you to do something, you do it. I grabbed fluids from marathon volunteers and countless spectators, to whom I owe my race. I never had to take a bathroom break, nor did I get cramps or sloshing. The constant intake of water and electrolytes kept me fresh and hydrated, replacing what was lost in the sun, and I only lost two pounds during the race, which I consider nothing short of a miracle.
  • Run in the shade, even if the amount of shade seems insignificant: Quick shade breaks can add up to a lot less time spent in the broiling sun. If it’s an unseasonably hot spring day, that means leaves and flowers are not yet on the trees, so don’t wait for a neighborhood to run on the shady side of the street.
  • Although hideously dorky, wear a visor: I started the race with a white tech hat, and it felt great to have the sun off my face. Unfortunately, the wetter it got, the more the cap held the heat in. I whipped it off at mile 8 and felt wonderful… until a mile later, when I was wishing I had the brim again.
  • Run through every sprinkler and hose: By mile seven, my shoes were pretty wet and I could already feel a blister forming under my right foot. That blister (and many others) still annoys me today, almost a week later, but every spray of cool water refreshed me mentally and physically. Those war wounds were totally worth it.
  • It’s worth the extra steps to cross the road for ice, popsicles, and wet towels: I zig-zagged around other marathoners to get to spectators holding buckets of ice cubes, and darted across lanes to get popsicles, wet towels, and sponges. Every handful of ice refreshed and rejuvenated me, over and over and over again. I may not have finished if it were not for these extras.
  • Wear sunblock: It will sweat off, but it really does minimize the damage. Apply it before the run and know it’s working for you!
  • If you want a cold beer, take it: Seriously, take just a few sips. It’s deliciously satisfying after hours of sugar, and you’ll most likely develop an impressive cheer section of loud, encouraging drunks.

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