Minimizing the Risks of Summer Competitions

Minimizing the Risks of Summer Competitions

Summer doesn‘t seem to be the best season of the year to participate in marathons. It is also the most difficult time for long-distance training. Heat and humidity are huge challenges that runners must face.

Daniel Lieberman, a famous human evolutionary biologist in Harvard and author of "The Story of the Human Body", puts forward that 'heat is a paradox'. On the one hand, humans have evolved to be able to run at high temperatures. On the other hand, if you can’t adapt well, then heat may be dangerous for you. If you decide to participate in a city marathon in the summer, you need to pay attention to certain details. Besides getting a high-quality racing experience, you also want to minimize the risks as much as possible.


#Competition is the effective output of training

In order to participate in the summer marathons, it is necessary to train and prepare in advance. Give your body time to adjust to the higher temperatures. During the first few hot days, avoid intense training and start slowly. Gradually raise the training intensity to adjust the body. For sure, you should also "combine work with rest" in your usual running, and you should not be overloaded with long distances every day, as that will cause fatigue.

In addition, you must warm-up before running a summer marathon. Start slowly after the race starts and gradually increase the speed, to prevent your body temperature and heart rate from reaching peaks in the early stages of running. This would improve your running experience. Please keep in mind that if you are well prepared, the game is just the effective output of your training.


#Slowing down is not always bad

Based on the data in an article published in the "Sports and Medicine" magazine, 10°C is the appropriate temperature for running a marathon. Even if the race is at a temperature of 10-15°C, the performance of marathon runners who usually score 2 hours 10 min will slow down by 1-2 minutes. For male runners who finished the race in 3 hours, the slowdown time is 4 to 8 minutes. Although we mentioned before to accept the fact that running a marathon in the summer may be more difficult than expected, it is okay to slow down and adjust your speed to the hot weather. Start slower than planned, and make running to the end your main goal. Too fast and overheating is definitely not a strategy to ensure the best game and safety.



#Stay Hydrated

Although research shows that you might not need to replenish every sweat after sweating, staying hydrated is very important, especially if you’re running in summer. Drink enough water for several days before the race - having slight yellow urine is the goal. On the morning of the race, it would be best to drink a few hundreds of milliliters of water or sports drinks. Then, to replenish more at the supply stations along the way.

While mild dehydration affects performance while running, severe dehydration can even be life-threatening. Hydration is a key factor in cooling and performing at its best under high-temperature conditions. However, it is important not to drink water until you feel thirsty. If your fingers start to swell, this may be an early warning sign of hyponatremia - a dangerous situation that may be caused by excessive drinking, please seek medical attention immediately.


#Avoid anything that could cause dehydration

Alcohol, antihistamines, and even caffeine can dehydrate you, as do some prescription drugs. Save the celebration beer until after the game. If you are used to drinking coffee before the game, you can consider drinking half more than usual. Data shows that athletes who take high doses of coffee will increase their speed by 3.5%. This is because "caffeine" is often considered to be the driving force behind sports performance, but this varies from person to person. Some people will be affected by the metabolic caffeine and thus affect the performance of the game, which is related to a gene in the body. So try a few times on weekdays, and then make the right choice during the game.

Electrolytes prevent cramps and maintain a better fluid balance in the body, especially for runners who have a slower finish time. Even if the intensity is not high, replenishment is equally important. You can drink extra sports drinks to get electrolytes or buy some electrolyte tablets. Although we do not recommend that you try new things on the day of the game, if you have used similar electrolyte products before, there should be no problem.



#Avoid sunburn

Running itself is not completely risk-free, especially in outdoor competitions. Although nature has bestowed many benign factors on mankind, our skin cannot avoid being sunburned by ultraviolet rays. Whether it is sunny or cloudy, applying sunscreen in advance is necessary. The sun protection factor (SPF) tells you how long your sunscreen can protect your skin against nature.

How much sunscreen you put on depends on your skin type, the specific time of the game during the day, and the current UV level. Don't forget to rub some on your neck, back of your knees, and your ears! In fact, sunscreen can also avoid skin cancer and sunburn. Runners also understand that sunburned skin will lose its perspiration ability, making it less efficient to cool down. This is obviously not conducive to the race, but a friendly reminder: don’t wait until the race to use it, but should "know how to reject the Sun’s enthusiasm" a few days in advance.


#Keeping Your Body Cool

The wearing of equipment on match day is also a section that cannot be ignored. Make sure you wear a perspiration fabric, which helps you stay cool while running. In addition, you can also choose to wear a sun hat or a face shield to block strong sunlight based on the actual situation; choose sunglasses or polarized glasses to protect your eyes, etc. If you can, once you drink enough water, pour the rest of the water on you, and then throw it aside. Of course, it should be noted that do not let water flow into your shoes, grinding blisters is not a joke.



Pre-cooling is a technique used to slightly lower the runner's core body temperature before they start running, which in turn increases the amount of time they can run harder before reaching the critical temperature threshold. Now, the newest research confirms that pre-cooling can significantly improve performance under hot and humid conditions. Also, there is a study that reported the effect of pre-cooling was about 16%. Deena Kastor and Meb Keflezighi, both are the medal winners at the marathon of the 2004 Athens Olympics, have both benefited from this strategy. 

For running lovers, wet a few towels and put them in the refrigerator in advance. Then, before10 to 15 minutes of the race start, place them on your neck, head and back. It feels a bit chilly at first, but if you don't mind throwing away your towel, you can even put one on for the beginning of your run.



Possible symptoms:

Heat Cramps

Reason: dehydration causes electrolyte imbalance

Symptoms: severe cramps in abdominal or major muscles

Treatment advice: restore salt balance with sodium-containing foods or drinks


Heat dizziness

Reason: usually caused by sudden cessation, which interrupts blood flow from the legs to the brain

Symptoms: fainting

Treatment advice: elevating the legs and pelvis after falling helps recover blood flow to the brain



Reason: dehydration causes electrolyte imbalance

Symptoms: A core body temperature of 38-40°C, headache, fatigue, profuse sweating, nausea, wet/slippery skin

Treatment advice: take a rest and apply ice packs to the head/neck. Salt balance can also be restored with sodium-containing foods and drinks



Reason: Excessive water intake dilutes the amount of sodium in your blood. It usually happens after four hours or more of running

Symptoms: Headache, disorientation, muscle twitching

Treatment advice: Emergency medical treatment is need; any form of hydration can be deadly


Heart disease

Reason: Overwork and dehydration impair your body's ability to maintain an optimal temperature

Symptoms: A core body temperature of 40°C or higher, headache, nausea, vomiting, rapid pulse, disorientation

Treatment advice: Immediate immersion in ice water and intravenous fluids, and urgent medical attention are needed 


Whether it's training or competition, hot weather can be dangerous, so always pay attention to discomfort or abnormalities in your body. 

Once you experience conditions such as excessive sweating, pale face, muscle cramps, fatigue, nausea, and vomiting, you must stop immediately and take proper care. Don't be rigid to avoid unnecessary danger. In addition to the pursuit of performance, ensuring safety and obtaining a high-quality racing experience is also extremely important to mass runners. Don't let the weather ruin your journey of city marathons.

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