Tips for Racing in Hot Weather

Stay Safe When Running Race in the Heat

Runners usually know to slow down or run indoors when the weather is hot and humid but, when it comes to racing in the heat, sometimes they’ll get competitive and ignore some of the advice about running in hot weather

If you're going to be racing in hot weather, here's how to play it smart and avoid trouble:

Stay well-hydrated leading up the race.

woman drinking water
Make sure you're drinking plenty of water in the days leading up to the race. Do a urine check – if it's light yellow, like lemonade, you know that you're well-hydrated. If it's dark yellow, keep drinking water.

Scale back your race goals.

Runners in road race
Photo by John Foxx

Don't try to beat the heat. Pushing too hard despite the heat is one of the biggest causes of heat-related illnesses. Don't expect to run a predicted race time that might be possible in better conditions. You'll need to adjust your race plan based on the conditions.

Get extra salt.

George Coppock/Getty

Eat some salty foods, like pretzels or nuts, or sprinkle some salt on your food, in the days leading up to your race. Right before the race, take a packet of salt (from a fast-food restaurant) with water. If you'll be racing for more than two hours, carry another one with you and take it about halfway through your race.

Don't drink too much during the race.

Walkers in race
Yellow Dog Productions
When it's hot, some racers get so concerned about avoiding dehydration that they drink constantly. Drinking too much water can lead to a dangerous condition called hyponatremia, or low blood sodium concentration. Drink when your mouth is dry and you feel thirsty, or no more than 8 ounces of fluid every 20 minutes. This advice is especially important for back-of-the-packers and race walkers, who tend to suffer from hyponatremia more frequently than runners who are on the race course for a shorter amount of time.

Drink a pre-race slushie.

watermelon slushie
Grace Clementine/Getty

An exercise researcher in New Zealand found that drinking a syrup-flavored ice slushie before running on a treadmill extended runners' endurance by an average of 10 minutes.

It's not exactly clear why slushies had that effect, but one possible explanation is that the slushies lowered the runners' body temperature before they started running, allowing them to run longer before they felt the effects of the heat.

The time difference was not huge, so a pre-race slushie won't keep you going through an entire marathon. But it could be enough to give you a little extra boost in the first several miles of a long race or the entire distance of a shorter one, like a 5K.

Wet down your head and upper body.

Women Pouring Water
Peety Cooper

If you're overheating, splash water on your head and body to cool down quickly. Some races even have spray stations that you can run through. Just be careful about getting too wet because soaked clothes can be heavy and wet socks can lead to foot blisters.

Seek help if you don't feel right.

Runner resting
Photo by Stewart Charles Cohen
If you're feeling symptoms of a heat-related illness -- such as lightheadness, goosebumps, nausea, chills – stop at a medical station along the race course or at the finish line. Don't try to be tough and think you should just keep pushing through it.