async="src="/ Taking the Long Way Home: How to Train for a Long Distance Race Through the Heat of Summer

Monday, June 8, 2020

How to Train for a Long Distance Race Through the Heat of Summer

Disclaimers: This is a previously published post that I've updated. This post contains affiliate links.

After suffering through what felt like the longest coldest rainiest spring ever, I know I'm not alone in welcoming longer days and warmer temperatures. It feels great to peel off the layers and not freeze when I step out the door. Except that for most of us, running in the heat is tough. Having trained for a few fall marathons through some really hot summers, I know that it can be a challenge to get those miles in when it's hot and humid.

I've said I would never train for a fall long distance race again and here I am, training for a 50k! Seriously, what is wrong with me? Every single time I've signed up for a fall marathon or a summer half marathon, I ask myself why I do this. But over the years, I've gotten a little smarter about training for long distances in the heat. I thought I'd share some of the tips and tricks that have worked for me.



1. Get up and out the door before the heat of the day. Common sense, right? Until the alarm goes off at zero dark thirty, that is. It may be tough to get up before dawn but once that sun comes up, it's going to be so much harder to get in a decent run. The heat of the sun is really intense. If you're not a morning runner, this might be the time to become one.

2. Bring water or plan your route accordingly. In the summer, I know where all the water fountains are located on my routes, but this year, with COVID, the water fountains are turned off. Now I have to be prepared. On shorter runs, I also a handheld with Tailwind, my hydration fluid of choice. I'll be trialing a Camelback hydration pack and/or possibly a vest. Whatever you use, make sure you have plenty of liquids available to keep you hydrated.

3. Lubricate areas on your body that are prone to chafing. Somehow I always miss a spot and get an unpleasant surprise in the shower! I've found a really excellent product that seems to stand up well to sweat--pjuractive is a silicone-based gel that has been working really well for me. I'm also using Trail Toes on my feet after that blister fest I experienced a few weeks ago.

4. Don't get burned. When I finished my run on Sunday, I came upon a family walking on the path. One of the kids asked me if I was wearing sunblock. Umm...no? I'm paying the price for many years of running without sunscreen. There are plenty of waterproof options but I'm going to recommend Blue Lizard-the sunscreen I recommend to my patients in the clinic. Did you know that you don't need anything higher than SPF 30? Just be sure to reapply every 2 hours.

5. Don't get bit. There are so many diseases that are transmitted by insects--Lyme disease, viral encephalitis to name a few-- that you should consider using bug spray that contains DEET on your runs. Be aware that DEET can reduce the effectiveness of sunscreen. The CDC recommends that you apply suncreen prior to application of insect spray. Unlike sunscreen, which you need to apply generously, insect repellent should be applied just once a day. Right now I'm using Off Active which has been very effective in the swampy woods where I train.

6. Accept that your pace will be affected by the heat and humidity. In the swampy summer conditions, it can be tough to maintain any semblance of a respectable pace. Planned run/walk intervals can help you keep consistent splits. You can play with the intervals, but I've found that in really swampy conditions, 4:1 seems to work best for me. There's no shame in walking, but who wants a DNF?

7. Use a heart rate monitor to assess your effort. I used to really struggle with the heat and I couldn't figure out why until I started training by heart rate. I could correlate my heart rate with when I started to struggle and once I slowed down, so did my HR. I guess I could have done this without my Garmin that measures my heart rate, but somehow just seeing those numbers really helped me get my head around why I couldn't hit paces that I was used to running. By training using HR and not pace, I've been working hard to keep my heart rate in the zone where I'm pushing myself but I'm not dying!

8. Take some, but not all of your runs to the treadmill. Desperate times call for desperate measures. I get it. If it's really awful out, you can run inside. But save those summer treadmil runs for when you really need them. Keep in mind that running outside helps acclimate your body to warm weather conditions. By avoiding that, you might hinder your progress and your performance on race day.

9. Remind yourself that all this hot weather running is like money in the bank. Once the temperatures drop, you'll find yourself running faster with less effort. This is due to the physiological changes that occur in the body when you train in the heat. What doesn't kill you will truly make you stronger!



The heat is on and it's relentless! How to train for a long distance race during the summer /via @oldrunningmom #runchat #running 


What do you do to survive while running in the heat of summer? Any tips that help you stay on track? 

78 comments :

  1. Man...I do not miss running in swampy weather. Another tip...switch to triathlons in the summer - haha! That way, a lot more of your long outdoor stuff is on the bike...you still have some runs, but it's mixed in with other things that are easier in the heat.

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    1. Too bad tris don't end with the swim. It would be so much more refreshing!

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  2. Well, you know I'm all about the summer (heat and all). And, I'm all about rising and shining before the sun makes an appearance....those early-morning runs are all about tranquility ;-)

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    1. Once I'm up and out the door, I'm ok but it's the talking myself into it that's a problem!

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  3. I know I complained a lot during the winter and now will probably complain during the summer. When I was training for my marathon a few years ago, I would also start my run very early in the morning, on the treadmill if it got too hot during the day, or late in the evening when it was much cooler.

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    1. If it could be 55 every morning for the run and then warm up for the rest of the day, life would be perfect, right?

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  4. I like to hit up shady trails at the crack of dawn and freeze my water. I keep a cooler in the car and loop back to it to refresh on the super long runs.

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  5. I have never (intentionally) tried walk run intervals but perhaps I should!

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  6. I'd add in make sure you replenish the electrolytes you sweat out. I started drinking my Nuun after each run because I would sweat so much in Texas, and end up with a pretty good headache. Now I do it after every run, and will sometimes have two tablets if it's been a really warm, sweaty run.

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    1. Tailwind has electrolytes and sugar, so that keeps me hydrated and energetic!

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  7. Very true, and great tips! I always find myself signing up for fall marathons and regretting it. Running early does help and staying hydrated is a must!

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    1. I can't decide which is tougher--fall marathon training or spring?

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  8. Yup, done all this before. Except I rarely use the treadmill over the summer.

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    1. Same here. Of course, I rarely use it in the winter either, so there's that.

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  9. I used walk run intervals on some of my long runs last summer when it was crazy hot. It really helped me when race day ended up way hotter than it should have been. I was able to get into a nice interval instead of just walking when I was feeling awful.

    -MCM Mama

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    1. Run/walk intervals continue to save me--most recently in that horrendously humid Mercedes half marathon. I would probably have taken much longer to finish than I did if I hadn't used them.

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  10. Early morning runs, a frozen water bottle, and run/walk intervals are my keys to surviving summer running.

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  11. I've trained for several fall marathons and it really is key to get out the door as early as possible! I actually prefer training in the summer because I always feel faster come fall when the weather cools off.

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    1. There's research to back that heat training! I think that's why I prefer the fall marathon over spring, even though training in the heat is tough! It's like money in the bank.

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  12. Yes! All awesome tips! The only reason I love running in the summer is being able to watch the sunrise since I need to be nearly done running before it get too hot or I die LOL :P

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    1. I like being up for the sunrise too! There's something magical about starting the day like that.

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  13. I’m doing my first half marathon in August and the best thing for me beating the heat is getting out earlier. I love summer running! I love going out at sunrise with cooler temps and getting an awesome view while I run. I don’t mind running in the evening or sometimes (for the shorter runs) during the day as long as I hydrate and find somewhere with some shade.

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  14. all excellent tips, Wendy. Though I'm not sold on the treadmill thing. Sometimes the gym is even hotter than outside! BUT I am a huge fan of EARLY starts when it's really warm. And WATER. The hotter it is the more you need (with electrolytes!!).

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    1. I'm not a big TM fan either, but desperate times call for desperate measures!!!

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  15. Great tips!!!! If I were to run in the summer it was always early morning, I just can't handle the heat and humidity.

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  16. Running first thing in the morning is what saves me during the summer. I love summer running and I think that's why. If I had to run in full sun and 90 degrees, I'd hate it!

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  17. I have a bit of experience running in the heat. These are all great tips. I stopped training for fall marathons after my 2nd St. George Marathon. The plan was to go back and improve my PR from the year before. Our summer was so hot and humid, which made the training so miserable that I decided it just wasn’t worth it. I did finish the marathon, with a good time, but still 10 minutes off my PR

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    1. Your summers are beastly! Is it cool in the mornings, tho?

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    2. It is right now. We will get to a point though, when it doesn’t get below the mid 80s. Sometimes 90.

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  18. Great post! I have some experience running in the heat. I live in Miami. In the heat of the summer here it's in the 80s at night. Sigh. Double Sigh.

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    1. That Florida heat and humidity just gets me every time. But it has to be effective if you train in it all the time. Every race I've run down there, I get crushed by the locals. Even in my old lady age group!

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  19. It's definitely gotten wayyyy hotter, which I'm not gonna complain about because I've so very much missed nice weather. :P These are great tips!

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  20. I am not looking forward to the Hong Kong heat when we return in a few days. I hope to use some of your tips to get in my twice a week runs outside, but I might be buddying-up to the treadmill.

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    1. I hope it's not too awful for you! You could always crosstrain on that SUP!

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  21. These are great tips! When I would run in high school when I lived in Illinois the humidity was always a beast. Colorado has a nice dry heat so as long as the temperature isn't too hot it's so wonderful to be outside. I hope you guys get a long spring and early fall so you don't have to sweat it out too much!

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    1. We're still having the ups and downs of spring! It's been hot but we're going to cool off again, giving me time to enjoy some runs that aren't such a struggle!

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  22. I try to get out early before it heats up but when that's not possible I have used a neck gator which has helped.

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  23. Great tips! I hate the heat. Thankfully, summers out here are relatively mild, but even then I still prefer to run as early as I can - although it's a tradeoff, because the humidity is often worse in the mornings!

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    1. Isn't that the truth? Summer is definitely a challenge--between the heat and the humidity, it's tough.

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  24. Most of our year is in the heat of summer, it seems, so it's just business as usual here. I'm not down with the treadmill, just because it doesn't simulate any of humidity we have to typically deal with (and it hurts my hips).

    For now it's all about slowing down, hydrating and getting enough electrolytes.

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    1. I'm not down with the treadmill either, but I put it in there because it is an option....

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  25. I am a trail runner, and in my part of Canada there is a lot of forests for which I am very fortunate. Some of my bigger races are right smack in the heat of summer. Definitely challenging, one of the things that has helped in acclimatizing to the heat is spending a lot of time in saunas, in addition to some (not all) of my training outdoors in the hotter part of the day

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    1. I've heard that spending time in a sauna can help acclimate you to heat! I think the best thing to do is to train in the heat.

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  26. Having trained through the summer for two maras and the winter for one, I prefer the summer, but like you, I head out early. Fortunately, I don't mind going out early; unfortunately I have to eat 3 hours before running so that's some seriously early breakfasts! However, my first mara I trained early and kept out of the heat, then it was super-hot on the day and I really suffered, so my lesson from that is to try to do some runs in all kinds of conditions.

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    1. I have to eat before I run long too but not 3 hours before! I drink a smoothie before I run long and I'm usually good to go within an hour or so.

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  27. Haha I admit I always get a little salty when people start complaining about the humidity. I want to say something along the lines of "Do you WANT it to snow?" Glad our long winter is over!

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  28. Excellent tips!
    I have just been running by HR this morning. Cool drizzly weather, resting heart rate 44 bpm. Flat route.Very slow pace, aiming for 128 bpm.
    And then what happens? My heart rate goes through the roof!! All in the red zone! I'll have to try tomorrow again. Maybe my Garmin was off, because I felt super relaxed.

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    1. There's no way I could run at that HR, lol. I tried. I'm happy if I can stay around 150!

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  29. The year I trained for my 18 mile race was one of the hottest & most humid ever. Of course. Getting out there early was key.

    I'm fairly vigilant about sunscreen. I'm really fair & burn easily. Although I've taken to wearing my long sleeve cool it top -- you still need sunscreen, but if I skip it, I'm still somewhat protected.

    Good luck Wendy!

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  30. You always provide great tips! This morning I went out later than I should have and paid for it. It was hard to run but I got it done. I also forgot to apply sunblock.

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    1. I had a little guy ask me this weekend about sunblock. Um...not so good about that...

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  31. Our humidity is 16% this morning, it was 6% yesterday afternoon. The problem with low humidity is you don't realize how much you're sweating because it's evaporating so quickly. Dehydration is definitely a problem in these conditions. Listening to your body and knowing when to walk or pack it in is crucial. Heat exhaustion and heat stroke are not something to mess with.

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    1. I ran in Arizona a few years ago and the dry conditions were a whole other thing! I swear, running is just plain hard, no matter what!

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  32. As hot as the summer gets, I still prefer that over the bi-polar weather of spring for long distance runs. Both of my Grandma's Marathons had less-than-ideal training because the spring weather was so temperamental. At least a rainy run in the summer is refreshing and not bone-chilling LOL

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  33. Summer running and I have been enemies for years lol. I do use a few tricks to try to stay cool while running - like freezing water in my handheld so that it stays cooler longer, or wetting and freezing a buff to wear as a headband to keep me cool. The biggest thing for me is to make sure that I'm out the door super early to avoid some of the heat and humidity.

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  34. Coming from a country that's hot for 9 months of the year, I couldn't agree more with this post! Such solid points - we're now in winter and I'm so excited by the fact that I'm running faster and that's because the heat DOES affect pace so I absolutely love your point on that one. We don't have too many insects (I guess because it's extremely dry here) but I'll definitely keep that one in mind for when I travel to other places. I hate getting up early but in summer that is really the only thing you can do especially for those long runs.

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    1. No insects? That would be a win! I'm getting ready to head out to the trails after a stormy night. Pretty sure those mosquitoes will be very hungry!

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    2. I'm sure! We have mosquitoes but never on the run! Only when you're sitting still or trying to sleep! LOL!

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  35. As much as I complain about the heat I really do prefer it over the cold. Since I'm a morning runner I usually beat the really high temps and strong sun, but the humidity can still be really awful at that time of day!

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    1. I like summer but for running, I prefer cooler weather. I guess we're getting that this weekend.

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  36. Every year I say that I am going to get up and out earlier. Maybe this summer I can actually do it! I am so much more of a fall and winter runner. The humidity does me in! Thanks for linking.

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  37. This is great, practical advice! I prefer cold weather running, but I do appreciate how summer running means no snow. I run early, especially on the weekends when I run longer. Sunscreen is a must!

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  38. Great advice! I'm glad you reminded me of my hydration pack! It's the one with the misting system so it's extra cool! Literally!

    Many years ago I swore that I would no longer do fall marathons (or other long races). The year I ran my PR at St. George in October we'd had a great summer. The next year my plan was to go back and improve my PR. Well, that summer was AWFUL! I mean we're talking 90 degrees and very humid at 4:30 in the morning awful. Suffice it to say I did not improve my PR and haven't done a fall marathon since then.

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  39. So much good advice here. I love using a hydration pack for longer runs in the summer. I typically use an UltrAspire running vest. Definitely don't forget those areas that can get chafed!

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  40. YES! Great post. I was dripping sweat this morning from a SUPER hot and humid run. And it was amazing!! :) I'll take this over cold weather running any day.

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  41. Summer running is the norm here, so it's just what we are used to. I do't really make too much allowance for hydration (I will run by the house if I need a drink just because it's too hot to want to carry anything.

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