Running a Marathon in the Heat – How to Do It

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Heat is typically unbearable, uncomfortable, and exhausting. So, whether running or not, no one loves heat.

Now, imagine that you have to run a marathon in hot weather; the exhaustion, dehydration, overheating, and cramps, amongst other symptoms, will kick in rapidly. This means you may not be able to endure the race for as long as you ordinarily would.

Of course, if your endurance wanes, the chances of your success in the marathon will drop. Consequently, all your training and planning may end up in futility.

But things do not have to be this way; you can stay in top condition while running a marathon in the heat.

How can you stay in top condition while running a marathon in heat?

Well, read this article for the breakdown. Below, we discuss various tips and tricks for running a marathon in hot weather.

How to Run a Marathon in the Heat

Your running technique does not necessarily have to change while running a marathon in the heat. But considering the higher risk of exhaustion, the following practices can help you remain in top condition.


Female runner resting and holding her bottled water

Pre-cooling is one of the most effective ways to maintain your performance while running a marathon in the heat. It is a technique that helps reduce your body’s core temperature slightly before a race.

In other words, with pre-cooling, your body can handle the elevated temperature of the environment for extended periods. Basically, pre-cooling your core temperature gives you more time to run before hitting a critical temperature.

Various studies show the effectiveness of pre-cooling in boosting a runner’s performance in marathons. According to one such study, pre-cooling can improve performance by up to 16%.

Besides the testament of these studies, two Olympic marathon medalists highlighted pre-cooling as essential to their winning performances.

To pre-cool yourself, you can go the way of elite athletes and get specialized cooling vests. But if you prefer to get creative and opt for low-cost options, try the following.

Ice Pops

Ice pops are a great way to bring your core temperature down from within.

  • Get something to keep ice frozen for a couple of hours. You could get a regular cooler. But if you want portability, you could opt for a disposable cooler bag.
  • Make the ice pops. You can make an ice pop by freezing your favorite sports drink in a paper cup. Alternatively, you could buy some ice pops.
  • Once you have your ice pops, place them inside your cooler or cooler bag.
  • Then about 10-30 minutes before your race, get the ice pops out and eat them.

Cold Towels

Besides cooling down from within, you can also cool your core from the outside. To do this:

  • Gather a few clean mini bath towels or hand towels.
  • Dampen the towels and place the towels in your freezer overnight.
  • Then take them along with you in the cooler for the race.
  • About 10-20 minutes before the race, place a towel on your back, neck, or head. This will cool your body from the outside.

Note that the towels will be extra cold at first. But your body will adjust.

If you are OK with having the towel on you while running, you can start the race with it.

Douse Yourself With Cold Water as Often as You Can

female runner pouring water on her face after running

Another way to ensure you last while running a marathon in the heat is to dump water on yourself as much as possible. Of course, dousing yourself with water is not new amongst athletes. But it is pretty helpful.

Carry a bottle of cold water with you while running. Then pour some water on yourself every 5 minutes.

By getting water on yourself as frequently as every 5 minutes, you can keep your skin and body cooler longer. As a result, you’ll be able to endure better.

Fill Yourself Up With Electrolytes

Of course, you need all the electrolytes you can get to avoid fatigue, cramping, and other downsides of fluid imbalance.

You can get your electrolytes from sports beverages, electrolyte powder mixes, or tablets.

You may want to stick with products you are already used to. Trying out a new electrolyte replenisher on race day might cause problems.

Drink Enough Water

Sporty young woman with tattoo having a cooling break at the riverside

Of course, if you are taking electrolytes, you must hydrate. But how much water is enough for hydrating before running a marathon in the heat?

In general, you can aim to drink around 3-4 ounces of liquid per mile.

Try not to drink too much liquid, though. You may just upset your stomach if you consume too much liquid.

Besides avoiding excessive water consumption, try not to drink the liquid in one go. Spread the amount of fluid you intend to drink in small quantities over a few minutes.

Also, when running the marathon, ensure you drink water early in the race and try not to miss your water stops. Drinking enough water is vital to running a marathon in hot weather.

Adjust Your Pace When You Have To

Female runners ready to start running position and racing each other

Ordinarily, when running a marathon, you have to switch your pace at different stages. A similar strategy applies when running a marathon in hot weather.

You should not start out too fast because if you do, you may overheat before going far. Also, when it gets hotter as you run, you can reduce your pace to preserve some of your freshness.

Running very fast when it’s hotter only increases your chances of overheating.

Pay Attention to What You Can Influence

In the days leading up to the marathon, the forecasted hot weather might bother you for obvious reasons.

But while it is OK to be worried, do not fixate on the weather since you cannot change it.

Instead of paying attention to the weather, focus on your diet, rest, mental preparation, and hydration plan, amongst other things within your control.

Do Not Look at Your Watch

Female runner checking smart watch while running

If you aim to beat your personal best or someone else’s running record, you may be fixated on your watch while running. Ordinarily, this shouldn’t be a problem.

But then, when you are running a marathon in the heat, you may not be able to run as fast as you usually can.

Since you are not running at your usual top speed, looking at your watch might make you think you are too slow or not running hard enough. With such thoughts in your mind, you may defeat yourself before the race is over.

Apply Sunscreen

Woman applying sunscreen lotion preparation before running

It goes without saying that you should wear sunscreen for a marathon in the heat.

If the weather is hot, the sun will probably be up in the sky. But if you try to run under the sun without sunscreen, you will end up with sunburns.

The heat will already make you exhausted, so dealing with sunburn will only make things worse.

Wear the Right Clothing

young fitness woman runner running on city road

The clothing you wear when running a marathon in hot weather is vital.

You should wear lightweight nylon running shorts and a lightweight, breathable nylon top.

Pieces of clothing that have the qualities described above do not absorb sweat. They also allow heat to escape the surface of your skin readily. So, they can go a long way in ensuring you do not overheat.

Final Word

As you can see, it is possible to stay in top condition while running a marathon in the heat. Simple practices like pre-cooling, hydrating during the race, adjusting your pace, and wearing the proper clothing help you sustain your energy despite the hot weather.


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