Neil Featherby: Runners must make sure to take precautions against the warmer weather at this time of year









What with the sudden change in temperatures, it is so easy to get caught out whilst out running and suddenly finding that you are struggling far more than normal due to the heat.

When we run, our body temperature rises, even more so when running in warm weathers, whereby the cooling actions of the body diverts blood to the skin surface to help dissipate heat, causing the body to sweat.

However in warmer weather, particularly when the humidity is much higher, the body cannot cool down due to the difficulty in evaporation of the sweat. These actions also result in less blood for the working muscles, meaning the heart has to work harder to maintain effort.

Sensibility says slow down, but many runners especially those who have trained hard for a race will bust a gut trying to maintain planned pace, for which problems can most certainly arise and some very serious if not careful.

With the extra daylight hours at this time of year, try to get out early morning or evening when it is a little cooler. Pick routes where you know there will be plenty of shade; I like running in the woods.

Wear clothing which is light and further helps wicks moisture away from the body and if, like me, you are bald then a lightweight cap is also advisable.

Soak it with water before putting it on your head.

What with the greater knowledge about skin protection nowadays, use a good quality sunscreen and, most importantly, make sure you are hydrated before you go out; even have a small drink just before leaving and, of course, take one with you.

Needless to say if it‘s a long run then make sure you have enough fluid to help see you through the run.

Fluid losses depend upon a number of factors such as the conditions, intensity of effort and a number of individual characteristics such as body weight and level of fitness, but in very warm and humid conditions, it can easily be well over a litre of fluid.

Electrolyte sports drinks are best, but be sure the concentration is correct i.e. six to seven per cent max. Drink small amounts at regular intervals and don’t wait till you are thirsty as that is when it is too late.

Going back to racing, many years ago I felt I was in the best shape I had ever been in for a particular marathon in Minnesota, with all my splits worked out for what would have been a 2:16 marathon PB.

Unfortunately on the day the temperatures soared well up into the 80sF by the start time of the race and despite going through half way on schedule (68:08), it really was game over just after 20 miles.

The fact that I held on to pace for so long and finished in ninth place (2:23:09) in an impressive international field, showed how fit I actually was.

However, when I crossed the finish line, I was staggering all over the place and was pretty incoherent which resulted in me being taken away and hooked up to a drip for the next few hours needing four bags of saline before being released.

When you are fit, it is so easy to think you are superhuman, which can be even more of a danger.

2:17 marathon runner Neil Featherby.