So, if you haven't started feeling it already, it's hot. Really hot. And this weekend, it looks like we're going to have record temperatures. While that's great if you plan to camp out at Santa Monica Beach all weekend, it can be a death march for those running the LA Marathon, and annoyingly uncomfortable for those cheering them on. But don't worry. I've run my fair share of competitive races and I hail from swampland (Florida), so I have some advice for those running... and watching.
1. If you think you're going slow, go slower. These were words of wisdom given to me prior to my first marathon, and they are probably the most valuable. To run a smart 5K, you pace yourself. To run a smart marathon, you control yourself. Especially in a heat wave. Remember, it's a long race, and if you're feeling as spry at mile 20 as you are at mile 5, then you'll have a lot of fun passing those who couldn't hold back.
2. If you're waiting for your runner, be patient. Maybe he or she didn't do enough long runs, or properly carb-load. But you know what? They're probably just hot, and running 26.2 miles in the heat is no easy thing to do. It's probably going to be in the 80s, and maybe even hotter than that. Pretty much everyone, including the elite athletes, will be going slower than they normally would. That's just what the heat does. Give them a break, sip your iced coffee and take solace in the fact that you're not feeling like your legs are going to fall off.
3. Water, water and yes...more water. Ok, I get it. This isn't exactly ground-breaking advice. But as someone who isn't a huge water drinker myself, it's worth the reminder. In heat like this, don't worry too much about "over-hydration." I mean...don't go chugging H2O like you're back in college pre-gaming for a football game, but it's better to stop off at the port-a-potty than to fight through a dagger-like cramp for a mile. Also, you don't have to just drink the water. Use the aid stations to your advantage even when you may not be that thirsty by tossing a cup over your head. When else in life can you do that? Ok, maybe pre-gaming for a college football game.
4. Umbrellas and popsicles. If you're posting up in a lawn chair around mile 13, dust off that umbrella and bring a cooler full of popsicles. On top of water, sugar is integral and there are very few struggling runners who would turn down a popsicle because it's not their "cheat day." If you don't have an umbrella, be strategic and find a place to set-up in the shade.
5. Set your expectations kind of low. I know this may not be what you want to hear after months of long runs, speed workouts and monitoring what you eat, but lowering expectations in the heat is critical to not freaking out when you cross mile 10 and you're off your goal pace. Remember, even the best runners are more than likely not going to run personal best times on Sunday. Persisting in a marathon is largely due to a positive mindset, and if you're feeling discouraged because of your time, things can go from "not great" to "why the hell am I out here?" pretty quickly. Try taking your overall goal time and adding 15 minutes to it—then start figuring out your split times.
Hopefully, this helps a little. I'll be out there cheering with an umbrella over my head, iced coffee in hand and popsicles ready to pass out, so hopefully, the runners won't.