Beating the Boston Heat

You have slaved away through the winter, logged countless miles in the snow, the dark, on the dreaded treadmill all in preparation for the Boston Marathon. At this stage of the game your long runs are done, and you are onto that blessed taper. There’s only one thing potentially standing in your way for a successful race day… the weather!

Boston is during that tricky part of the year when weather is just beginning to warm up. It feels like Mother Nature is still waking up from hibernation and not quite on top of her game yet. Seemingly, there’s equal potential for a random 80 degree day or a snowstorm!  But how variable is the weather, really?

We plotted the daily high temperatures for the two weeks leading into the Boston Marathon against the daily high temperature recorded on race day for the last 10 years. The two week window is important because this is approximately the amount of time it takes for your body to acclimate to warmer environmental conditions.

All in all the temperatures in the Boston are at typically around 60 +/- 10 degrees in early April. For the most part, the race day conditions have fallen within that same window. The years that stand out are 2014, 2016, and that epic race in 2012 where the temperature on race day was well above temperatures leading into race. Comparing the results from 2010 and 2012, the average time was 28 minutes slower. The heat has also resulted in an increase to the dropout rate and the number of athletes requiring medical assistance.

So how is 2017 shaping up? Now that we’re in that two week window, we included this year’s weather along with the five day forecast. Overall, we’re below the average temperatures for this time of year, meaning even an average day is probably going to feel warm.  So if we get a day higher than 65 degrees, that’s it, man. Game over! Not necessarily…

If you’re willing to be uncomfortable, we can artificially induce the adaptions you’ll need to race in the heat. This means while everyone else is reveling in running in a t-shirt, you’ll need to stay bundled up like it is still 28 degrees out. Yes, you’re probably gather more than a few strange looks, but this has the potential save you minutes (and maybe even a trip to the med tent) on race day. Now that you’re convinced, here’s how it actually works.

Start heat acclimating 10-14 days before the race. The greatest adaptions will be seen in the first five days. Adaptions will continue on to day 14 with marginal benefits beyond that. For every workout, you want to induce a generous amount of sweating, making sure to also increase your fluid and electrolyte intake to compensate. Sessions should last at least 30 minutes, daily, and can last up to an hour and a half once you begin to adapt. While less effective, passive sweating can also be induced using a sauna or steam room.

See you at the finish line!






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