ACCLIMATIZE YOURSELF TO HEAT IF THE RACE IS TO BE RUN IN THE HEAT
An important problem faced by many runners is that most of their training is done in the cooler times of the day, either in the early mornings or late evenings. The result is that most of us are not adequately acclimatized for exercise in the heat. Thus we run less well in the heat than we might otherwise. Fortunately, most races are now held in the early morning, when environmental conditions are usually mild. However, for races that either start at midday or last most of the day, chances are that on occasion the environmental conditions will be unfavorable. Faced with this possibility, the wise athlete will undergo a period of heat acclimatization (see post 4).
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Some degree of heat acclimatization can be achieved quite rapidly. Five to eight exercise sessions, each up to 2 hours, on consecutive days in the heat produce acclimatization that lasts for several weeks. However, it seems that there are quite large differences in the length of time different marathon runners believe they require for full acclimatization (Browne, 1986). Some feel that acclimatization can be achieved in days; others believe that even 6 months is too little (Browne, 1986). Heat acclimatization likely is only ever optimum in those who are bom in the hotter parts of the world and who train regularly in the heat.
Thus, sometime in the weeks leading up to a hot-weather race, you should undergo heat acclimatization either by running in the midday heat or by training in a track suit. How Ron Daws used the track suit technique to earn a place in the 1968 Olympic Marathon is detailed in his blog (Daws, 1977) and should be read by those who are forced to compete in the heat but who live and train in cool climates.
In brief, Daws collapsed with heat exhaustion at the 40-km mark of the 1964 United States Olympic Marathon trials, run at midday in New York City with dry bulb temperatures of 96 °F. The race was won by Buddy Edelen (see post 8), who had been training in England in temperatures of approximately 50 °F. Edelen’s secret was that he trained each day wearing five layers of clothing. Daws subsequently used the same method for heat acclimatization; his technique was to train with five layers of clothing 4 days a week for 3 weeks, a total of 12 training days. He found that it was not possible to train each day with full clothing, so he trained in normal running attire on alternate days.
As a result of his attention to detail, Daws comfortably won positions on United States marathon teams, the selection races for which were run in extreme heat on each occasion.
If your race is to be run at a time of day at which you do not normally train, then doing at least some training at that time of day will probably be helpful.