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Elizabeth Weil: 9 Ways to Beat the Heat

It may be September, but those of us in California are tackling our longest Chicago Marathon training runs in a heat wave.

I grew up in a small town near Sacramento, California, so I’m used to it. Needless to say, summer long runs often had to start by 6 a.m. to beat the 100+ degree heat. Over the years I’ve come to rely on the following formula for enjoyable (really!) hot weather running.

Start early

Goal: watch the sunrise. When plotting a summer long run, I aim to be watching the sunrise during my warm-up miles.

Plan ahead

Yep, I mean really plan ahead. I lay out my running clothes next to the bed so it looks like a dressed human is lying on the floor. Socks, shorts, sports bra, light tank, wicking hat, and sunglasses. (During high school I was even known to sleep in my running clothes.) When the alarm goes off, I hop out of bed, smear sunscreen everywhere and hop in my pre-selected clothes.


Even though you are trying to get out the door early, don’t skip breakfast. Have it prepped the night before. I eat the same bread, egg, tomato, and turkey sandwich every morning.  So for early mornings, I nuke what I made the night before.  It isn’t as good as fresh, but it is fast.

Fill that hand-held water bottle

I run with my 26-oz hand-held bottle. For hot runs I fill it with ice water from the start.

Salt tabs

For winter runs I take one salt tab each hour. Since warm days mean more sweat and faster electrolyte depletion I take two salt tabs each hour on the hour.

Plot your course

You are out the door early. But that is just half the battle. Plot your course to take advantage of both natural shade and water fill-ups. I have some routes that I don’t go near between May and September. I also have runs that I know have water fountains or spigots, or Starbucks, every three to four miles. I pack Nuun tabs in my shorts pockets to drop into my water for a little extra electrolyte kick.

Be a kid

Yes, the goal is to get your run completed, but take advantage of those “kid moments.” Run through the sprinklers on park lawns and jump in your nearby lake or river. During high school summer runs, I knew where the lakeside rope swings were hung. Stop your watch for a minute or two to cool off with some water splashes.


Even though you may not have much of an appetite during a long, hot weather run, be sure to fuel up like you do on your usual distance runs. Stick to that routine to avoid an electrolyte imbalance.

Hydrate when you are finished

It is easy to feel more fatigued and “less awesome” than usual after finishing a hot run. Even if you are feeling a little queasy, hydrate right away. Watered-down Gatorade is a popular choice. I often don’t want anything sweet, so water with a twist of lime is often my go-to post-run beverage.