How to prepare for the London Marathon in the heat

Whilst temperatures are set to hit a high of 27 degrees towards the end of the week, the forecast for this Sunday’s London Marathon is due to get a little cooler; much to the delight of the runners. Brits love the weather – they love talking about it, moaning about it and basking in it, and so as the rest of the country jumps for joy with the heatwave, (an anomaly for this time of year), more than 40,000 runners are preparing themselves for how best to tackle the 26.2 miles in the heat.

And if the marathon wasn’t difficult enough, a sudden spike in temperature makes training a whole lot harder, and potentially quite dangerous if you don’t know how best to cope. But no matter the weather, taking part in a long-distance event like the London Marathon takes months of strength and dedication to achieve your goal and the phrase ‘poor preparation predicts poor performance’, is easily true when you do not understand how best to prepare.

As the heatwave continues to settle over most parts of the UK, marathon runners will be thinking how best to streamline their training regime until then.

Fitness and training experts, Nuyoo have therefore put together some important tips on how to prepare for the London Marathon in the heat.

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Protect your skin from the rays

You may have already considered applying sun cream before you hit the streets of London, even if the temperature was considerably lower, as spending that much time in the sun can still cause you to burn and dehydrate. But with more than a 10-degree difference, wearing sun cream is essential, and you will perhaps need to buy something a little stronger, and one that lasts anywhere between three to six hours. You may also consider buying a waterproof brand so it is less affected by sweating over a long duration.

Your expectations may need to change

Before the sudden heatwave, you may have set yourself a goal to have completed the marathon in a certain time and like any professional athlete, you want to show you can achieve something great if you put your mind to it. But, the weather can dictate your performance. If this is your first race, perhaps forget your time goal, and just take it as it comes. At the end of the day, you want to finish the race, and not collapse mid-way through. Nick Anderson of Running with Us, and a Cancer Research UK coach for the marathon has commented that ‘it if’s super-hot, don’t think about personal bests, but embrace the challenge of completing a marathon on a hot day’. After all, that will be an achievement you will cherish forever.

Photo credit: Ms Jane Campbell/Shutterstock 

Hit the heat beforehand

The Met Office has predicted that the heat is to stay. So what better way to get used to the heat before a marathon than by facing it head on. It’s always a good idea to try and acclimatise, and to be outside in the heat of the day, to understand how your body copes. This is something most runners and athletes do before trying events in tropical and desert like countries. Another easy way to get used to the soaring temperatures is by spending long periods of time in a hot bath.

Drink less, but often

Ironically during a race, you would think that drinking litres of water in a shorter space of time to keep yourself hydrated is the ‘done thing to do’. WRONG. The trick is to drink little, but often, and experts recommend at least every, one to three miles at the very minimum. Also, contrary to how thirsty you may feel for water, only drinking H2O will result in your body losing salts, but not replacing them. Choose a sports drink with plenty of electrolytes and carbohydrates to keep your levels balanced. Also, it will ensure your muscles do not cramp and hit that ‘wall’ in the race, which discourages you to continue.

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Eat and drink plenty before the big day

Stay clear from caffeine and alcohol before the race, as they can dehydrate you. Some fitness experts claim that some people find it difficult to sleep and recover prior to the race if these levels are too high. Not to mention, your body needs between three and three and a half litres of water every day before the race. The most important days to keep on top of your water intake is Friday and Saturday. And although caffeine is not advised beforehand, some runners like to have caffeine based drinks during the race, to give them a quick ‘high’ and boost of energy.


Enjoy the race, but listen to your body

The beauty of the London Marathon is you can take just as long as you need to complete it. Anything from seven hours to eight days, the purpose of the race is to enjoy it, and to accomplish something you would never have put yourself forward to do. Similarly, you are running for a charity of your choice, perhaps one close to your heart, and you may be dressed up to mark the occassion and really pull all the stops out. The most exhilarating part is crossing the finish line, but before you reach the Mall, thousands and thousands of supporters will be lining the streets to support every individual they see.

Hugh Brasher, Virgin Money London Marathon event director has commented: ‘We monitor the weather forecast for race day very closely. We have a number of contingency plans in place in case of hot weather, and we will be sending advice to runners and spectators later in the week that will be proportionate to race day’. The most important thing is to enjoy it, but if your body is struggling, listen, slow down, take a break or find some shade, and continue when you feel ready.

Photo credit: yampi/Shutterstock 

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