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Your First Five Ultra-Hot Miles

Your First Five Ultra-Hot Miles

During my research I’ve discovered that a lot of sites will tell you how to beat the heat: run before it’s hot! Run after it’s hot! Run in the winter! Move to Antarctica!

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I’ll assume that you’re reading this because you actually want to run in the heat, and you want to know what to expect.

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To that end, here’s a brief synopsis of what you might expect from your first five miles in extreme heat.

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Mile 0-1

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You’ll probably start out slow, just as you prepared. You will feel somewhat exhilarated – it’s 115 degrees and you’re out there, communing with the rocks and the desert and the lizards. You’ll feel good, strong, confident. You’ll even remember your first 6oz of water.

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Mile 1-2

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Reality will begin to set in once you begin to sweat, which will be far earlier than you’re used to. Sweat carries vital nutrients from your blood, and thickens it in the process. This makes your heart work harder, which increases the effort you need to put into the simple action of putting one foot in front of the other. If you are gaining elevation, you’ll feel as though you’re gaining twice as much. You’ll wisely slow down. If you’re prepared, you’ll drink small amounts, very often, to keep your mouth from drying out.

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Mile 2-3

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The twin demands on your blood – to the skin, for cooling, and to your muscles, for running – begin to take their toll. Your body tells you it’s one or the other. You’re into a good loping stride, however, and your fitness will take you further than this. You regret using sunscreen on your forehead, as it’s pouring into your eyes. Your sunglasses could do with being tighter, as they’re slipping off your face. A dark running shirt suddenly doesn’t seem such a good idea.

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Mile 3-4

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The toughest mile. You’re embarassed by your pace, which is slowing down. You feel that you trained for this and you should be ready. But the infernal heat is challenging you in ways you never imagined. If you’re running solo, you’re tempted to walk – and you should. Catch your breath and recognize you’re in a battle with the heat, not with the time. It’s a war of attrition. Try not to squat down – the pavement or ground radiates more heat. You aren’t breathing particularly hard, you’re just tired. You may forget to drink as much water as you need. You may experience dizziness, and you’re probably blinking hard and often to focus. On the other hand, you may experience moments of intense euphoria and joy as you approach the last mile… you’re going to make it.

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Mile 4-5

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A mile is still a mile. Drink water now, you’re going to need it later in order to keep the muscles loose – otherwise you can’t do it all again tomorrow. Perhaps now you feel is the time to cut loose with Carl Orff’s ‘O Fortuna‘ and grit your teeth for the run-in. Your legs don’t feel so much like lead, your brain is clearing, but no matter how close you get you must still remember your safety protocols: drink, don’t sit down, and when you get to the end, drink more.

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Running five miles in the heat can feel like running a marathon at 7am – I am not exaggerating. Treat the temperature with respect, just as you would the marathon’s distance, and pace yourself. With patience, determination and fitness, you will prevail.

Jon Rice
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Jon Rice

Jon is a highly-experienced runner who adopted the sport of heat running in 1996. He visits Death Valley every year to participate in his bizarre creation, The Darth Valley Challenge - a one-mile charge through the desert in the height of summer, dressed as Darth Vader.

To prepare for such silliness he takes extraordinary precautions. He trains year-round in the sauna, runs countless miles in extreme temperatures, and has crewed the Badwater Ultramarathon twice.

Jon's only request as you read this site is that you prepare carefully, tell someone where you're going and when you'll be back, and take more water than you think you'll need.
Jon Rice
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