Photograph: Andrew Kelly/Reuters
The 2022 New York City Marathon was the hottest on record since the marathon's move to November in 1986, disrupting the plans of many runners expecting the typically cooler weather of fall in the northeastern state. Strong heat runners like Sharon Lokedi were able to capitalize on the difficult conditions and take unexpected victories, while other runners, such as Brazil's Daniel Do Nascimento, who led the men's race through miel 21 before collapsing from dehydration and heat exhaustion. He has since been released, but the initial toll of the heat on his body required a visit to the hospital.
Here are five takeaways from the marathon that can help you prepare for hot and humid conditions:
Adjust your pace expectations. Do Nascimento went out in under world record pace for the first 13.1 miles. The last world record for the marathon was run in sub 50 degrees Fahrenheit at Berlin 2022--in short, he needed to run a slower pace from the start. Even in a race as short as a 5k, going out too quickly on a hot day will eventually cause your body to crash. Why? Your body is trying to maintain its homeostasis to keep you safe, and one of the core components of homeostasis is regulating your body temperature. As you get hotter, your body will begin working against you to slow you down in order to prevent heat stroke.
Experiment with pre-cooling techniques. Putting ice in your sports bra, freezing water in a small paper cup and rubbing it all over your body at the start, eating an ice pop 10-20 minutes before your race, or placing a towel with frozen water on the back of your neck are all good ideas for lowering your body temperature before a race. This technique delays your core body temperature reaching the upper limits of what is safe, allowing you to maintain pace longer. More important than pace, this strategy can help you avoid becoming so hot that you develop heat exhaustion, or its more dangerous form, heat stroke.
Carry water, even if you had not planned to. Plan on taking water at every aid station, whether or not you drink it or simply splash it over your head to aid your body's natural cooling process. However, on a hot day, you want to be prepared for overcrowded or underprepared aid stations. Even in a small race, unseasonable temperatures can leave volunteers scrambling to fill enough cups. Save yourself the stress and bring water with you. I recommend the Nathan Quicksqueeze 18oz Insulated Flask. It insulates water, so your water will stay cold if refrigerated or if you put ice in it beforehand. Many runners will freeze their water bottles the night before in order to have cold water for the entire race.
And last but not least, don't be afraid to conserve your efforts for another day. Even if you trained for a destination race like NYC, it would be better to try and enjoy the experience and finish on a satisfying note of completion than to be taken off course in a stretcher. By racing smartly, you will be saving your body from negative long-term effects from heat exhaustion, still benefit from the adaptions of your training cycle, and be ready to sign up for another race. Look no further than the way racing without stopping for water prematurely ended Alberto Salazar's marathon career at the 1982 Boston Marathon, otherwise known as "The Duel In The Sun." Alberto ran against Dick Beardsley nearly step for step the entire marathon, winning by only two seconds. Despite his win, he went on to suffer long term autoimmune conditions, largely linked to overdoing it in this one race. Let a hot marathon simply be a chapter in your racing career, not a piece of your conclusion.