The coolest part of the day is right before the sun comes up. Now we are not suggesting that you have a pre-dawn start, but the earlier the better. Shorter distance events will not be as taxing in the heat for runners as longer events such as half marathons, marathons and longer. Another idea could be to put on a nighttime series of events during the summer. Start your event after the sun goes down and break out the glow sticks!
Related: Which Day is Better for My Race? Saturday or Sunday?
Ice Ice Baby!
We are not talking about the 1990's hip-hop sensation. Be sure to have plenty of ice on hand for your event at all the aid stations and the finish line area. It is much better to have too much than not enough. You can rent a portable ice cooler like you see at the grocery story and have it stationed at your start/finish. Make sure aid station captains know to be proactive about asking to have more ice brought to them. Designate a volunteer to be your ice runner.
Keep the Fluids Flowing
Just as with the ice, maker sure to have plenty of water on-hand and increase the amount of sports drink you offer. Runners will be losing lots of electrolytes and will be grabbing these cups with greater frequency than on a cooler day. Remember, the longer your event, the more of an effect the heat will have on your participants. Stage more of your fluids and ice at the aid stations on the second half of your course where people will use and need them the most.
Adjust Food Choices
When putting out effort in the heat it can be very difficult for people to digest too many solid calories. Orange slices and bananas are good choices as the vitamin C and potassium will compliment the electrolytes in the sports drink. Some races do offer gels at their aid stations. Be sure to keep all of these supplies out of the blistering sun under the shade of a pop-up tent. Warm Gu is gross!
On your race website be sure to encourage people to be aware of the heat and to adjust their effort level accordingly. Remind them to wear a hat and to cover up as much as they can with moisture wicking and breathable clothing. Wear white! Educate your staff and volunteers to know what the signs of dehydration and heat stroke look like. As with any race, make sure you have the appropriate medical support in place and a contingency plan for any medical emergencies.
Related: Safety Concerns Every RD Should Consider
Make it Fun!
Embrace the heat and add elements to your event that will help people stay cool. Fill up some plastic kiddie pools and add ice to them for people to cool off at the finish line. Strategically placed misters can create a cool zone. At aid stations you can have buckets of ice water with big sponges for people to get a refreshing and invigorating dousing on the course. Popsicles are always a great finish line treat after a hot run. Of course we would be remiss to not mention our personal favorite post run beverage after a scorching hot run: Beer!
These suggestions and tips should help you put on an event in the heat that is safe and fun for your runners. Here at RaceDirector we are all about helping you put on the best events possible with tools and information that will make race day feel like a cool summer breeze on a hot July afternoon.