Acclimatise to heat before Soweto Marathon race and keep cool on the day

Thulani Mbele Running Matters
File photo of runners taking part in the Soweto Marathon.
File photo of runners taking part in the Soweto Marathon.
Image: ANTONIO MUCHAVE

Though I touched on it last week, the issue of the heat during the Soweto Marathon cannot be emphasised enough.

The 2015 edition of the marathon was one of the toughest I ran, all due to the heat, and cramps were the order of the day. From the fastest runner to the slowest, most people suffered some sort of heat exhaustion on the day.

A running friend of mine, Sphiwe Magubane, almost bit another friend who was trying to help him while he lay on the road suffering from cramps.

Remember, this is the edition I did not see the finish line.

In 2016, the heavens had opened up the previous night and we were lucky the heat was not as bad. It was actually one of the coolest Soweto Marathons I have run.

A cool Soweto Marathon is still a hot marathon by any standards. The conditions in 2017 were back to normal as dawn was just before 5am on the day of the race. At 6am while waiting to photograph the front elite runners, I was already sweating, and by 9am when the majority of runners were still on the road, temperatures were well into their mid 20s.

Running in hot conditions causes the body to sweat more rapidly and lose natural electrolytes. So, not only is it vital to acclimatise to hot conditions during your training, you need to consider taking sports supplements with high volumes of electrolytes.

Electrolytes consist of sodium, magnesium, potassium and calcium minerals, which are essential in pumping energy to your muscles. Replacing all the sweat with just drinking water is not enough to sustain your muscle energy. It is important to use these supplements even during training as well to help increase your muscle fatigue tolerance.

What has also helped me in the past is to constantly pour cold water over my body every 3-5km or rub ice over critical muscles that do the most work during a run. I have found this cooling process to reduce and delay muscle cramps. This year's Comrades Marathon winner Bongumusa Mthembu was constantly pouring water over his body in the last 15km, cooling off his muscles.

Make use of the generosity that is shown by the people of Soweto who wake up early in the morning to try and ease some of that heat by spraying passing runners with their hosepipes. Spending a few seconds under that shower will do you a lot of good.

When you get on that long stretch from Orlando Stadium towards Noordgesig and you see a mirage, make sure you are hydrated enough not to be fooled by the optical illusion, thinking you are seeing water.

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