Running a marathon – in warm weather or not – became sort of a season highlight for me. I even came to enjoy the feelings & emotions you experience at 30K when you’re hurting, but totally in the moment. Facing your doubts. Getting to know how far you can go. And doing that with thousands of fellow runners and spectators beside you.

Not to mention the finish line that culminates this self-promoted suffering and months of daily commitments.

What I like to do after every race is sit down and analyze it. Review what went well, what didn’t and what I can do about it. I thrive on this self-analysis and digging out ways how I can do better. And it serves as a great case study for this blog also.

Unlike my other race reports, this post will be about my experience of running a marathon in warm weather. And, in particular, how to get the most of it.

Exercising in warm weather

There’s a reason why most long distance races take place during either autumn or spring – weather. Besides the distance itself, running a marathon in warm weather adds an additional variable which can turn everything upside down.

As we exercise, energy generated in our muscles produces heat. Great news for cold weather races, as all that heat helps to keep us warm. However, when temperature rises above a certain threshold (typically above 15°C for marathon running), it no longer benefits performance.

Cooling off is body’s natural defense mechanism from overheating and in warm weather it spends a lot of energy on that. So, during the exercise the more we sweat the less energy remains for our muscles to use.

The main challenge of running a marathon is the sheer length of the distance. This race depletes body’s reserves gradually, which often forces athletes to make tactical mistakes in the first half of it. In warm weather this process is even quicker, so athletes who ignore early warning signs are setting themselves up for a very tough finish.

However, with some preparation it is possible to perform well in the heat. Take Olympics or Ironman triathlons as an example. These events take place in summer and often in very hot and humid conditions. Yet, athletes still perform at the top of their ability and even set Olympic and World records.

Practical tips for running a marathon in warm weather

So, back to the story and my 7 tips for running a marathon in warm weather.

Ever since I ran my first marathon I envisioned myself returning to Munich and smashing my previous result on the same course.

The timing was great. This time I was coming off a solid 6-month-long training block for Ironman Austria and was very confident in my fitness. So, 3 months after the Ironman I was back at Munich marathon – excited and ready.

However, it was nothing like the last time. The weather was surprisingly warm and instead of expected +10°C the forecast predicted +22°C and sunny for race day.

Tip #1 – Expose the body to different stress factors in training

In preparation for Ironman I tried to put my body through as many small stresses as possible to help it adapt. The idea was to prepare myself physically and mentally for the long day and potential change in conditions during it. Kind of, to make myself as ‘bulletproof’ as possible.

I expected that race to be very hot and did lots of easy running throughout the summer in temperatures over 30°C. On top of that, I adapted a practice of taking a cold shower almost every morning, which, supposedly stimulates mitochondrial growth and helps the body learn to regulate its temperature better in both cold and heat.

Tip #2 – Minimal clothing

So yeah, Munich should have been a cold marathon. The last time I ran it the weather was +6°C at the start and +12°C at the finish. I was almost pulled over by Fashion Polizei for dressing like a scuba diver that year – in tights and long sleeve shirt. And even though I felt really comfortable for the first 10K, it got increasingly hot after that.

After that experience I always think what will be the weather at the finish. Despite how cold it might be at the start. I’d rather put on some old clothes and throw them out than overdress and suffer during the race.

Tip #3 – Recover fully

Training in the weeks leading up to the race suggested I was somewhere in a 3hr marathon shape. Maybe 1-2 minutes faster if all goes well.

However, immediately after the start I knew something’s off. Despite a good warmup my legs felt a little heavier than I expected. I kept thinking – is it because of the weather or am I just tired?

As usual, I ran the first 2K easy. Typically I try to ignore the watch at this point of the race, but I couldn’t help but notice that my heart rate was high right away. It jumped to 155-158 in the first couple of minutes, which is top of Z3 for me. That wouldn’t be a problem if the splits were fast, but at 4:30 min/km they weren’t.

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