Neil Featherby: A running revolution - but take care in this heat

Neil Featherby approaching the finish line at The Grandmas International Marathon in Deluth, USA in

Neil Featherby approaching the finish line at The Grandmas International Marathon in Deluth, USA in 1990, during extreme warm weather conditions and just a few moments away from being whisked off for medical treatment due to severe dehydration Picture:Neil Featherb - Credit: Archant

What with Sportlink having re-opened to the public again last week, all I can say is that we really have been taken aback by how many more people are now out there running.

Whilst we expect to always be inundated each January with those who have set themselves New Year’s goals to get fit, this latest influx of new runners really is something else – and I will go as far as to say that at least 80pc of all the runners coming in to see us for advice and equipment are newbies.

Most of them are also doing the Couch to 5k programme, too. However, unfortunately there are quite a large number of them who have picked up an injury of sorts. Some are worse than others, of course, but what is clear is that they are all committed to their running on a long-term basis and going forward it seems we are going to have a nation of fitness fanatics.

Talking of commitment, for the more established runners who had plans for this year, it really has been hard with so many race plans cancelled or suspended – with no guarantee of these races still going ahead. In the meantime, it is the virtual races which have become the only real way of testing yourself in competition. What started out as fun events back in March and April have now progressed to a level of almost mass participation.

There’s no two ways about it, the level of motivation towards these events is very high, what with having listened intently to how so many runners are preparing for all the forthcoming virtual races which are still due to take place.

In many respects it’s a bit like cycling time trials where it really is just you against the clock with your head down and deep in thought and focus as you push yourself on towards the finish line. One particular local running coach organises all of her group to go out at the same time and whilst they might all be miles apart, she is keeping them all fired up while talking to them through the use of head phones. She even has one client in Australia. Absolutely amazing and proof that one way or another, we do all eventually find ways to adapt to any new surroundings.

Talking of adaptation, our bodies will always look to adapt to any changes which we make within our daily lives or environment and whilst this is also applicable to running in very warm weather, running in the extreme heat of the last few days really does need some careful consideration.

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Given time and done very gradually, we can become more accustomed and acclimatised, but we must be very careful due to the extra demands we are putting on our bodies.

It was exactly 30 years ago to the day earlier this week (June 23) when I ran in the Grandmas International Marathon, in Deluth, Minnesota. I really had trained so very hard for this race knowing that it was likely to be my last chance to PB.

Just two weeks before I had raced in a 10k in Holland off the back of a 130-mile training week and quite comfortably ran a 30mins 46secs clocking.

However, and typically, whilst the few days prior to race day in Deluth saw weather conditions which were one moment cool and misty followed by heavy rain showers the next, on race day we woke up to extreme heat and sunshine with the temperature already set at 77F by the race start at 9am.

I knew deep down that I needed to readjust my pace plans, but as soon as the gun went, I just went for it, reaching five miles in 25:40 and halfway in 68 minutes.

By 18 miles, any thoughts of a PB were all over, though, what with cramping up and being pretty dehydrated. I did, however, still finish in ninth place (2:23:15) in what was a top class field which included 32 sub-2:20 marathon runners with only four going under on this particular day and the winner, who had a best of 2:09, winning in 2:18.

After crossing the finish line people were shouting out my name, but I was just not with it and it felt like someone was calling out to me in my sleep. The next thing I knew I was whisked away and hooked up to a drip and, if I am honest, by the time they attached the fourth saline bag to the line in my arm I was getting a little scared.

Running in heat really can be dangerous so whilst we are in the grip of this current weather, it really is so very important to take care.

Make sure you are hydrated prior to going out running and on those runs where you expect to be out for 45 minutes or more, take water or an electrolyte drink with you and sip approximately 150mls every 15 minutes or so. Also, wear light clothing (I soak my vest in water before any longer runs in the heat), and try to stay in the shade. Needless to say, also try to run earlier in the day or in the evening when it has cooled down.

Take care and of course, keep on running...

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