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Neil Featherby: My advice to anyone running the London Marathon in the heat this weekend

Neil Featherby soaks a hankerchief in cold water and puts it round his neck to keep him cool when warm weather training. Picture: Neil Featherby

Neil Featherby soaks a hankerchief in cold water and puts it round his neck to keep him cool when warm weather training. Picture: Neil Featherby

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What a complete turnaround with the weather in just one week and of course just a couple of days away from the big one...The London Marathon.

Running a 10k in heat is bad enough, but when it comes to the marathon, then things really do change and need to be considered.

As we run and exercise, our body temperature rises and even more so when it is warm. To try and maintain a balance, the cooling actions of the body diverts blood to the skin surface to remove the heat through body sweat as it evaporates.

However, the more we sweat, the more fluid we lose which also causes the blood to become thicker.

Humid conditions make for even more problems as when the sweat on our body cannot evaporate, the cooling down processes of the body becomes even more difficult.

With these actions all taking place and with there being less blood pumped to the organs and working muscles, what may have been a desired set pace is now much more difficult to maintain due to the heart having to work even harder.

For those who monitor their heart rate during the race, they will have the choice to work to a specific effort relating to heart rate intensity, but of course this will also mean that the pace is down somewhat when running in such conditions.

What with the driven nature of serious athletes, many will of course still push on in the hope of hitting the target time which they have trained so hard for.

Whilst there is no way that I would ever want to dampen down anyone’s focus and motivation going into this race, serious attention does need to be considered as our long term health is so important and dehydration can lead to serious consequences.

Twenty-eight years ago, I raced a marathon in Minnesota for which I am sure to this day that I was in as good a shape as I had ever been and knew a PB was possible.

However, the temperature rose to 77F very soon after the start of the race and whilst I stupidly hung on to pace until nearly 20 miles, I completely blew a gasket and finished in 2:23:15.

After crossing the finish line I remember being a little delirious and started going cold and staggering around for which I was rushed off to the medical tent to be hooked up to an intravenous drip, having four bags of a saline solution put back into me such was the state of my dehydrated body.

I can honestly say I felt like I had a hangover for months afterwards as well.

Therefore and if the temperature is what the forecasters suggest it is going to be, for all those running on Sunday, please make sure you start the run hydrated (but not over hydrated).

Drink 500ml of water a couple of hours before and have another small drink (150ml) just before the start. Then drink water or better still a low carbohydrate/electrolyte drink at very regular intervals.

Needless to say body size will dictate, but little amounts and often i.e. approx 150/200 mls every 15/20 minutes should suffice.

Pour water over the back of your head and neck too or wear a neckerchief like many of the greats used to years ago and keep it wet throughout the run.

Needless to say wear lightweight clothing too and have a great run and one which is memorable for the right reasons.

Everyone’s a winner!

After last Sunday’s Larking Gowen City of Norwich Half Marathon, I put a post up with pictures of the race on Facebook.

I also mentioned that I had heard over the PA system that everyone is a winner.

For some reason, some people thought I was taking the mick. However, they couldn’t be further from the truth.

There are those who are very competitive for which their only aim is to race or record a PB.

If they didn’t race to the best of their ability or gain a new PB, there is every likelihood that they would argue that everyone isn’t a winner or not in their case.

Nevertheless and for those who just wanted to get round with perhaps their only ambition being to complete 13.1 miles and get the medal put round their neck after crossing the finish line, well they most certainly were winners.

Mass participation races are filled with a mix of very competitive elite athletes, good standard runners, recreational runners and fitness enthusiasts who perhaps just want to achieve what might be a personal goal for which in the past they thought not possible.

As we all now know, people of all ages, shapes sizes and abilities are having a go and taking part.

It is this taking part which is what helps to make all these events great and keep running the popular sport and past time it is. Long may it continue!

Get well soon Chris

Lastly and going back to taking care of yourself when running in extreme conditions. All the very best to Chris Merrylees who is a most popular local runner and one who I have mentioned several times in these columns during the last few months.

Chris is such a dedicated athlete, be it for his own aspirations or indeed when helping others. Last week he collapsed during the Brighton Marathon and was taken to hospital. Since returning home he has had to go back to hospital again for more checks. He is currently recovering and for all those who know him, they will also know that he is one heck of a tough guy.

However, and at the same time, it does just show how fragile it all can be. Get well soon Chris!

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