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Crossing the start line

Crossing the start line

This past Sunday, I joined over 7,000 women in the More Magazine | Fitness Magazine Half-Marathon. While elbowing my way to a comfortable spot at the starting line, I recognized several other currently-enrolled SBBW (strong,

Lewy Boulet crossing the finish line in just over 1 hour and 18 minutes.

Lewy Boulet crossing the finish line in just over 1 hour and 18 minutes.

beautiful Barnard women) warming up and getting their minds ready.

More and Fitness magazines host an annual marathon for women over 40 and a half-marathon for women of all ages. Unfortunately, due to the extreme heat, the marathon had to be canceled. Many of the marathon runners entered the half-marathon, which was turned into a “fun run,” meaning no times were posted on the course in order to encourage the runners to slow down and pace themselves.

Most participants, including the top finishers, supported the decision to make the event noncompetitive. All finishers received fluorescent yellow and silver medals and celebrated their successes in a big misting section near the final water tables. Whether the finishing times were what we had all trained to achieve, everyone seemed proud to have completed 13.1 miles in the unexpected sunny, 80 degree weather.

I was surprised at how exhausted I was after the race. I have run longer distances than the half-marathon, but up until this point, my runs were in the cold or inside. After crossing the finish line and gathering my bags, I hobbled to the subway and could barely stand after sitting on the train on the ride home. Once inside, I passed out on my bed for a two hour nap. Even after eating well, drinking plenty of fluids, and training as well as could be expected, sunshine and humidity are no joke.

To prevent heat-related illnesses or injuries, New York Road Runners provided a solid list of instructions for how to exercise safely during this sudden heat wave. Please follow these tips if you exercise outside this week (as it looks like it will continue to be hot and humid) and as the weather changes from spring to summer. Click on the link above for more detailed explanations.

Respect your limits. Do not aim for a personal best on a warm, sticky day, particularly if you are not used to such conditions.
Acclimate. It takes 10 days to two weeks for the body to acclimate to keeping cool at higher temperatures.
Know the signs of heat problems. If you feel faint, dizzy, disoriented, or your skin is clammy and abnormally hot or cold, slow down or stop exercising. If symptoms continue, sit or lie down in the shade and seek medical help.
Drink enough. Drink throughout the day, so that your urine remains plentiful and pale yellow. In the heat, sports drinks are even better than water because the sugar and salt they contain form an “active pump” that transports fluid to cells more quickly than water alone.
Don’t drink too much. Over-hydrating before and during exercise can cause a dangerous condition known as hyponatremia (water intoxication). Do not over-drink; include pretzels, sports gels, or a salted bagel in your pre-run meal, and use a sports drink that contains sodium. During exercise, drink no more than a cup of fluid every 15 to 20 minutes.
Eat a good pre-race meal a few hours before the run. Try a bagel with peanut butter and a banana—the protein and carbs will fuel your effort and aid in recovery.
Consume salt. Eat salted foods like a salt bagel, salted pretzels, or salted nuts. If you’re planning to race, eat salted foods all week prior to the event.
Protect yourself from the sun. Wear a cap or visor to shield your head, face, and eyes from the sun’s burning rays, and wear sunglasses to protect your eyes. Use sunscreen on exposed skin, even on overcast days.
Check your meds. Do not consume products like cold medicines, ephedrine, pseudoephedrine, or anti-diarrhea medicines with dehydrating agents in them. They may increase your risk for heat illness.
Wear synthetic fabrics. Unlike cotton, synthetics wick moisture from your skin so cooling evaporation can occur. Synthetics also decrease chafing and don’t cling and cause a chill.
Use water along the course (cups, spray stations) to cool yourself during races. If you are overheating, a cool spray will cool you down quickly and have a lasting effect as the water evaporates from your skin.

Above all, know your body, take it slow, and stay in the shade as much as possible. Take care during the weather change and hold back on any training that you may be planning.

Photos of event day courtesy of Brightroom Photography.

 

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I’ve noticed more runners ramping up their training now that warm weather (slowly, temperamentally) approaches. For those interested in participating in a fun, low-mileage race in April–either to stay motivated or to compete–I recommend the Thomas Labrecque “Run As One” 4-miler in Central Park (make sure to register early, as New York Road Runners has begun capping their races). I ran the race last April, and enjoyed the energy of running together with so many others on a beautiful spring morning in the park. I even ended up being offered a summer job by a runner I spoke to for a portion of the race.

If you know you can run the distance, I recommend doing some hill workouts over the next few weeks to prepare, as the course is far from flat. Don’t be discouraged, the hills are very manageable if you are prepared. To train for such a short race, I usually just tack on a hill or two to an easy run or do a few hill repeats instead of a full run–what Ed Eyestone calls a “Short Hills” workout in this article from Runner’s World.

For those who live on Barnard campus or in Columbia dorms on the west side of campus, my favorite hill to run repeats on is in Riverside Park at 96th St. Warm up on the run down there, take the path that loops around the dinosaur playground, and as you head back north, power up the hill. If you’re running repeats, simply slow down and jog back around the playground to recover before powering back up the hill.

For those living in East Campus or in Cathedral Gardens, run along the northern perimeter of Morningside Park. From the corner of 110th Street and Columbus Ave, run north up the hill to where it plateaus at 114th St, jog the flat to 122nd, and then practice running downhill as Morningside Boulevard curves back towards Amsterdam Avenue. Turn around to power back up the hill, recover, and run the downhill back to 110th and Columbus. For a longer run, you can run the entire perimeter of the park–the southern border is mostly flat. There are also plenty of hills within the park, and if you really want to feel the burn in your calves and quads, try attacking the many staircases that prove that, yes, Columbia really is in the Heights.

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