Summer means beaches, barbecues, and fun in the sun! But it also means higher temperatures, which mean a higher risk of dehydration and heat stroke for athletes. Of course, this shouldn’t stop you from planning a summer race – it just means you should do so carefully and with consideration for your runners’ safety and comfort.
So if you’re ready to get people jogging in July, here’s how to help them beat the heat for a fun and safe race.
Plan Your Time
With the way the body heats up during exercise, even the mildest day can feel like a sweltering sauna for athletes. So start your race at the coolest part of the day, either the early morning or evening. While you’ll have to provide course lighting during the darker hours, the chance to watch the sunrise or sunset will be a worthy reward for both you and your participants.
Plan Your Course
Most road races are run on asphalt or concrete, but these materials retain heat and radiate it back at your runners. Instead, avoid melted sneakers by finding a course on grass, dirt or even gravel. Look for a tree-lined trail to provide shade or rent canopies to cover your course. You can also help cool things down by running your course along water, be it a lake, stream, river or ocean. Find more tips on finding the right race location here.
Plan Your Gear
Race swag is one of the more fun parts of planning a summer race and certainly a big perk for participants! But be careful what you choose: traditional cotton shirts will soak up sweat and drag runners down. Look into moisture-wicking synthetics or save the shirts for the end and supply your runners with logoed hats or sunglasses. These make for great swag that runners can wear on the reg and the more forgetful athletes will thank you on race day!
Plan Your Aid
Rule #1 of race management is to expect the unexpected. Part of this, especially on hot summer days, is to set up far more aid stations than you think you’ll need. In addition to typical water stations, supply cups of ice and cold sponges. Some races have air-conditioned buses and you can rent misters and fans for the course, athletes’ village and finish area. Up the fun factor by encouraging spectators to bring water guns or hoses; adding sprinklers for runners to jump through; or putting a fire hose at the finish line!
It’s great to take precautions, but it’s even better to not need them! Many runners underestimate the impact of heat on their performance, especially in shorter races. Provide heat-specific training, nutrition and hydration tips on your website, social media and email campaigns. Advise them to speak to their doctor about any medications and avoid diuretics like alcohol and caffeine. Educate your participants, staff and volunteers about the warning signs of heat stroke.
Plan For Change
Like we said before, expect the unexpected. You may have to make last-minute changes to protect your runners. This could be setting up extra aid stations and misters or even cutting your course short. Be sure to check the heat index; the heat index combines both temperature and humidity to project how hot it will actually feel that day. If the temperature is above 96°F (35°C) and the humidity is over 75%, it’s best to reschedule for another day. Just be sure you have a refund plan and rain date set in place beforehand.
All this being said, don’t let the sun scare you away from planning a summer race! These races can be lots of fun and get a great turnout so just be smart and put safety first. For more tips on preparing for what could go wrong on race day, check out our blog here.
For all your other race management needs, contact us!