*This post is part of the Runners Lounge Take it and Run Thursdays series.

I have a love/hate relationship with running in the heat. My other relationships are more straightforward: It’s all love/love with running in the cool, the crisp and the warm; same for running hills. And races? Monster crush.

On the other hand, it is hate/hate with running in the cold and the rainy.

But this post is about running in the heat for Runners Lounge TIART. So, what about the heat? For me, since I hate running in the cold, the heat is preferable. My muscles warm up easily so I can get into the groove of a run quicker than I can on cooler days. And once you get used to running in the heat, it isn’t as bad as you might think. But problems can arise if you are not prepared for the heat. I learned this the hard way back when I was a novice (read: pretty dumb) runner in the mid-1990s.

I was living in the Big Apple and had recently started running again after not doing much of anything physical since college. A co-worker talked me into running in the Corporate Challenge. As it happened, the race took place in the middle of the summer on the hottest evening ever. Being NYC and all, there were a million runners in the race and all the body heat raised the temperature on the race route a good, I don’t know, let’s say 30-40 degrees. So, not only was it the hottest evening ever, but the race route was on fire!

And, I was a novice. I ran and ran and tried to pass people I thought I should run faster than and I didn’t take water at the water stops — I just kept running until I started to get the chills right before the third mile. Feeling a little funky, I kept on running, figuring it was just that I was pushing hard. I was a speed demon! And then I looked at my arms and they were covered in goose-bumps. But I pushed on — I was flying! And then the chills got worse. Soon enough, I didn’t think I could really feel my legs.

I gave in and started to walk. I walked until I could see the finish line and then I ran again, so I wouldn’t feel like a complete jerk for not being able to run the 3.5 mile race. Once across the line, I booked it toward the refreshments and sucked down water and, if I remember correctly, some oranges.

While the worst of the bad feelings passed fairly quickly after re-hydrating, I felt awful for the rest of the night and still felt off the next morning. Looking back, I think I felt so bad because I realized just how stupid I had been for a) obviously not training enough for the race, b) running beyond my abilities and c) not respecting the heat.

OK, so what have I learned about running in the heat and humidity? A few things:

  1. Don’t run a race that you aren’t prepared for. That’s probably not a good idea in any conditions but it is definitely something not to do on hot days.
  2. Don’t let your loose muscles lure you into running too fast — whether you are on a training run, in a race or just out for some easy miles.
  3. Respect the heat! Sure, you can go out for a run in warm weather and feel great and start to motor. But, the heat will get you if you run too hard, too fast and without properly hydrating. That’s not to say you shouldn’t run fast in the heat; you should go for it if you’ve trained for it. Just don’t run outside your abilities. Take it from someone who has done just that and suffered the consequences.
  4. Wicking works! Invest in clothing that wicks moisture away from your body and steer clear of cottons.

If I hadn’t had the bad race experience, my relationship with running in the heat would probably be love/love. But, that memory remains. Hopefully, I never forget it or the lessons learned.