Running in the Heat

Running in the heat


I run all the time during the summer.  For a ‘bread and butter’ run I’ll just wake up early.  But I love to run when its crazy hot out.  Probably for the same reason why I run far.  I do it because its hard.

When I started running I listened to podcasts and read articles on running.  I don’t know, but I think that every article on running is written by people that live in locations where a hot day is 75 degrees.

Here in Vegas, the average LOW temperature in July is 81.  But it’s a dry heat right?  That might be one of the silliest thing anyone can possibly say.  I’m sure running in high humidity is not fun, but when you go out running in 105 degree weather and 5-10% humidity, the sun just fries you to a crisp.  If you run on asphalt, you can feel the heat coming up through your shoes (Don’t try that barefoot running thing on asphalt during the summer in Vegas!)

High heat is extremely dangerous.  It seems every year there is some poor soul who dies on a trail only a mile from the trailhead.  It seems so ridiculous and it could never happen to you.  WRONG.  You may be a strong runner.  You may even be used to the desert.  Running in the heat can kill you if you don’t take precautions.  High heat is oppressive and it smells weakness.  As soon as it beats you down there is no getting back.

These are 2 articles from 2013 that all occurred in the Vegas area to hikers:

Scout Leader Death

Gold Strike Canyon Death


Rule #1 You don’t have enough water.

The amount of water you need seems to grow exponentially.  When it’s 60-70 degrees out I can do 10 miles without water.  I won’t be happy, but 10 miles with no support is no big deal.  When it gets hot, that same run will take 40-80 ounces of water to keep me going.  And I’ll be very thirsty the rest of the day.

It is very important to consider resupply. What if something happens during the run?  What if the you can’t sustain the run?  That quantity of water isn’t a convenience, it is a requirement.  If you walk or get sick you will need more water.  How are you going to obtain it?

Seriously, you need to carry more water.


Rule #2  Sunlight is Heavy

This sounds funny but it’s true.  The heat is oppressive, it’s hard to describe the feel, but it’s as if you are carrying an additional 5-20 pounds or more with you on the run.  It’s not like cold or wind or other inclement conditions, heat is it’s own inclement weather with its own challenges.  The heat and the glare weigh you down.  If there is no breeze, the oxygen in the air feels wrong.  If there is a breeze, it feels like a convection oven.  It cooks you faster.

You will fatigue faster than you think.  How are you going to get back to the start?  The combination of fatigue and lack of water is why people die only a short distance from safety.  You must be careful.  EVERYONE can handle 1 mile of outdoors and yet people can still die less than 1 mile from safety.


Rule #3  Every exposed piece of skin will burn in less than 30 minutes

I tan well.  But desert running requires protection.  I will burn fast without protection when I run during the day.  Sunburns hurt.  Wear a hat.  My hair used to do a better job protecting my head, but not so much anymore.


Some other things to consider

#  Water gets hot

A nice cold drink of water sounds so refreshing on a long run during the summer.  However, your water will quickly approach the ambient air temperature. 100 degree water works, but it isn’t very enjoyable.

I sometimes use Hammer Perpetuem.  It’s a creamy electrolyte drink.   On a 100 degree run it turns into a warm slimey slightly curdled? milk drink–Yummy.  It probably isn’t that bad, but heat changes what sounds good.  When I’m 90 minutes into a run, hot Perpetum sounds as good as spoiled milk on the run.  Be sure your nutrition plan makes sense when you are over heating.

# Municipal water sources in the desert taste bad.

If you are running in an urban area you might be counting on drinking fountains to resupply.  The desert southwest US has extremely hard water.  Its perfectly fine to drink but it doesn’t taste good, even less so when it is warm.  Oh, and the water from a drinking fountain will be nearly scalding hot for about 15 seconds.  Let the fountain run a bit and “cooler” water will show up.

# Don’t count on drinking fountains

You know about Murphy’s law right?  If you have plenty of water, all the drinking fountains will work.  But if you don’t have enough water, they will be turned off.  Even if they do work, maybe only a dribble comes out, not enough to refill a bottle.

This can be a real problem in my area late in the summer season/early fall.  “They” like to shut off the fountains so that pipes don’t freeze.  Never mind that it’s still 90 out during the day.  There must be some crazy maintenance calendar that “they” like to follow regardless of common sense.

I do resupply out of drinking fountains from time to time, but the water tastes bad and occasionally I run into problems.  Just be careful.


Running in extreme temperatures is a great challenge, but you need to be serious about it.  Think about what you are doing and have a plan.




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