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Temperatures dip for marathon day run

October 03, 2012|By Zara Husaini @zarhus | RedEye

When the temperatures dip in the Windy City, Chicagoans retreat to their couches.  Unless, of course, that sudden cold hits on the day of the Chicago Marathon.

The 35th annual run will be held this Sunday, in and a strange twist of fate, October 7 will also be our first bona fide “shi**y weather day” of the season.   Temperatures could plummet into the 30s, according to our friends at weather.com – that’s a pretty striking contrast to the past two years’ marathons, which were held on beautiful days.  Accuweather reports that 2010 saw the third hottest marathon day in 20 years – the high reached the low 80s.   

But marathon temperatures have dipped into the 30s or below 15 times since 1977.   In fact, just three years ago we saw a low of 28 on October 11, 2009.  On the other hand, marathon day weather hasn’t been classified as “unseasonably cold” since October 31, 1993, when it was well below freezing at a low of 25; that was also the last time runners were  trudging through snow as they completed the course.   And even though the we’re still in the first week of October, if temperatures really do fall that low, the marathon’s temperature will be significantly lower than Chicago averages for the month of October, which is 64/46 degrees Fahrenheit. 

But as tempting as it may be to skip the marathon entirely, it isn’t necessary.  Experts weigh in on how to run in cold weather.

It seems intuitive, but experts stress the importance of bundling up for the run – but they also warn that participants will likely shed layers during the marathon.    Dr. Malcolm T. Whitehead from the Department of Kinesiology and Health Science at the Stephen F. Austin State University said “The cold weather will result in blood being routed away from the skin and towards the organs and working organs. Additionally, in Chicago wind chill be a factor as well. Best advice is to dress in layers that can be removed while running.”

George Chiampas, Medical Director of the Bank of America Chicago Marathon said “having the flexibility to adjust on race day is important.”   Chimapas suggests that each runner estimate the amount of time he or she will be spending outdoors and race day and prepare accordingly.  “Every runner should have a game plan for attire,” he said.  He recommends wearing layers that can be easily shed and says that with Sunday’s weather, hats won’t be a bad idea, as 50 to 70 percent of heat is lost through an individual’s head.

Chimapas doesn’t believe that Sunday’s temperature will pose a danger to runners.  “The reality is, there are more issues with going from cold to hot.  That’s a larger adjustment,” he said.   Chiampas said problems can arise when it’s both cold and wet outside, since runners tend to shiver and muscles must warm up.  “The fact that it won’t be wet is good,” he said.

One thing runners should keep in mind when running in cooler temperatures?   Hydration.  “Hydration plans should not change,” Chiampas said, urging runners to drink as much water as they would on a warmer training day.    Whitehead recommends three to six ounces of fluid for 15 to 20 minutes of running. 

 Runners may actually be at an advantage this year – and may be more comfortable than the cheering crowds.   “You’ll warm up pretty quickly while running,” said Dr. Steve Pruitt, Clinical Assistant Professor of Surgery at the George Washington University.  “The most difficult thing is to stand around for hours before the race starts.   It’s always tough to train in 80 degree heat and run at 40, but the opposite is even worse.”

Runners who do discard clothing while running should note that all items of clothing found on the marathon track will be donated to Pacific Garden Rescue Mission, a South Side homeless shelter. 

 Dr. John Dollar, Health and Human Performance department head at Northwestern State University of Louisiana State gave me a great piece of advice: “if you are one of the runners (I’m not, FYI,) bundle up in removable clothing, preferably wool.”  That goes for all you spectators, too.  #couchpotatosolidarity.

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