San Marcos Mercury | Local News from San Marcos and Hays County, Texas
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August 8th, 2008
Run with Moe – 08/08/08

According to the news reports the number of days at 100 degrees or above is now the third most days since recording temperatures began. In other words, the summer so far has just been plain hot. For a runner this is not necessarily good news since running in extremely hot days can be quite dangerous with symptoms of heat exhaustion and heat stroke always present.

Runners are always cautioned to drink enough water before, during and after a run in the summer. Most runners are good about drinking fluid before a run and then drinking water after the run is completed. If the run was not that far or hard this practice of drinking before and after the run is usually adequate for most runners.

The problem that many runners fall victim to is what is termed “accumulated dehydration” and takes place over a period of time. This problem may originate two days or more prior to a longer run. The sequence may not even involve running per se but could include working in the yard, riding a bike for exercise or even just taking a long walk in the evening. An example might be going for a run on a Thursday and drinking fluid after the run. The problem starts when not enough water is taken in after the run. This does not necessarily mean immediately after the run but throughout the rest of the day. On Friday the runner drinks some water before going outside. This is good, but since they are slightly dehydrated from yesterday this pre-run hydration still leaves the body a little short of necessary fluid for today’s run. A good drink after the morning run leaves the runner thinking that they are fully hydrated.

The water, or fluid, after the run did not replace all the sweat that was lost during the run and activities during the rest of the day in an air-conditioned work place and the runner may not feel the need to keep drinking water. On Saturday morning a long run is attempted to get ready for a longer race in the fall. A quick drink before the run brings the runner a little benefit but the previous two days have still left his body short of full hydration. Somewhere midway through the long run things start to happen that the runner may, or may not, be aware of. One of the first signs is that the legs seem “heavy” or tired. Excuses are made and many times a runner just attributes this feeling to pushing the distance a little more or maybe a hard day on their feet yesterday.

Next comes the difficulty of keeping focused on the pace, the run and overall general lack of concentration on what is going on around you. This is the time that the runner needs to stop, get in a cool area, drink lots of fluid and call somebody for a ride home. If they continue on with the run symptoms such as a chill in the neck area, feeling like the hair on the head and neck is standing on end (like in cartoons when a character is scared suddenly), and they stop sweating. At this point the runner is in real danger of heat exhaustion and needs to take steps to correct this phase or the next step is finding yourself on the ground and someone calling an ambulance for you.

This does not happen that frequently but is a real possibility if precautions are not made prior to longer runs. You might not need a “long” run for this to occur. A personal example found me mowing the yard one morning on a hot day and thought I had time to do a quick three mile run before I had to drive my car on an errand. I found myself walking after a mile or so and had no idea or recollection of how I got to within three blocks of my home. I thought I could at least finish strong with a run for the last three blocks. One block later I was walking again and once in the house I was not sweating, was chilled and had a real difficult time just getting around. I drank water off and on for about 30 minutes before I felt like I could go run that errand in the car. That accumulated dehydration is a sneaky thing and can happen at any time to anyone. Just be aware of the symptoms and you can prevent a lot of trouble. It only has to happen once and the next time those warning signs really mean something and you make changes right away before it gets any worse.


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