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Monday, April 16, 2012

Insane Heat At Boston Marathon

The 2012 Boston Marathon was run today in insanely hot and humid conditions, with temperatures approaching 80 degrees before noon.  It was also a humid day by any measure, with dewpoints in the high 50s.  

These conditions put all runners -- even world-class athletes -- at risk of potentially fatal overheating from an hours-long, endurance test in which nonstop movement causes the body to continually heat up. The infamously hilly Boston course only increases the exertion level. The risk of such conditions is that, even with water intake, proper clothing (to allow wicking) and rest breaks, the continual heating process can cause the body's core temperature to exceed safe levels; in essence, one can begin cooking to death.

I have only gotten ill and not finished a race -- at any length -- on one occasion, but that was the 2003 New York Marathon which was run in similar temperatures (full sun, 70 degree day, humid) but which was at least 10 to 15 degrees warmer than expected. (What happened to me? I drank too much Gatorade, cramped before the start, and somehow managed to run about 14 miles before stopping and seeking out medical treatment for what was diagnosed as dehydration.) Fortunately, the forecast for today's race was for temperatures to approach the 70s by the start of the race.  Race organizers may have saved lives by offering runners the opportunity to run next year's race instead.  Several thousand runners -- one report had 4,300 -- opted to skip today's race.

Eric Dixon is a New York lawyer and veteran marathon runner.  

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