It must have been a Gainesville runner in July who first said, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” It had to have been!
What a perfect description of running mid-summer in Gainesville. When it’s overcast and breezy with a slight drizzle, the running conditions couldn’t be any better. But when it’s humid, hot and sunny, well, you’d better be very careful if you choose to run outside.
This is my second full summer and third partial summer running in Gainesville, and I’ve come to embrace running outside during Florida’s hottest months. I try to view the effects of the heat and sun as challenges that stand in my way from being a better runner, and more importantly, a healthier and happier me.
That said, I’m not crazy, and I’m not foolish. Those of us that choose to run during the hottest months of the summer – and especially at the hottest times of the day – must accept that doing so is a serious health risk. I take precautions before, during and after I run, and I certainly urge you to do the same.
Newcomers to the sport, I would say that you should try to avoid running outside between the hours of 9 a.m. and 9 p.m. Seriously. Not because I fear for your lives, or because I believe that you’ll inevitably faint from dehydration and sunstroke. The reason is, well, mostly mental.
Running outside in Gainesville during the summer is TOUGH. And as a beginning runner, I don’t think it is beneficial to put your body, and thus your mind, through that kind of extreme stress – not just yet. That time will come with experience and miles.
Instead, challenge yourself to wake up early and run when the sun is still down. Or likewise, go on a midnight full moon run. And remember, you can always choose to run inside!
If, however, you’re a little more experienced or maybe just a little more stubborn, and you enjoy the challenge of heat, sunshine and sweat galore, then the rest of this post is for you.
Here are 10 tips I’d like to share with you, which have helped me while running in Gainesville during the summer.
- Plan your route: know where you’re going and know where your shade spots and water spots are.
- Bring water on your run: better safe than sorry on this one. Some of Gainesville’s best running spots don’t provide water. It might be an inconvenience to carry, but it might also save your life.
- Run with a friend, or at least where there are others around: if something unfortunate and/or unanticipated does happen, at least others will be there to help you.
- Wear a hat / wear some ice: if you can keep the top of your head, and better, your neck and face shaded, you’ll feel much cooler throughout your run. Think safari hat rather than baseball cap. Pro tip: put a handful of ice under your hat before you start your run. Seventh. Heaven. (Ugh, not that one.)
- Wear sunscreen: because skin cancer is a major bummer, dude.
- Prepare the night before: hydration needs to happen at least a few hours before you run. I bring a big jug of water to bed each night, and maybe you should too.
- Wear clothes that breathe: no, the J.Crew catalogue would not be a good place to look. You want synthetic matieral, like Under Armour, rather than regular cotton t-shirts, which absorb and hold sweat.
- Find shaded areas to run: this can be difficult, although there is no shortage of at least partially shaded areas in Gainesville. I’ll be highlighting some shaded spots in Gainesville in a future post.
- Stop and drink during your run: don’t be ashamed in the slightest to stop frequently to rest and drink water during a run. It’s the fool that doesn’t stop to drink. At worst, drink from a neighbor’s garden hose. Don’t worry, Gainesvillians understand.
- Stop before it’s too late: I’ve cut it close a few too many times here, and it’s easy to do so. You want to stop running before you begin to feel dehydrated, not after. Signs (from the folks over at Mayoclinic.com) that you are dehydrated: very dry mouth, lack of sweating, little or no urination, headache, dizziness, fever etc. Again, better safe than sorry: if you’re at all unsure, stop running.
If you’d like more information, here are a couple of helpful articles from the Runner’s World website:
Happy summer running!