Headache? Dizziness? Excessive sweating? These are symptoms of being, or channeling, LA Marathon director Tracey Russell. After preparing every detail for 25,000 people to gallop 26.2 miles from Dodger Stadium to Santa Monica beach this Sunday, she got the weather forecast, which is code beet-red. A forecast of record high heat—mid-60s at the start, low 90s by the time the last runners finish—forced a number of safety measures, including moving the 7:25 am start a half-hour earlier to 6:55.
A media advisory read: "The current weather forecast for Sunday, March 15th calls for record high heat. The weather conditions pose a high level of risk for marathoners and all participants should be advised to take precaution. Everyone who participates should strongly consider running at a slower pace than they would normally plan to run a marathon."
One of the changes instituted to combat the heat are cooling buses along the course and at the finish line. As the name implies, buses of various sizes will be parked, running, near aid stations. Runners who feel overheated can hop on the air conditioned buses as long as necessary, then continue on their way. Unfortunately, the clock continues to run during cooling stops.
The marathon will also provide misting stations, cold towels and ice, and extend the time the finish line will be open, with its delicious cold beverages, med tent and the like. The marathon will also offer "hot walkers" at the finish line, friendly folks with high tolerance for sweat who will help runners cool down gradually, instead of sitting down and never moving again, which is tempting.
The LA Marathon serves as the US Marathon Championship this year, meaning the top three US finishers will represent the country at the World Championship Marathon in Beijing in August. The sizzling heat further ratchets up the risk of going out too hard, and since only place is a factor in the championship, a conservative war of attrition is expected up front, with anything resembling a bold move reserved for the last three miles. While the heat adds another challenge to the heap that already exists in a competitive marathon, it will be ideal preparation for those going on to race in Beijing. See also; smog.
Furthermore, this year's LA Marathon is a trial run for top US runners and for race organizers to fine-tune for next year when Los Angeles hosts the Olympic Marathon Trials. The Marathon Trials and the everyman LA Marathon were moved back a month to mid-February in 2016 to allow runners who might wish to also compete in the Olympic Track Trials in June adequate time to recover. Though weather was not a factor in the date change, maybe it should have been: Three of the last six LA Marathons have been held in temperatures above 74, and 2011 featured an enduring downpour.
LA Marathon officials say they are closely monitoring the weather but have not established a definitive temperature at which the race would be cancelled. With 90-degree heat forecast for the 2012 Boston Marathon, organizers gave runners the option to defer entry until the following year. In 2007, organizers shut down the Chicago Marathon three-and-a-half hours after it began when temps spiked to 88 degrees.
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