This spring has brought unprecedented heat to many marathons. Starting with Boston and the 89-degreee temperatures and rolling right into spring, many marathon race directors have been faced with a tough dilemma–how to approach it. Runners too have to think about whether or not to toe the line if temperatures start approaching not only time-killing temps, but temperatures that could lead to potential heat-related issues.
In Wisconsin, three separate race directors chose to either cancel or cut short marathons thanks to the heat over the past month. And, well, those directors received plenty of heat from unhappy runners who wanted a chance to go for it. It’s understandable–months of time and effort go into getting ready for a marathon. Sometimes travel expenses accompany that time and effort. To have the rug pulled out from underneath can be disheartening, to say the least.
But in our litigious society, race directors have to think long and hard about allowing runners out onto the course. I can understand how they might be gun shy about letting a race proceed when temperatures are expected to be dangerously high. Another element that factors into all this is that there is an unprecedented number of new marathoners out there. Many, quite frankly, aren’t really in all that great of shape. And they often have no appreciation for the effect of the temperatures on their bodies over the many hours they’ll be out there. These are likely to be the first victims should the temperatures get too high.
I’ve said it before–I don’t race well in heat. For that reason, with the exception of Boston every few years, I limit my marathons to late fall in regions where warm temperatures aren’t very likely. I don’t know how I would have felt had the BAA pulled the plug on Boston this year, but again, I would have understood their thinking if they had chosen that route.
The bottom line is that there’s no simple answer. Race directors can’t please everyone and when it comes to heat, they are in a tough position–damned if they do, damned if they don’t.
What are your thoughts on how race directors should handle marathons when the temperatures get dangerously hot? Have you ever had a race cancelled due to heat?