Lim: Let’s race safe

Melanie Lim.
Melanie Lim.File photo

I’m overjoyed that there are more and more races coming up. But I’m getting more and more apprehensive about the rising heat index.

It’s hard enough to stand outdoors these days under our scorching temperatures. Imagine running under such oppressive conditions. It’s not only challenging, it’s dangerous.

Our bodies have a core temperature range that needs to be maintained so our organs and body systems can function correctly. Maintaining this range puts our body into a state of balance that is essential not just for good health but for survival.

When we run, we generate heat. This raises our core temperature temporarily. Slight upward temperature variations are reversible through perspiration, hydration and slowing down.

When the heat index (combined effects of temperature and humidity) is so high, however, our bodies can overheat causing serious consequences like organ failure, coma and/ or death.

Sweat is the main way by which our bodies cool themselves down. But sweat evaporates from our skin at a much slower rate when humidity is high because high humidity means the air is already nearly full of water vapor.

The hot and sticky feeling we get on a humid day is due to our sweat not evaporating into the air as fast as we would like it to.

The higher the core body temperature when running, the less power is available in the muscles to run faster and longer because as the body heats up, it automatically diverts blood away from the muscles to the skin so perspiration can take place to cool down.

This is why the higher the heat index, the harder it is to run, to run faster, to run longer and to finish safer.

Heat is an important factor to consider for running safety. But coupled with humidity, it becomes an even more significant factor to consider in keeping our races safe and our runners healthy.

The higher the heat index, the harder our bodies have to work to cool themselves down. Excessive sweating can cause us to lose massive amounts of fluids and minerals which can lead to cramps, fatigue, dehydration and other heat-related illnesses like heat stroke, among many others.

I appeal to all race organizers to move their gun starts at least half an hour earlier than norm—whatever that is for you. If you can move them an hour earlier, even better.

From recent experience, the sun is already quite strong at six in the morning. It was agonizing to run even for just 15 minutes under the scorching heat and punishing humidity especially when you’ve already been running for the last two hours.

If it were all up to me, the last runner should cross the finish line, at the latest, seven in the morning, though I would want to do it at six. But that’s not always possible if you’re not an elite runner and race organizers don’t move back the gun starts.

If running is all about staying healthy, let’s keep our races safe.

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