Marathoners "Under Heat" this Saturday

By KBJR News 1

June 13, 2012 Updated Jun 13, 2012 at 9:40 AM CDT

Duluth, MN (Northland's NewsCenter) - Adam Clark, Chief Meteorologist with the Northland's NewsCenter, says chances are good it will be a warm weekend.

"It looks like it's going to be more humid than normal, and warmer than normal. Temperatures could get up to 77 degrees by the afternoon hours. There is a pretty good chance of some showers, even some rumbles of thunder," said Clark.

...good ingredients for a sticky heat: "It will be a sticky heat, most likely—a lot of humidity—because we're looking at southerly winds. It's harder to cool off. You don't have evaporation off of your skin, so your body can't cool off as much."

Luckily, marathon officials come prepared.

"We have a medical team that's second to none. We have aid stations along the racecourse, and medical stations along the racecourse, in addition to a world class medical team that's down here, in the finish line area," said Bob Gustafson, with Grandma's Marathon.

...a team headed by Doctor Ben Nelson, who has directed the marathon's medical team for 3 years. Nelson says heat–related illness is a common occurrence for marathoners, and its severity runs the gamut—from mild, to deadly.

"The milder cases of heat–related illness [are] heat exhaustion, where the runner is tired, doesn't feel well, may have a headache, and is essentially just exhausted. They do very well with just simply resting themselves, replacing some fluids. In the more severe cases, heat can cause mental status changes. It can cause seizures, stroke–like symptoms, and can also cause severe kidney issues," said Nelson.

...and, in rare cases, death. In 2010, a half–marathon runner died after crossing the finish line, and while it was another unusually hot June day, Nelson says other factors can be attributed to occurrences, like these.

"Most of the fatalities that we would see with sports would be related to sudden cardiac arrest, which is a different issue," said Nelson.

But, hope is strong among marathon officials that the region's geography will help keep things cool.

"We have a big refrigerator to our north and our east here, called Lake Superior," said Gustafson.

...if nothing else, a good option for a post–race cool–down.

Nelson says, hands down, the best option for any racer feeling the heat is to stop running and rest. It's the only way to cool the body's temperature, and it will help prevent the situation from getting much worse.