Training for a Half Marathon in the Heat of Summer

When I decided to run the Skinny Raven Half Marathon in August in Alaska, I knew full well that meant I would be running through the hot, humid summer here in North Carolina. It’s usually well into the 70’s by 7 am in July and August and humidity levels in the early morning hours hover around 90-95%. Daytime highs are commonly in the upper 80’s to mid-90’s. When the sun sets, it doesn’t cool off much either although if you’re lucky it will drop to around 80 degrees then.

Given the fact that I work full-time and get up for work around 6:50, I would have had to have gotten up around 5:45 for most of my mid-week runs. Instead I chose to run after work, which for me was usually before 6 pm, and which also coincided many days with the highest temperature for the day. So wait, you say, you actually chose to run in the heat of the day rather than get up an hour early before work when it would have been 15 or 20 degrees cooler? Are you crazy?

I would manage to get my long runs in on Saturday morning, usually leaving the house around 7 or 7:30, so it was in the 70’s when I was starting out, but at least it was cooler than running any later than that. I feel like I’m sort of a morning person. I can easily get up around 6:30 or 7:00, which I know would seem really early for some people, but any earlier than that is just not for me. The other day I had to get up at 5:20 to take my daughter for a medical procedure and I was so exhausted all day even though I had gone to bed early the night before to make up for getting up early.

All during my training plan for the Alaska race, I kept wondering how running in the heat was effecting my training. Obviously my body couldn’t run as fast when it was 90 degrees as when it was 70 degrees. I think later in the summer my body definitely had acclimated as much as possible to the heat because my runs weren’t as slow as they had previously been. Still, I wasn’t as fast as I would have been if it wasn’t so hot and humid, so how was that effecting my training? How was not meeting my goal pace times effecting my body? Would I have been better off sucking it up and getting up early to run when it was cooler so I could have at least been closer to meeting my goal pace times?

I did a lot of trail running this summer to try to escape the heat!

I had heard stories about people training for marathons during the summer for a fall race and smashing their times. I guess the idea is if you can push your body to run through the extreme heat conditions when you’re training, the race will seem easier when it’s cooler. I had hoped this would be the case with me when I ran that race in Anchorage.

My verdict? I don’t think running through the heat especially helped me or hurt me when it came to running the half marathon in Anchorage. For a comparison, at the Famous Potato Half Marathon in Idaho last May (so it was much cooler when I was training for it), I finished just under 2 hours, at 1:59:51. My GPS watch also had me running 13.32 miles. My time was good enough for 7th out of 59 in my age group, overall 253rd out of 897, and 105th female out of 535. At the Skinny Raven Half Marathon in Alaska in August, my GPS said I ran 12.99 miles in 2:01:06, 84th for women and 11/52 for my age group. The biggest difference, though is elevation gain for Alaska was 495 feet but only 89 feet for Idaho.

I suppose if you take elevation into account for the races in Idaho and Alaska, you could say I did “better” at the race in Alaska. Pretty much the other things, like age group ranking and female ranking are similar enough to call them a wash. A finish of just over one minute longer for the hillier Alaska race seems pretty good to me now that I’m looking at it this way.

After all of this, would I do things differently? No, I have to say I would do it all over the same way. In fact, I will be next summer when I’m training for a race in Minnesota in August. I’m sure I’ll be cursing my decision next June and July, but I’ll have to just re-read this post and tell myself that everything will be ok in the end.

Did any of you train for a half marathon or marathon during the heat of the summer? Did you get up early to beat the heat or run later in the day like me? Were you cursing your decision to run a summer long distance race?

Happy running!




Author: runningtotravel

I'm a long distance runner with a goal of running a half marathon in all 50 states in the US. I also love to travel so I travel to other places when I'm not running races. Half the fun is planning where I'm going to go next!

12 thoughts on “Training for a Half Marathon in the Heat of Summer”

  1. I didn’t train, but I did run all summer and really noticed the higher temperatures were slowing me down. I’m hoping it will help my Fall running, but we shall see

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  2. The last fall marathon I trained for (before breaking my toe and having to DNS the race), I was doing my main mileage in June and July, but this was in Germany, so a little cooler. I did end up running early mornings, but only because that’s all my schedule allowed for (with my family, it’s almost always a better bet to run morning than afternoon…plans always change. Sigh, non-runners.) the same is true now as well. I do think training in more difficult weather conditions than race day does make you stronger! But I also think it’s helpful to get the race pace effort somehow too… if anything on a treadmill in the gym…

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    1. Maybe I should do my hardest training run each week on the treadmill to make sure I’m hitting my race paces when it’s unbearably hot and humid out. That way I’m only running one day a week on the treadmill too.

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  3. I live in Singapore where the average temperature is 32°C (90°F) and the humidity level is 90-95%. Our half and full marathon races have to start at 3.30am due to the heat. Even at 6am, the temperature is around 28°C (82°F). So in essence, we have hot, sweltering summer all year round! When I first ran in spring in Australia, I did P.B. my 10Km race. Recently, I did a half marathon in Reykjavik (Iceland) but did 15 mins slower than my PB due to the 40% rolling hills. Coming from a country where it’s pretty flat, I wasn’t used to it. So in essence, I think training in a place where there are hills and mountains will help the speed when running in a flat terrain. Running in hotter weather will speed you up in a cooler weather, assuming both terrains are similarly flat.

    I plan to visit Alaska and hopefully get to experience a race there!


    1. Wow! I didn’t realize it’s hot and humid year round in Singapore. That’s so cool that you’ve run races in Australia and Iceland! I hope you do get to go to Alaska and run a race there. It’s a beautiful state with so much to see and do.


  4. Based on our comment convo the other day I think you know that I’m in your boat with choosing heat over loss of sleep! Having ran those 2 mornings way earlier than usual I think I will do it again if a heat advisory day merits it, particularly if I definitely need to get a run in, but otherwise I’ll continue to just fight the heat. One thing I think helps me is that I work from home and unless it’s a heat advisory day, I don’t put on the air conditioner. I just rely on the windows being open and a box fan in my office. I do sleep with an air conditioner on in the bedroom (Jason wouldn’t have it any other way). I do think my limited time in AC though helps acclimatize me better for those hot runs.

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  5. Hi Donna. I’ve been training over the summer in Arizona, not in the super hot places like Tucson or Phoenix, thank goodness! But still warm. I’m a morning person. I get up at 6, or earlier when I travel, for my runs because I hate running in the heat! I slow down significantly and I just feel crappy. So I think getting up early is worth it to get a good run!

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