That’s what more than 1,000 participants in the Woodstock 5K are likely to learn when the annual event gets started early Saturday morning. To avoid heat-related illnesses there are a few precautions participants, especially those who are unconditioned runners, should take, said Michael Gaines, an urgent care physician at C.A.R.E.S. in Anniston.
“It’s the novice runner that hasn’t been running that’s probably going to have more problems,” Gaines said.
If recent trends continue, temperatures will be between 75 and 80 degrees by the run’s 7:30 a.m. start. That’s about five degrees below the 85-degree mark at which Gaines said heat-related illness becomes more likely, but it doesn’t mean runners should let down their guard.
He added that it’s important to drink plenty of water before the run and to stay away from alcoholic beverages the night before to prevent dehydration. Once out on the course, it’s important to drink small amounts of water periodically.
To ensure runners have the chance to do those things, organizers will be offering water after the first and second miles of the 3.1-mile run. Organizers will also offer Gatorade, water, popsicles, ice cold sponges, and misters to runners following the race, but Gaines said it’s best not to hold out.
“Small amounts (of water) taken frequently are better than large amounts at the end of the race,” Gaines said. “(That way) your body doesn’t tend to get behind on liquids and (you have) a shorter recovery time.”
Gaines said it’s also a good idea to wear light-colored clothing while on the track to keep body temperatures moderate. Runners might also want to pour water over their heads or dampen their clothing to stay cool.
Anniston paramedics, local ham radio operators and officers of the Anniston Police Department will be positioned along the course to watch out for runners. But organizers say even with emergency officials on hand, runners should monitor their own conditions to prevent heat-related illnesses during the race.
Gaines said to do that runners should look out for headaches, weakness, dizziness or stomach pain, all of which are symptoms of heat-related illnesses.
Of the two main heat-related illnesses, heat stroke and heat exhaustion, heat stroke is more serious. Heat exhaustion is the precursor to heat stroke.
One additional symptom of heat exhaustion is excessive sweating. By contrast, one symptom of heat stroke, which can be deadly if not treated immediately, is an absence of sweat.
Anniston on Tuesday was under an excessive heat warning, as declared by the National Weather Service office in Birmingham. That warning was set to expire today. However, it might be extended if the heat index continues to rise to about 110 degrees, said Gary Goggins, a meteorologist with the weather service.
And while highs are expected to cool off slightly in the coming days, they are expected to remain in the mid-90s through the weekend. That means runners could still be subjected to a relatively high heat index for the morning hours.
“The pattern is not expected to change too terribly much into this weekend,” Goggins. “By that time we might be expecting temperatures to be between 95, 97, 98 degrees.”
Contact staff writer Laura Johnson at 256-235-3544.