Pulled hamstrings to heat exhaustion, weather affects runners

(Photo Illustration/File)

By Dave

MOUNT PLEASANT, S.C. (WCIV) -- Runners spend months gearing up for the Cooper River Bridge Run. The work to control everything they do -- eating right, training and getting into shape to complete the 10K race from Mount Pleasant to Marion Square in Charleston.

The one variable they can't control is the weather, which has a huge effect on runners.

"The ideal temperature for distance runners, 5K up to marathon, is in the range of 53-55 degrees," said Amy Seago, head cross country/track and field coach at the College of Charleston.

That's good, because looking at the climatological data on the race, start time temperatures from the Cooper River Bridge Run since its inception in 1978 are just shy of 57 degrees. Pretty close to ideal.

"Out of town runners coming from colder climates may have a tougher time with the race, especially if it's hot, because it takes about two weeks to become acclimated to running in a new environment," Seago said.

Speaking of heat, the first year the race was run was the hottest on record. It was 76 degrees when the race started at 10 a.m., with an afternoon high of 88 degrees. The heat took a toll on the runners as many dropped out, and some even had to be hospitalized.

"Hot weather is terrible to run in. As the air temperature rises, dehydration and overheating happen more quickly for the runners," Seago said.

On the other end of the thermometer, cold temperatures can work against runners as well. Fortunately in Charleston, the early spring temperatures are not as harsh as in other parts of the country. The coldest starting temperature for the race was 39 degrees in 1997.

"For cooler temperatures there are many things you want to do. Dress in layers, possibly even wearing a hat and gloves. Move around and do a warm up run for about five to 10 minutes before stretching. In cold weather, it is much easier to pull a hamstring," Seago said.

There are other weather variables that affect the eventual outcome of the race, especially among the elite runners.

"Wind and rain can slow runners down. Rain, you just have to deal with. As far as wind, a head wind will slow you down, but it will also aid the body's natural cooling process. You can also draft off of a runner ahead of you to limit the drag of the wind," Seago said.