With temperatures expected to approach record highs on race day, LA Marathon organizers and first responders are taking numerous precautions amid mounting concerns about heat-related issues for runners.
Marathon organizers issued a weather advisory Monday afternoon warning that the expected temperatures “pose a high level of risk” to the roughly 26,000 participants, the second-largest field in the event’s 30-year history.
Last year’s marathon, the hottest in the race’s history, saw temperatures in the low 80s and more than a dozen runners sent to area hospitals with heat-related problems. A handful of marathons have canceled on race day in recent years due to extreme heat, but officials say there are many factors to consider before making a call like that.
According to National Weather Service officials, temperatures will start off around 64 degrees at the start of the race near Dodger Stadium and climb into the low 80s near Los Angeles International Airport by early afternoon — just a few degrees off the record of 83 degrees logged at LAX on March 15, 1959.
“The timing of these very warm to near-record highs is unfortunate considering the LA Marathon scheduled for Sunday morning,” the weather service wrote in a release.
Sunday’s high temperature for downtown Los Angeles could hit 89, weather officials said, and other expected temperatures in the area — which forecaster Ryan Kittell attributed to light offshore flow and a strong ridge of high pressure — would likely break records across the region.
“How hot it gets depends on the marine layer,” Kittell said. “By the time (runners) get to (the finish line in) Santa Monica, there should be some cooling near the coast. It’s good that they’re heading that way.”
Preparing for heat
Organizers are planning for the heat by increasing their supplies of water and electrolyte-rich drinks at the 24 aid stations. They will also have fans, cold sponges, towels and ice as well as air-conditioned buses along the 26.2-mile course and at the finish line, where services will be available for longer than originally planned.
“Everyone who participates should strongly consider running at a slower pace than they would normally plan to run a marathon,” race officials said in a statement. “If you’re not accustomed to running in high temperatures, slow down and enjoy the experience.”
Plans are also in place to make sure hydration stations are adequately stocked throughout the race, according to Glenn Ault, an associate professor of surgery at USC’s Keck School of Medicine who is in his fourth year as the LA Marathon’s medical director.
Ault’s medical team has enlisted the help of about 280 volunteer physicians, nurses and assistants to provide care at 12 medical tents, a significant jump from the 200 or so volunteers on hand last year.
L.A. Leggers, a regional running and walking club with several hundred members registered for the marathon, is also taking steps to prepare for the heat. Club officials will have more water, ice and cooling towels at stations along the course, according to board member and past president Jennifer Fah.
“Even if you’re not an L.A. Legger, we won’t turn anybody away,” she said. “Especially in the heat, we want to make sure that we let people know we’re there to support everyone on the course.”
Runners can also modify their routine to account for heat.
“Some of the challenge is to get runners to understand their responsibility in all of this,” Ault said. “Perhaps Sunday is not the day to do your personal best or shoot for your personal best,” he said.
Fah said it’s possible that LA Marathon officials could choose not to record finish times as a way to discourage runners from overexerting in the heat.
“It will be interesting to see how the LA Marathon handles the situation,” said Kirsten Wahlquist, a Santa Monica resident who is registered to run. “I have a feeling it will be a busy day for SMFD, LAFD and the other medical personnel along the course.”
Contact Jeff Goodman at 310-573-8351, email@example.com or on Twitter.