They cancelled the Madison, Wisconsin, marathon this past weekend because of heat. Busted it down to a half-marathon if you still wanted to participate. It got me thinking about the inconsistencies I've noticed when it comes to weather and racing.
For example, the temperature in Madison on race day was 88 degrees at 1pm, when most people would be finished or finishing a 26.2 mile marathon. But in Louisville, during the Ironman in 3 of the past 5 years, the temperature was in the 90's in the afternoon when we were just starting the marathon portion of the race. And that's after we swam 2.4 miles and biked 112. In one of the years when the temps were going to be in the 90's, I asked the race organizers if they'd ever considered postponing the race because of heat. They laughed.
Now let's talk about severe weather. The year I ran the Madison marathon, numerous severe thunderstorm warnings were in effect all up and down the nasty squall line approaching the city. I'm probably the least scared person around when it comes to storms, but I walked up to a race director and asked what their plan was for severe weather. He laughed.
"Have you ever heard of someone killed by a thunderstorm during a marathon?" he asked. I couldn't think of one. I ran more than half of the race with lightning bolts crashing down all around me. Funny how much faster you run when that's going on.
Then there was the year in Muncie, Indiana, during their half-ironman triathlon, when their answer to an approaching thunderstorm was to hurry us into the water for an earlier start. That left the final wave of swimmers, the "clydesdales" like me, out in the water when the thunderstorm hit. I could hear the thunder while underwater. The lake lit up like a Christmas tree on every lightning bolt. Some were bailing out of the water and boarding any nearby boat. I kept swimming like an idiot. Then I got on my bike and watched lightning bolts blow up trees right next to us on the roadway.
So what gives? What's the protocol? Why are they more afraid of heat than thunderstorms? Why is heat okay for the marathon at the end of a 90 degree, 140-mile long Ironman triathlon, but not for your basic marathon that's starting off with temps in the 60's?
I'm still alive. Guess I've been lucky.