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Runners Brace for a Hot, Slow Marathon

The heat forecast for Monday will slow Boston Marathon runners, who were advised over the weekend to skip it if they did not qualify based on finish times for age and gender.

No one wants to run a marathon in excessive heat, including athletes who have trained for months. But most runners also are reluctant to skip a marathon that they've trained for, and want to complete as a personal achievement.

The Boston Athletic Association has told runners it will allow them to defer their participation in the 116th Boston Marathon until next year, given the forecast of temperatures approaching 90 degrees Monday.

It wasn't clear Sunday how many runners were opting to do that. The race begins at 9 a.m., with the wheelchair competition, with waves of runners to follow. The race is expected to take middle-of-the-pack runners about four to five hours to finish.

The National Weather Service is forecasting a sunny, unseasonably hot day for metro Boston, with a high in the city of 88.

In an announcement Sunday afternoon, the Boston Athletic Association recommended that only runners who had prepared and qualified with a finishing time acceptable for their age and gender should participate.

"The weather situation continues to be a significant concern for Boston Marathoners," the organization stated. "We have determined that the race will occur in a "red zone" which is considered an increased risk but acceptable for high-level elite runners. However, it is not considered safe for unfit and novice runners. We strongly recommend that unless you have met qualifying times for this race that you accept the deferment option from the B.A.A."

For runners who will participate, the association suggested the following:

  • Athletes should run much slower, adding several minutes to their regular per mile pace.
  • Complete the emergency medical contact information on the reverse side of your race bib.
  • Take frequent breaks by walking instead of running.
  • Maintain good hydration, but over hydration is also dangerous.
  • Be aware of signs of heat illness in yourself and others. This may include headaches, dizziness, confusion, fatigue, nausea and vomiting. If you experience any of these, stop running, and seek medical attention.

In another message to runners, the organizer of the 26.2-mile race suggested that participants approach it as an event, rather than a race.

The temperature forecast for Monday would be the hottest for the Boston Marathon since 2003, when the high was 84 degrees.

Marathons occasionally are postponed or stopped due to excessive heat. In 2007, the LaSalle Bank Chicago Marathon had record-breaking heat of 88 degrees, prompting race organizers to halt the event with some 30,000 runners still on the course, according to an analysis of the event by the running magazine Runners World. Some 185 people were treated at hospitals that day; one runner died.

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