The Secret Gifts of Summer Running

By Jackie Howard, TST Coach

Oooof!  The blistering heat of central Texas is definitely upon us!  Having just returned to Austin after being abroad for 1 month, it is a bit of a shocker and a reminder about all the things that make running in the summer special, tough, and ultimately so rewarding!  Stick with me now, I know many of you are eye-rolling because summer running is miserable and how can there possibly be any real silver lining to this madness, right?  Wrong!

Your Future Self Will Thank You

The first golden nugget of what makes summer running so special is that summer miles pay off.  Always.  Forget about pace, because when that first cool autumn morning rolls around your same summer effort will result in much faster paces.  Trust the process.  It’s true. You just WILL be faster for having trudged through the summer heat and humid mornings.  Your body will thank you for your hard work because everything will feel and be SO much easier later!  


I know sometimes we get so tied down to our watches and paces and we have a specific time goal in mind, but the effort your body is exerting in the summer is all that counts.   Your cells don’t know miles and paces.  They know effort and time.  Don’t worry about easy pace (or any pace)!  Worry about easy EFFORT (or goal pace effort). The best of athletes know their body’s effort so well they don’t even need to look at their watches.  You don’t see the elite marathoners checking their watches during their race.  It is important to connect your mind to your body to understand what your different effort levels are and run based on these different effort levels during the heat of the day.  Think of effort using the Rate of Perceived Exertion scale (see image).   Your easy effort runs should be somewhere around 3-4.  Your goal pace effort should be around 6-7.  When doing speed work faster than goal pace, you will be closer to 8-9.   Thank you again summer running for allowing me this forced opportunity to tune in with my body’s effort and detach from the watch!

Slow Down

What does all this effort-based running really mean?  It means SLOW DOWN Y’ALL!  Your effort will equal slower miles and that is OKAY!  The gift of slower miles means more time on your feet, which in the marathon or half marathon is the very point of the long run.  Remember, your body knows time.  If you slow down you will gain more time running which trains your body for longer running!  Some days might be faster or slower than others, doesn’t matter.  Seriously.  I challenge you to slow down and not care!  IT’S OKAY! :) This is another chance to have an ounce of gratitude for the heat for forcing you to slow down and work on your endurance!  It will all pay off in the fall/winter I PROMISE!  

Just Plain Tough

Oh yeah, and your toughness factor certainly goes up a notch (or two or three) each time you conquer a summer run.  The mental strength gained by “being okay” with the discomforts of running in heat and humidity will serve you tremendously when dealing with the discomforts of the last 10k of a marathon.  You can quickly learn to push through the hurt when things feel “harder than they should” and this is something that will totally serve you for that fall or winter marathon or next big event.  The mental training when conditions are less than optimal is something you can’t create in a training plan - so “thank you summer for giving us a chance to work on our mental toughness!”

Summer running in all its misery is actually something that can provide incredible benefits when done properly.  Your future self will be faster, you can take the time to connect with your body’s effort levels, and learn to be okay with yourself when you run slower.  All of this amounts to a much tougher you and something that no training plan can create for you.  How we mentally approach these adverse conditions provided to us by the summer heat will result in an ability to overcome adversities in a race and give you an extra edge in the last brutal miles of your next big event.