Winter is coming and for many runners that means shorter days and training in dark, cold and wet conditions - while dreaming of a tropical holiday. If like me, you've registered for a race where the temperature's are actually rising, how do you prepare?
Australian running legend and Gold Coast Marathon ambassador Steve Moneghetti says it's all about controlling the controllables.
"The Gold Coast Marathon, an IAAF Gold Label Road Race, is the pinnacle of road running events in Australia, and during its 40-year history has distinguished itself as one of the most prestigious marathons in the world," says Moneghetti.
"It's a flat, fast and stunning course, which attracts entrants from all over the world, but as the sun rises higher in the sky and the humidity increases, runners can find their pace starts to suffer in the warmer conditions.
"The marathon is an endurance event, so it's critical that runners spend time thinking about what they might struggle with – like the heat – and make a plan for how they will tackle it.
Get in shape
Moneghetti's first tip for prepping for a race in hotter weather is to get in shape.
"You can be from Cairns and in average shape for a race like the Gold Coast Marathon, and the heat will still bother you," warns Moneghetti.
"I've seen a lot of runners' times blow out after 31 kilometres because the heat has got to them.
"If you haven't done enough training and your body and mind aren't in tip top condition for a race, then uncontrollables like the weather will make things much harder."
Sweat it out
Elevating your core body temperature during training sessions will help prepare you for warmer conditions. Moneghetti says he used to train in the heat chamber at Ballarat University.
"When training, try to get your core temperature up and sweat a little. Some ways to do this include running in the warmest part of the day, wearing an extra layer or two of clothing, and if you're running inside on a treadmill turn the heating up a few degrees. And do your training in the heat and recover in the cold to give your body the best chance of recuperating after workouts," says Moneghetti.
In fact, research from the University of Oregon found that overdressing for training runs is a viable way to acclimate to hot-weather running. The study, published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, found that running in excess clothing in cool conditions approximated the stress of running in minimal clothing in extremely hot conditions.
Pit stop practice
Moneghetti says practicing taking in hydration and nutrition during your run, even in cold weather, is a must.
"When it's cold, you might not feel like drinking or having gels during training, but you have to practice this so you know what to expect on race day.
"You need to experiment with drinking water and taking on fuel to understand how your body reacts, and to make the process easier on race day."
Turn up the heat
Melbourne-based indoor treadmill running studio The Run Club has several members training for races in warmer climates.
Owner Caitlin Duncan says the 30 to 90 minute sessions include interval, hill, sprint, tempo and endurance running.
"If our members are training to race in warmer conditions, many will turn off their treadmill fans and wear more layers of clothing," says Duncan.
Cool your jets
"It's always great race prep to have trained in the conditions you will be racing in. But this can be challenging when the event is in another state or country where the weather can be vastly different."
Duncan says that while runners can't control the weather, there are ways they can deal with it during a race.
"Ensure you're well hydrated prior to the race by drinking plenty of water the day before and during the race," says Duncan.
"Take advantage of the aid stations and always grab a quick drink as you're passing through. When it's warm, keep your electrolyte levels up whether that's through the consumption of gels, sports drinks or electrolyte tabs.
"And wear appropriate clothing such as breathable, sweat-wicking shorts and singlets, and don't forget to wear a hat and apply sunscreen. Finally, run in the shade when possible and listen to your body and slow down your pace if you need to," adds Duncan.
The high of crossing the finish line inspires running fanatic Laura Hill to clock up the kilometres each week. Whether you're a newbie to the running scene or a seasoned athlete, Laura brings the latest running trends and gear to readers across Australia. With a day job in the corporate world and a busy toddler, Laura loves nothing more than lacing up her runners and hitting the pavement to sharpen her mind and challenge her body.
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