“This article contains links to some recommended products. Please note, as an Amazon Associate I may earn from qualifying purchases.”
Last month after finishing the 1/2 Way to Christmas Half Marathon in Dayton, Ohio, I passed out and was taken by ambulance to the ER for very serious dehydration. This was my 28th Half Marathon. I am an experienced runner, certified running coach, and had run this particular race twice before.
This year I ran nearly 40 minutes slower than usual due to the heat. I wore my hydration pack that I don’t normally like to wear, took ice packs at two aid stations to stay cool, and even walked during the race. I thought I was being careful because I wasn’t pushing myself too hard.
I had TailWind in my Camelbak and put ice in my bra. I finished in 2:29 and right in front of a friend of mine who was pacing the 2:30 Half.
As the pacer, he had pushed himself to stay on pace, and once he finished he was struggling to stand. I stayed with him at the finish line tent as he received emergency medical attention and watched as he was slipping out of consciousness and could barely mumble his own name. Eventually, he was taken to the hospital by ambulance.
Following this, I realized I was not okay myself. I quickly told a medic my name, apologized, and told her “I am going to pass out.” She immediately sat me down and put ice on me. The last thing I remember telling her was “I can’t see you.”
I am unclear exactly how long I was out of it. The medics did not confirm whether I ever fully lost consciousness or for how long. I just remember repeating myself and saying “I can’t see, I think I am going to pass out.”
Eventually, after being cooled down with ice, my vision returned and I started to feel better. I sat with the two paramedics in the truck and had something to drink. My vitals were great and the paramedic said I am obviously a runner because my heart rate and oxygen rates were fantastic.
Initially, they weren’t planning to take me to the hospital but then I started cramping, and realized I must be dehydrated. I ended up taking an ambulance to the ER for an IV too. 🚑
In an emergency, you are more likely to have your phone on you, unless you carry your insurance card while you run. This is also useful for non-running emergencies.
I am not always comfortable running in a sports bra, but I should have immediately removed my completely sweat-soaked shirt that was only trapping in heat.
The medics told me to sip my drinks and replenish slowly. Guzzling sports drink at the finish is more dangerous and can do more harm than good.
I was with my friend who was in much worse shape, but I was so concerned about him I forgot to take the best care of myself. I should’ve gotten myself inside, out if sweaty clothes, started re-hydrating, and taken off the camelbak as soon as I was done with it. This was a Christmas themed race, but I never made it inside for the post-race breakfast with Santa.
I typically run four days a week and try to stay well hydrated every day not just on race days. Given the heat index, I should have pre-hydrated a little more.
I was putting ice in my bra too while I was walking. When I passed out the medics put bags of ice under my armpits and in my lap.
I was fortunate I was in a good place to get the help I needed quickly, and I spoke up right away. This type of heat exhaustion comes on quickly, often with little warning.
I am working with another PaceBuilders coach, Jill Mongene, to go through sweat testing. She will calculate my personal sweat and sodium levels. This is useful for knowing my own rehydration needs. (For more information about PaceBuilders click here. We include sweat tests for our 1:1 coaching clients).
The race course was shortened to 2 loops and runners were given the option to only run 1 loop if they felt unsafe completing a 1/2 marathon in a heat index over 100. I should have only run 1 loop, or better yet not run at all! As runners, it is hard to skip a race, but jeopardizing our health isn’t worth it. I had no idea just how bad I was feeling until I had to tell the medic I couldn’t see her! That was nearly 20 minutes after I finished running.
My legs started cramping and bulging like never before. They were not just sore from running a half marathon, but extremely painful.
I ran this race 40 minutes slower than usual which meant I was out in the heat that much longer, and way longer than was safe. I have run marathons in 85 degrees. It was most likely the heat index over 100 and humidity that were the difference here, and simply being outside too long.
I share all of this in case it helps anyone else. Heat illness is serious! It can kill you. Please be careful. I am grateful to be ok and be reminded to take care of myself.
PaceBuilders™ Online Run Coaching - PaceBuilders™ is a premium online run coaching program for runners of any experience level. With two unique, affordable coaching options to choose from, you can learn to run faster, run farther and run injury free. Inside PaceBuilders, you can work directly with experienced, RRCA/USATF certified running coaches or you can choose to follow our self-coached program and take advantage of unlimited access to all of our training assets including training plans, runner-specific strength training plans, nutrition information, mindset, race strategy, pacing guidance, LIVE monthly Q&A sessions, private client community and more!
Runner's Toolkit - Get access to 30 days of free coaching tips by email and get your #1 running question personally answered by me, just for signing up. Plus get free access to our private Facebook community where other RunBuzz community members gather for support, camaraderie and general shenanigans.
Find out how you can support RunBuzz's mission to bring quality running content (educational, inspirational, etc) to the running community. Did you know it takes approximately 8-10 hours of work to research, record, edit and release each podcast episode? Help support us in our mission to make every runner regardless of age, size and ability a better runner. Your support helps keep future RunBuzz podcast episodes ad-free and new episodes coming.