A runner’s guide to beating the heat in Charleston 🏃

two people running on trail in woods
Photo by @trailfor2

A walk down King Street in the middle of summer can make you look like you just took a dip in the Atlantic. A run in the Carolina heat is, well, very sweaty to say the least.

The intensity of the weather can make it hard for runners to get their miles in. But if you enjoy running, you shouldn’t have to stop just because of the heat– you just have to learn how to start running smarter.

Read on for 10 tips on how you can beat the heat when going for a run – and resources that can help refresh your drive to keep going.

  1. Heat and humidity have a major effect on our bodies when running.  That’s why you want to acclimate yourself to the heat.  This means reducing your mileage and pace until you’ve acclimated yourself to the heat, then slowly scale back up.  Basically, don’t go for your first 60-minute run on a 100 degree weather day if you’ve never run that far or run in that kind of heat.  Let your body adjust before pushing yourself.
  2. Expect your pace to slow.  Your pace per mile can slow anywhere from 10 seconds to 2 minutes, and that’s totally normal.  Don’t freak out when you see a slower mile time on GPS watch or if you feel like you’ve run for 2 miles when you’ve really only run a half mile.  Change your mindset and run based on effort and feel, instead of pace.
  3. Dress accordingly.  This means light colored and loose fitting clothes, giving your skin plenty of room to breathe.  Avoid cotton and shoot for sweat-wicking material. Wear a hat, sunglasses, and running appropriate socks.
  4. Find shade.  Experiment with different running routes until you’ve found one that provides sufficient shade on those sunny summer days.  
  5. Plan to run during the coolest time of the day.  This may mean waking up a little earlier before work to hit the pavement, but your body will thank you! Heat exhaustion and heat stroke are no joke.  Although the humidity in the evenings can still be pretty high here in Charleston, it’s better than running under the bright sun in the afternoon. If you choose to run early in the morning or late at night, be sure to wear reflective gear.
  6. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate.  Drink up before you run, while you run, and after your run.  If you plan to run longer than 45 minutes, consider refueling with an electrolyte-based drink.  You can also carry water with you during your runs using a handheld water bottle or fuel belt.
  7. Wear sunscreen. This is a no-brainer.  Don’t forget about protecting your lips, ears, and the back of your neck.  You may need to reapply if you get extra-sweaty out there.
  8. Stay cool.  There are a lot of different ways to stay cool on the run but some of our favorite methods are: freezing a bandana to wear around our head or neck and carrying a frozen water bottle in our hands (because your hands hold a lot of heat).
  9. Look out for signs of dehydration and heat exhaustion/stroke: If you’re dehydrated you may feel dizzy, fatigued, disoriented, weak, or have dry mouth.  Some warning signs of heat stroke or exhaustion are headache, confusion, nausea, clumsiness, and a core temperature above 104 degrees.  Get checked out by a medical professional if you suspect you are suffering from a heat-related illness. Whatever you do, don’t push through it!
  10. It’s ok to skip your run.  If you need to rearrange your running schedule so that your long run is on a cooler day, go for it.  Running in the heat can be dangerous and your health should always be put first.

Resources that will help you hit the ground running

Though most races have been canceled this season and running groups may look a little different than usual there are still resources to help you train and feel like you’re part of a community.

Don’t want to run alone? Don’t know the best routes? Don’t have the motivation solo? No worries.

Check out a couple of local assets-

Strava or similar running app | Apps, such as Strava, allow you to track your progress, create routes, take on challenges and connect with other runners in your area on your own time and without having to interact face to face.

Fleet Feet Running Club | Free | Weekly “Monday Runday” + Saturday group runs at both the Mount Pleasant (881 Houston Northcutt Blvd) + Summerville (117 E Richardson Ave) Fleet Feet stores.

Charleston Running Club | Check out this page to stay up to date with canceled/rescheduled races + (virtual) social events. Members get perks like discounts to local races + free running clinics.

Nothing beats the beauty of a sunny day in CHS – so don’t let the scorching heat keep you from enjoying it.

And if you really want to hit the ground running, check our roundup of nearby running trails for inspiration on where to begin. Pro tip: pick the trails with the most trees, because, shade = good.


Special thanks to Kara Burdette, a marathoner + owner of Revival Running Coaching, LLC.  in Columbia. This piece was originally published in COLAtoday.


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