On October 5, 2013, Goucher’s cross country team was set to run at Lehigh University for the 40th Annual Paul Short Run. The cornfield-based course is flat and fast, and with nearly 50 teams in each race, a runner is pretty much guaranteed a good time there.
However, this was no typical October day. The sun was shining brightly on a course with little to no shade. The temperature was 85 degrees, with humidity at nearly 50 percent. At this point in the season, runners have been training in cooler temperatures and thus have conditioned themselves for cooler weather. Runners in earlier races were collapsing at the finish line, even the highly competitive Division I teams. IV drips, ice baths, and Gatorade were at the finish lines, and some runners were even being sent to nearby hospitals, including one of Goucher’s own. As a result, before the Women’s College White Race (the race the Lady Gophers were set to compete in), Lehigh University and Northampton County were forced to shut down the meet. With nearly 150 runners evaluated and 18 sent to nearby hospitals, the county just could not accommodate for the final college race and several high school races.
In the running community, there has been a heated debate regarding the fitness levels of the athletes. Message boards, namely the infamous letsrun.com, and comments on news articles were immediately flooded with arguments, claiming that 85 degrees isn’t that warm, that it’s only an 8K or 6K, and that a cancellation wouldn’t happen in a place like Florida. Let me preface this by saying – Paul Short is my favorite cross country event of the season, but after sitting outside all morning for a 2:30 p.m. race, I thought I could have passed out. It was hot. I put myself in the mindset to race and by the time I made it to the starting line, I believed that I could make it through the heat and run a good time. Although the race was canceled, our coach still asked my team to run through the course, and let me be frank – I barely made it through. The heat was overpowering and by the time we crossed the finish line, the race officials were not even letting people run on the course. Unless you were at Lehigh University that day, I honestly do not believe that you could understand.
Let this be a lesson to all athletes – hydration isn’t optional and heat is not something you can acclimate to in just a few hours. If it’s too hot outside, don’t run. If you feel unsafe because of the weather, don’t run. Race officials did what they had to do, and I completely respect their decision. Hopefully, next year everyone will fully enjoy the Paul Short Run.