The annual Great North Run took place this year amid a sweltering September heatwave, and medics issued extra warnings to the participants to stay safe and stay hydrated during the 13.1 mile course. There were concerns that the unusually hot and humid conditions may have taken some runners by surprise.
It’s one of the most popular events on the running calendar, beginning in Newcastle-upon-Tyne and heading over the Tyne Bridge into Gateshead, continuing along the coast to South Shields. The challenging route has been successfully completed by millions of people, including 102-year old William Cooksey, known as Bill.
The World War II veteran completed the course in five hours and 41 minutes, raising an admirable £15,000 for the County Durham and Darlington NHS Trust. He is no stranger to endurance challenges however, as to celebrate his 100th birthday in 2021, he walked 10 miles a day for 10 days, also raising thousands of pounds for the NHS.
His companion Gavin Iceton told Runner’s World that maintaining good hydration and a positive attitude were key aims to get around the course. He said: 'He'll do great, he's way past being determined. I think if you're doing it at 84 or 85, 95 even, you're determined. He's doing it at 102, he's stubborn and he will do it.’
He added: 'We'll be nice and steady, he's done lots of practising, and will have lots of water, keep nice and cool and we're just going to go nice and steady. He'll be a record breaker no matter how long it takes him.'
Marathon runners are advised to stay hydrated not only during the race, but to ensure that they drink sufficient water beforehand. Many athletes take hydration tablets that contain electrolytes the night before a long run, to make sure that they maintain an optimal hydration and electrolyte balance throughout the day.
This is because when we sweat, we not only lose fluids but also essential minerals and vitamins that make up electrolytes, including sodium, potassium, calcium and magnesium. If we lose too many electrolytes, we can be prone to muscle cramps, twitching, tiredness, and even seizures or disrupted heart rhythms.
Tynemouth GP Dr Alex Kent issued firm advice for runners to stay safe in the heat: "Best of luck to everyone taking part in the 2023 Great North Run. We are expecting some hot and humid weather over the weekend, and we urge people to take extra care as it increases your risk of dehydration. So, it’s really important to drink water regularly throughout the day.”
She added: "For anyone else thinking of exercising, please avoid the hottest parts of the day, make sure you take water with you, stay in the shade if possible, apply sunscreen, wear a brimmed hat and drink fluids when you feel any dehydration symptoms.”
Adding a rehydration tablet to your water bottle not only keeps you topped up with minerals, but it also helps the body to reabsorb fluids faster than it would otherwise.