Running Through the Devil’s Playground

We might not literally be running in Hades, and flames aren’t really licking our skin, but it can feel like it sometimes. 

My desert dwelling Trail Sisters often hear me say, “It’s hotter than Hades out here.” Yeah, well, I’ve written a few books about Hades, the flames of hell, and so I can get away with saying that. 

Also, I’m an ultrarunner who lives in the desert. So, running trails in 90+ degree weather isn’t uncommon to me. 

Here are a few things I consider while training when it’s hotter than Hades outside.  

PC: Lynn Rush

How do I stay cool? 

Butt Crack of Dawn! To get the miles in, I’ve got to start early. I’ve been known to begin my runs at 4am, headlamp and all. It’s not cool by any means, as the temps here have been 90 degrees at that time, but at least the sun isn’t out, burning through my energy. That early start allows me to get about 5-10 miles in before the fireball in the sky rises, because that fireball can slow you down almost 30 seconds per mile once the temperatures climb into the high 80s and 90s. 

Ice Ice Baby! I bring a cooler of ice to every run, and I wear a bandana around my neck and wrist that can be filled with ice. I’m not much of a seamstress by any means, so I just put ice in a sandwich sized zip lock bag, then wrap my bandana around it, then tie it around my neck. As the water melts, I can dump it over my head if needed. Or drink it. Depending on the situation. Even with this cooling tip, you always want to be monitoring how you feel. If you notice headaches, chills, reduced sweating, these are all signs of heat distress and the devil’s telling you to get off the trail.

Machine Wash Loops! I like to keep my loops around 4-5 miles or so, because I can do an “aid station” after each loop and ice down. So, I’ll ice down and do a loop, then stop at the car, ice down again, then I’ll do the loop the opposite direction (machine wash). I’ll repeat however many times I need to get the miles in. That way you’re not too far from help if you run into heat trouble. And, on the shorter loops, there are more hikers around, too, so you’re not totally alone on those trails during heat. 

PC: Lynn Rush

Ultimately the goal is keeping body temp down best you can so your body functions properly. It’s going to be working harder in the heat, but doing everything you can to help it stay cooler will help.

How do I stay hydrated?

Drink it up! Hydration is key! Especially the day before a scheduled hot run. And not just plain water, either. Throwing in electrolyte drinks every so often helps, too. 

To schedule or not to schedule! There are theories out there on how you should hydrate during a run. Scheduled drinking or drinking based on your perceived thirst. There isn’t a right or wrong, you just need to pick a style that works for you. 

If you choose to schedule, it’s recommended that you take in about 4-6 ounces of water every fifteen minutes or so. Again, it’s individualize. I, personally, monitor how much I’m drinking by how empty my water bottles are. I wear a Tailwind bottle on one side of my hydration vest and a plain water on the other. In an hour, I know that half of each should be gone. And if it’s super hot, 2/3 of each. 

Lynn Rush

On really long, hot days, I also carry a bladder of water in my pack, just as a back up. Or if I need to use more to pour on my head, it’s nice to have some in my pack as well. 

If you choose to go by perceived thirst, you must be mindful of it. As fatigue increases, perception of thirst can get skewed, and we can become forgetful. Our coaches find that people who drink by perceived thirst typically drink less than those on a schedule. 

So now you’re ready to face off with the devil on his playground. Go out and have some fun in that heat!

Lynn Rush

Lynn Rush

Lynn Rush is a New York Times & USA Today bestselling author, ultra runner, and co-owner of Cadence Performance Coaching.A life-long athlete, she’s a former collegiate tennis player & competitive inline speed skater. She’s completed three ultramarathons, the Boston marathon, and a handful of half-marathons including one straight up the side of Pikes Peak.Currently, she’s training to complete her first ever attempt at running rim to rim to rim of the Grand Canyon.Website:

Trail Sisters is committed to creating opportunity and participation for women in trail running. Our content is always free to read. Consider a monthly contribution on Patreon to support Trail Sisters so we can continue to inspire, educate and empower others!

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