Desert Running: The Most Challenging Weather I’ve Run Through

When I found out I was moving just outside the Mojave desert, I naturally looked at the weather. With the exception of Del Rio, Tx, I really hadn’t spent much time in the desert in the summer. It was one of the few climates I knew nothing about other than “it’s hot.”

me desert running

I thought: “But it’s a dry heat,” it won’t be as challenging as east coast running or days when it was 100% humidity. As someone who has lived in several different climates, I’ve lived in a lot of types of weather.

Including: 

  • Upstate NY, where it was regularly below 0 with snow on the ground from October-May
  • The East Coast and the South: where it was regularly 100% humidity
  • I even trained for my first marathon in Del Rio, TX, during the summer

But for me, nothing has been more challenging than running in the desert. It’s regularly over 100 degrees by 9 am. I try and get out as early as it’s light. While cooler, running in the dark is just as dangerous due to highly toxic rattlesnakes and mountain lions.

Running in the desert means I always have electrolytes (I prefer DripDrop) for runs over 3 miles! For comparison, I never brought anything with me for runs under 10 miles on the East Coast. When visiting this week, I don’t really feel like I need to for anything under 10 miles either.

How Can “Dry Heat” or Heat with No Humidity Hurt Runners?

Nearly every day, there is no shortage of people saying: “Oh, but it’s a dry heat; you should be fine.”

I was one of those people until I was there.

Hot is hot.

One of my biggest life pet peeves is people who need to “weather compare” as to who is the most miserable. If you are miserable in whatever climate you are in, no one can take that away from you.

A dry 100 degrees is still hot. When the air is dry, your sweat evaporates off your body as quickly as you produce it. As you sweat, you become dehydrated. You might not even realize how dehydrated you really are. Plus, your heart needs to work harder to pump your blood because your blood is thinner. This will cause your heart rate to rise.

If you don’t sweat a lot (I don’t), then almost all of your sweat evaporates off your body before it can cool you. That’s why you may get hotter and more dehydrated faster. Of course, there is a threshold and exceptions to this.

Most everyone is going to run better at a dry 60 degrees.

But depending on who you are, you might run better in 90 degrees and humid or 90 degrees and dry. I found this piece in the Washington Post to be helpful.

My point is this: if you are miserable in the weather, you are miserable. Extreme temperatures of all types can reak havoc on runners. Just because a climate is dry or not does make it any less dangerous.

Questions for you:

Is it hot where you live?

What is the hottest temperature you’ve run in?