What to Expect From the 2019 World Track Championships

Throughout the IAAF World Athletics Championships, WIRED’s editor in chief, Nicholas Thompson, will be chatting with Knox Robinson, the former editor in chief of the Fader and founder of the Black Roses running club in NYC.

Nick Thompson: Knox, good afternoon! And welcome to WIRED. I’ve run a lot of races and workouts with you over the years, and I’m delighted to now finally do something with you that doesn’t involve physical pain. Also, I’m happy to inform you that the last guy I did one of these chats with, turned it into a #1 best-selling book. So you should be good.

Knox Robinson: I’m stoked for this Nick! You’re a decent marathoner, but I’m more impressed that you’ve turned WIRED into the best running magazine out there. So I’m glad you’ve asked me along to chop it up and dig a little dirt on Doha.

NT: Heh. Well, let’s start with the first medals race, the women’s marathon, which begins at midnight tonight (5 pm ET). People are worried about the heat and the humidity. And running when it’s 90 degrees Fahrenheit sucks. But for a championship race, as long as it’s safe, I’m all for it. Strange weather leads to strange outcomes, like the Boston Marathon two years ago where a science teacher at my old high school somehow came in fourth because all the elites dropped out.

KR: It’s gonna be a wild kickoff for the Champs—a midnight marathon?!?!?! And that start time isn’t even really gonna beat the heat, right? I gotta admit I stole a glance at Weather Underground for the forecast: You’re right about the 90 F, but the troubling “real feel” line on the graph is 109 F, coming down from 119 F earlier in the day!

I’ve blocked Boston 2018 from the memory, as I dropped out at 30K with hypothermia, LOL. So for me, another reference for a championship race in harsh conditions would of course be the 2008 Olympic Marathon in Beijing, when high heat, humidity, and pollution at the early am start didn’t stop the leaders from taking off at world record pace, with the infamous Sammy Wanjiru winning with a new Olympic record and Kenya’s first gold medal in the marathon. Crazy is as crazy does!

For the Beijing Games, Nike made these ice-filled cooling vests from recycled shoes, with the thinking that, because so much energy is spent cooling the body during competition, if you lower the core temperature beforehand you end up saving more energy for the race itself. I probably didn’t explain that right, but as far as gadgets go, the vests are pretty cool. They pop up on eBay from time to time. I have two.

NT: And do they actually work? I’m skeptical. Also, I should add that I’m rooting for Carrie Dimoff on the US team. She’s 36 and the mother of two—and so I assume, like you and me, she’s gotten in quite a few miles with her running stroller. I’m told, too, that she’s been training in a heat chamber for the race.

KR: Summer dog days were so bad this year—a sign of the times perhaps—but a couple folks told me that heat training isn’t only about acclimatization; the benefits of heat training are said to mimic those from altitude training. I couldn’t tell if that was urban running legend or gallows humor, but I was too hot and tired to research further. Instead I just cut way back on my training and told myself I was doing the right thing.

social experiment by Livio Acerbo #greengroundit #wired https://www.wired.com/story/big-dreams-and-extreme-heat-what-to-expect-from-the-world-track-championships