image description

Training & advice

Running in the sun

In 2006 a study from dermatologists at the Medical University of Graz in Austria warned that marathoners have an increased risk of developing melanoma, the most dangerous skin cancer. Whilst we're making great improvements to our hearts, lungs and minds we may be fatally damaging our skin.

Protect your skin in the sun

Protect your skin in the sun

The researchers studied 210 white male and female marathoners aged 19 to 71, comparing their melanoma risks against 210 age and gender-matched white men and women who were not distance runners. All were given total-body skin exams and surveyed about their personal and family skin cancer histories, sunburn histories, sun sensitivity, traits such as eye colour and skin type, and any changes in moles.

The study concluded that the runners were exhibiting more risk factors and the findings correlated with increasing training intensity. This correlation was thought to be because the runners were wearing shorts and tee shirts that only partly covered their backs and extremities. The researchers also found that only 56.2% of the runners regularly wore sunscreen.

In the UK we can be thankful that we spend most of the year covered in running tights and long sleeves but that makes it even more important to protect ourselves from the sun when we do get the occasional sunny day and when we are away in warmer climates.

On those days and in those places you should:

Run during hours when the sun is less intense. Generally it is strongest between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. If you train during those hours, find shady places to run.

Put sunscreen on before your running kit. That way you will apply it more thoroughly. Use an SPF 15 or higher sunscreen. Look for stick formulations, sport, or water-resistant versions.

Apply it at least 30 minutes before your run to allow time for it to sink in

Run in a hat and UV-blocking sunglasses. Polarised lenses help beat the glare.

Sunscreen starts to lose effectiveness after a couple of hours so if you are training for a marathon and are going to be out for longer than that, plan where you can re-apply it. Just as you plan your drink stops you can plan your sunscreen stops. You may also need to think about how you will towel the sweat away before re-applying.

Invest in some sun-protective clothing and consider wearing long sleeved lightweight fabrics as runners do in desert marathons.