Vermont City Marathon 2016: Feelin’ the Burn.


I would like to preface this piece by stating straight on up front that the 2016 Vermont City Marathon and Relay was the hottest race I have ever run. EVER.

How hot?

It was soooooooo hot….

That they cancelled it. 

Yup. Cancelled it. Black flagged. As it was in progress. Done. Finished. Over. Stop, drop and melt.  Or, find a lovely Vermonter to hose you down and pad you with Popsicles whilst you wait for a school bus to drive your desiccated ass back to the finish. The news was trending on Twitter on Sunday. Vermont was trending on Twitter. How the hell often does that happen? That’s how hot it was. It was no joke.

It was the first time in Vermont City Marathon history that the race was halted. I ran the marathon as part of the 2-Person Relay and for those quoted with saying “it wasn’t THAT hot,” to you I say LIAR, LIAR, RUNNING SHORTS ON FIRE!!!  Because they goddamn were. You know it. I know it. We all know it. It was hotter than Hell. So unless you swiftly tucked your horns under your visor or jammed your forked tail into your running shorts, YOU, Overheated Devil Runner, are full of hot baked beans.

Brutal. All I kept thinking about as I watched the course warning move from moderate to HIGH, was that I felt like I was running a half marathon in a Bikram yoga class. Only add direct sun. There was no shade. No breeze. Nothing but heat. And it was radiating up from the lava field  we were running upon. There is a section called the Beltline which was easily the hottest spot in the North East that day. I can’t even explain how I felt. Cooked? Braised? Slow roasted?  All of the above!?!?  That was by mile 4. Within an hour, the warning had moved up to HIGH HEALTH RISK. I saw a runner down around mile 4. And from there until mile 13.1, I saw at least 5 more. It was horrible. The sounds of ambulances were becoming frighteningly common.  No bueno.

burlington free press image

Source: Burlington Free Press.

It was roughly 90 degrees by noon, which is not the only reason why the race was halted. There is something called the Wet Bulb Globe Temperature which I didn’t even know was a thing until I read about it on the Vermont City Marathon website. They did an outstanding job of keeping runners abreast of the heat situation via messaging and posting. Having run the full marathon a few years ago, albeit with a black eye, I can’t tell you enough how much I love this race. I’d run it every year. They do a great job. Besides, I love Burlington. And it’s vibe…and craft beer….and tacos…..and did I say beer?

A photo posted by Colby (@runcolbyrun) on May 28, 2016 at 3:17pm PDT


So. Back to the WBGT. The Wet Bulb Globe Temperature is a composite temperature determined by measuring ambient air temp, humidity, wind and solar radiation on humans.  It’s used by athletes and even the military, to determine a person’s exposure level to high temperature. On Sunday, the WBGT exceeded 82 at 3 consecutive readings along the course. Because of this, officials were forced to halt the marathon due to the extreme heat. Tough choice? You bet. But I believe it was a smart, responsible one made by the Race Director and folks at Run Vermont. Would I have thrown myself into Lake Champlain if I was this close to finishing and it stopped? You bet.

I would have had such conflicted emotions. That’s a lot of training and sacrifice lost. Such time and effort. But let’s be honest, even in the most perfect training conditions, anything can happen on race day. With regard to the weather, it’s a total crap shoot.  I’m not sure who was going to bust out a personal best in extreme temperatures in light of the complete lack of extreme temperatures in the week’s leading up to the race. At least in this part of the country. Other than an 80 degree shake out run the day before, I hadn’t run seriously in the heat since last summer. Expectations definitely needed to be tempered. Or, completely thrown out the window. Among the runners I chatted with, they certainly had altered their goals. I know I had. It was so unfortunate for them. I would have been devastated if I were running the full. No doubt. But at the end of the day, it was the right thing to do. They called off the race at roughly the 4 hour mark. My heart breaks for all those who didn’t finish. Darlin’ Rae especially. I feel you, Girl. 😦

And me? My race was a hot mess. Literally and figuratively. I am happy to say I finished with my all-time slowest half marathon time, chafing in places that will go unnamed and 2 serious heart palpitations that made me stop in my tracks and walk. What. The. F*ck. And I was salted, trained, hydrated and Skratch Lab’d up.  See why I think it was smart to stop it?  That’s scary stuff. Fortunately, I was absolutely fine. I was just overheating and overexerting myself like 1000s of runner’s that day. I am also happy to report that my running partner and I finished in under 4 hours. Right before the Black Flag unfurled. We were lucky. I’m proud of our run. I’m even more proud of the gracious Vermonters who stood out in that heat and cheered, hosed, iced, Popsicled and orange sliced their way into this hot runner’s heart. Thank you! It was a tough choice, but a safe one. One hot run does not a bad race make.  Run Vermont. I know I’ll be back. 🙂

A photo posted by Colby (@runcolbyrun) on May 29, 2016 at 1:24pm PDT


Have you ever run a race that was stopped due to weather? How would you have reacted? Hot weather runner or cold weather runner? GO!

30 thoughts on “Vermont City Marathon 2016: Feelin’ the Burn.

  1. That’s crazy! I’ve done my share of awful, 2 PM runs in 90+ weather and 80%+ humidity, but those were 4 miles max, and we were all acclimatized. A marathon in that kind of weather is insane, and it’s a shame the conditions were like that, but kudos to the race organizers to doing the right thing. If it were thundering and lightening, or snowing like crazy, the race would have had to stop too. I’ve had a lot of cross country races (the Florida rain and hurricane season coincides with cross country here) stopped because of weather.
    Glad you and your partner made it safely, and get those electrolytes back!

    • That was really why it was so god awful. It hasn’t been super hot here. Give us a minute and we’ll be all sorts of hazy, hot and humid. But when I ran it two years ago- and even when my other half ran it last year, it was cool for the first few hours. It was oppressive right out of the damn gate. I feel awful for everyone running. Just not the day to be out there. 😦 Oh. And I’m drinking!

  2. Absolutely nuts! I had so many friends there running this race and every single person had to alter any type of time expectation. Racing in the heat – especially when out of the blue and not adjusted to it yet – just plain sucks. I’m glad you had a good experience despite all that 🙂 Hopefully next year provides better weather!

    • In stinking Vermont. I have now run a 10k snowshoe race, a half marathon, a full marathon and an ultra marathon in Vermont. The temps have spanned -6 degrees to 90. Vermont. The Extreme State. 😳

  3. I’m used to running in the heat but if I was caught off guard I would’ve been one they would’ve needed to wipe off the concrete. I hate not being able to prepare for weather. It’s just the control freak in me; I don’t like not knowing exactly how the weather will be so I can prepare. Pregnancy was awful. Not knowing when the baby would come out was my nightmare, lol!! (She ended up being a due date baby!)

    • And she is absolutely PRECIOUS! Your kids are off the chain cute! ❤ The problem was exactly that- totally not acclimated. That's always my undoing. I bitch about it for a solid 2 weeks as I acclimate to Connecticut's hazy hot humid nightmare. Then it's not bad. This was just a cruel joke. Thanks, Mother Nature. #not

    • You do run in those crazy AZ temps, but over here it’s a little different too. 90 degrees on the east coast is not the same beast as 90 degrees out west because we have the humidity here. I was moving and just taking boxes and furniture from my house to the truck…I felt like I was going to drop dead. We had the hottest temps of the whole year so far all over the east coast last weekend. I can’t even imagine running a marathon in it. I feel terrible for Rae and the others who didn’t finish, but I definitely think they made the best and safest choice.

      • I’m with you. It was BEYOND. It’s one thing for us to acclimated to heat and humidity and head out for a 5 miler. To run a MARATHON or a half in those temps, without having seem them all year?!!? GONZO. Horrible.

  4. While a 10 Miler I ran in April didn’t get called off, race volunteers drove the end of the course to ask if anyone wanted a ride back to the start/finish. For the other extreme, low visibility because of heavy snow. In Maryland. Where it rarely snows in March, and April snow is never heard of other than in one western county in the mountains. Sometimes you never know what Ma Nature has planned for you.

    I need to get back to Burlington when I’m in marathon shape again. I had to drop out of my last marathon attempt in 2011 due to being sick, injured leg, and as dehydrated as I can ever remember being. Finished the 2010 race.

    • I’m so sorry your 2011 attempt was thwarted. That’s a bummer of a different sort. This was unprecedented for me. I’ve never run a race that was called off mid way. Such a bummer. Thanks Mother Nature! 😦

      • I got a bad cold or something about 2 am Friday morning before the race. Bad omen 1. Injury happened at Warrior Dash two weeks before, I ovwrcompensayed and hurt other leg. Bad omen 2. It wasn’t that hot or humid that day but I could not get hydrated no matter how much water I drank. Done. After mile 15 Hill. I knew I was done when I walked a bit at mile 6. I wanted that Hill but knew continuing would be counter productive.

      • That whole weekend in 2011 was a bad omen. Not just the race, there was the big fire in Quebec where the smoke and haze lingered over VT for a couple of days. I knew I was headed for DNF when I had to walk that early after barely walking at all in six previous road marathons. 9 miles of run/walk just to get to the big hill which doubled as the easiest exit point i.e. closest to car.

        I third/fourth the fantastic crowd support in Burlington. I’ve lucked out in that the six road marathons I’ve attempted (Burlington twice, MCM, Virginia Beach Shamrock, Richmond, and Twin Cities) have had awesome support. It is a pick me up when I’m struggling to hold my pace, keep going forward, you name it.

  5. Ugh, what a suckfest. But I love, love, LOVE the residents of this city. They STEPPED UP bigtime. I never would have made it as far as I did without all of the hoses, ice, water, and cheers.

  6. E-GADS. What a (steaming hot, sweaty) mess! I CAN NOT believe it got cancelled, that is just nuts. I didn’t even know that was a thing. 90 degrees in New England in May is definitely no bueno. No one’s ready for that shit and they are dropping like flies! Sounds like it was the right call, though it majorly sucks for the runners who got pulled.

    • That makes two of us. Have you ever heard of that happening? It’s never happened to me. I even ran Marine Corps during Hurricane Sandy and they kept it going! Granted, things got ugly thankfully after almost all had finished. But STILL. Gross.

  7. That is crazy! Weather everywhere is going weird. It’s good they shut it down. It would’ve been horrible if someone died out there. I mostly run in the cold, but that’s because I live close to the 60th parallel. Years back I did a Ragnar relay in Utah and my last leg was up a giant hill and it was 96F out. Needless to say I mostly walked, most everyone mostly walked.

  8. Everything I’ve read about this race sounds so hellish, and a little bizarre to process, since I was running one state south at 8 that morning and it was in the 50s. Burlington must have been a microclimate of lava and general suckiness that day! 😦 I’m definitely more of a cold-weather runner… I can’t deal with the heat well at all. I would have been one of the runners you saw down if I had been there!

  9. Pingback: Skratch Labs. We’ve Got a Giveaway Up in Here! – It's A Marathon AND A Sprint

  10. Wow!! I live in PA and it was sooooo hot here this weekend. I only ran 6 miles on Saturday and I determined that at the temp it was, that was the longest distance that was safe for me to be doing! Sunday I got up EARLY so it wasn’t an issue. But I can’t imagine running a half or a full in those conditions. It must have been a tough call for the RD but better to be safe than really, really sorry.

    I ran the VT full back in 2009. It was one of my favorite races! I remember there being a lot of community support and it was by far the best finish line I ever experienced. I felt like a rock star, will seriously never forget that!

    • I’m with ya, Sister. 6 would have been FINE. 13.1 was enough for me and I can’t even imagine the 26.2. TILT! The support from the local crowd was AMAZING! I’m looking forward to running it again. We love Burlington. Beer included! 🙂

  11. Thanks for writing this hilarious and accurate account of the VCM. I’ve been ruminating on it for days now because I dropped out at mile 16, long before they called it. I saw my family on church street and and just stopped.
    Couldn’t bring myself to keep going in that heat but now I feel convinced I could have finished! Ugh marathoning is so mental. Why do we do this to ourselves? Why would anyone?

    • You’re so RIGHT! Marathon-ing is so damn mental. At the end of the day, you’ve gotta listen to your body. I was cooked by 13.1. Which was great because that’s where it ended for me. Had I continued, surely I would have spontaneously combusted. No doubt. I’m not sure why we do this to ourselves. As you astutely pointed out, we ARE mental cases! And sadists. And we can. So maybe that’s it. 😉

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