Friday, June 11, 2010

Walking (or rather, Running), In Memphis

Here’s some advice. If you are going to go running in 100 degree heat for the first time of the season, it’s best not to do it in a city in a different time zone ,after five hours of sleep and while digesting a lunch of barbeque pork ribs consumed around an hour before. Oh, and going for that run at 3:00 in the afternoon when the humidity is about 97% is also a bad idea. Other than that episode of narrowly averted heatstroke, I found Memphis to be a charming southern city full of friendly people and decent food. The place was lived-in, no doubt, but there was plenty to look at while running through the streets and along the Mississippi River. Once I discovered that running before the sun comes up is the preferred time of day to exercise in the sweet sunny South, I actually enjoyed stomping around the streets and alleys.

Back to that initial run…..I was steaming along for about a mile before I realized I had bitten off a bit more than I could chew. I planned my post-landing jaunt as a five mile out-and-back along the river promenade, which would bring me though a battery of sprinklers which, I hoped, would cool me down on the way back just as they had on the way out. I had a bottle of water with me whose temperature changed from that of iced tea to that of steamed espresso over the next two miles. Rather than drinking it, I ended up pouring most of it over my head in a futile attempt to cool down. Along the run I observed old fashioned riverboats plying the Mississippi, two other runners lurching by in the opposite direction who looked like escapees from a mental asylum, and an amorous couple having sweaty sex along the “multi-use” path behind the retaining wall of a large apartment building.

As I hit the turn-around point I stopped to gather some energy for the way back. Big mistake. What little breeze I was generating by moving forward died away and I was left standing in a pool of my own (diminishing) sweat, roasting under the hot Tennessee sun. I started to feel dizzy, then nauseous, which I recognized as the classic symptoms of heat exhaustion. My choices at that moment were fairly limited. I was in a field, with no shade about three miles from my hotel. I had no money and had no idea how to get back other than by the way I came. I decided that I would take off my shirt, dump the rest of my water over my head and make a bee-line for the sprinklers about 1.5 miles back. With the shirt off and a bit of a headwind, I made it without dropping dead, but when I got there, the sprinklers had been turned off. I tossed in the towel and walked the rest of the way. It took about 15 minutes for my heart rate to come down to normal, despite the frigid AC and cold towels I scarfed from the hotel gym. Lesson learned.


  1. Wow-that actually sounds a bit scary!

  2. In addition to the heat and my own stupidity, I blame the ribs at Rendezvous. Pork fat and high heat can't possibly be good for blood viscosity.