Jax Mariash was the first woman in the world to complete the 4 Deserts Race series Grand Slam Plus. Her feat included six weeklong, 155-mile self-supported races across scorched terrain in Sri Lanka, Chile, China, Africa, and Antarctica.
This ultrarunner knows how to beat the heat. For these hot-weather running races, Mariash had to carry all her own water, food, and safety supplies. Oh, and a tent to share with nine other people. The 4 Deserts Race only allows outside aid in extreme cases. For finishing the grueling race series, Mariash earned the crown “Queen of the Desert.”
And she’s not done. Mariash has already finished just outside the medals at this spring’s Marathon Des Sables (considered the oldest stage race in the world). And she’s gunning for a podium finish at Leadville Trail 100 in August and rounding out in September with the toasty Grand 2 Grand Ultra in the Grand Canyon.
“If you can manage your heat well and hydration, desert terrain becomes a really fun playground,” she told us. So we asked her for some pro tips on how to manage the heat for more fun — and better times — during hot-weather runs.
Hot-Weather Running and Racing Tips
“For some reason, my lanky body adapts to the desert climate really well. It loves to be in the hot, dry temperatures,” said Mariash, who’s even in the business of hot as owner of the coffee shop Stoked Roasters.
But it’s not just innate. She also recommends these training tips:
Heat train by exercising in a hot room (hot yoga, step-ups, treadmill if possible). To acclimatize, try hot-weather training in the middle of the day. (Bonus: No crowds on the trails.) Also, spend regular time in the sauna. Seriously.
Prepare mentally with positive affirmations that you will be OK. Meditate and imagine successfully getting through the heat. Half of the difficulty is the discomfort — and disbelief that you will be able to survive. But your body actually can.
Wear a desert hat and sunglasses. Yeah, it looks super silly, but then you can play all kinds of mental games imagining that you’re in the shade. Find a comfortable combination that covers your neck, lets your head perspire the way it wants to, and doesn’t add annoying pressure to your sunglasses.
Cool core temperature with a mesh bandana (try Avalon 7). Drench it at aid stations and wipe your sweat points — arms, legs, and behind the neck — with it as you run. Imagine a dog’s tongue. Any small breeze as you move will cool your wet skin and help bring your core temperature down.
At checkpoints, fill an extra soft flask. Use it to either rewet your bandana or pour more water on your head with what’s left over. Wet your hair and then put your sun hat back on.
Make sure there are electrolytes in every sip of water. Drip Drop is my savior. I used over 60 servings per race. Take small sips more frequently than large sips, which will help physically and mentally.
Eat a salt tab at every hour religiously and a couple back at camp once you finish. Salt Stick is my go-to. I ate 40 during my last race.
- Zinc for your lips. Colored is always more fun.
- A TriggerPoint therapy ball is always in my pack as added weight.
- Jaybird X3 headphones are a must to run in the desert and get through the hard parts.
- CEP progressive 2.0 compression run socks are my trademark look.
- Neutrogena 100 sunblock or Coppertone 50 sport
- Raidlight desert running gaiters, pants, and long-sleeve top are essentials.
- PRO BAR Bites and Bolt chews
- Beet and Cherry Performer
- La Sportiva Bushido can handle any terrain.