Like many of the other major marathons, the Los Angeles event has always been held on a Sunday. However, some religious leaders were unhappy with the marathon scheduling. According to the Los Angeles Times, churches from the South-Central and Mid-City areas complained to the city council about the event, claiming that annual road closures caused problems for parishioners who were trying to attend Sunday services.

The news of the date change has not been well received by many of the runners who are planning to take part in this year’s race. One concern is that running on this much later date will mean higher temperatures for the participants to endure. Heat has been called the Achilles heel of the long distance runner. An article in Runner’s World suggests that, according to a survey of racer’s finish times, a temperature of around 55 degrees Fahrenheit is ideal for marathon running. Research indicated that when the temperature rises to 75 degrees, finishing times may increase by 7 percent, and a 10 percent increase in finishing times was seen at 85 degrees.

More important than the detrimental effects of high temperatures on runner’s performances is the risk of sun burn and heat-related illnesses. Prolonged physical exertion in hot weather can lead to cramps, heat exhaustion, heat stroke and dehydration.

At the Boston marathon in 2004, where temperatures reached an unusually high 85 degrees, more than 1,100 runners suffered from medical problems, according to the Boston Globe. The BBC reported similar problems in the U.K. in 2007, when temperatures at the London marathon equaled the event’s record and the St. John Ambulance first aid charity had to treat over 5,000 people.

Los Angeles race organizers have moved the 2009 start to an earlier time of 7:20am to help combat possible heat issues. But many participants, who take six hours plus to complete the course, will still
have to brave the hottest part of the day. The earlier suggested February date may have been better in terms of weather conditions, but because many Southern California residents work on President’s day the May date was eventually agreed upon.

Besides the weather concerns, the two date changes may have disrupted the training programs of many participants. Marathon preparation schedules often begin 6 months prior to the event, and are tailored so that the runner reaches peak fitness at the appropriate time. For example, L.A. Road Runners, the official training program of the Los Angeles Marathon, includes 27 weeks of training.

After focusing on being ready for the March…and then the February date, runners are now forced to set their sights on a Monday in late May. Injuries caused by over training are a distinct possibility for those who will now reach their peak too early and be forced to try to maintain their fitness level for an extra 2 or 3 months.

Other possible problems could arise for out-of-towners who had planned to travel to Los Angeles to take part in the event. Those who had already booked and paid for flights and accommodations found themselves having to contend with not one but two scheduling changes. Any runners who had been planning to compete in both the L.A. marathon and the San Diego “Rock and Roll” marathon might have been forced to choose between them, as the new date means that the two events are now only six days apart.

Those who do decide to lace up their sneakers on May 25th can take heart in the fact that in 2004, 97.9% of the starters completed the course, despite temperatures being the second hottest to date and exceeding 85 degrees. The official race results list the total number of finishers as 19,685 for that year. Race organizers and runners alike will no doubt be hoping that the schedule changes and possibility of unfavorable weather will not deter the one million plus spectators who usually come out to cheer the competitors, making the Los Angeles race one of the best supported marathons anywhere.