When Terri Hearn went for a midday run on a Gilbert trail earlier this week, she was reminded just how menacingly the Arizona sun can beat down, even in early April.
"It was about 80 degrees, and I would have thought it was 100 degrees out," Hearn said. "I felt horrible, my heart rate rose, and I guess I wasn't acclimated to it. I ended up walking the last half."
As longtime residents know, no matter the temperature in the Valley, it is a lot worse on the way up than on the way down. Soon, the mercury will be going way up and staying up, so Hearn and other joggers who enjoyed flexibility with their training times during the winter months will be running for cover.
What does an Arizona runner do when he or she can no longer take to the streets at any time? With indoor-running options limited, the easiest way to stay in running shape is to set the alarm earlier.
"It's a lot safer to get up early in the morning and be done by 8 o'clock at the latest during the summer months," said Flash Santoro, a salesman and outreach-event coordinator at Sole Sports Running Zone in Tempe. "It's best to get up at around 5 o'clock and get done as soon as possible.
"The sun takes a toll on you, not only with the threat of skin damage, but it's really easy to overheat."
Sole Sports Running conducts three weekly group runs at its Tempe and Scottsdale locations; the two weeknight runs of 4-6 miles will remain at 6:30 p.m., but the Saturday session moves from 7 a.m. to 6 a.m. on April 23.
Hearn, 50, awoke at 4 a.m. to run when she began training in September. She sought another option to beat the heat by buying a treadmill from a family member.
"It was one of those treadmills that was first bought with great intentions but turned into a clothes dryer," Hearn said. "I got it for $100. It's been nice to have it."
Treadmill users in training, however, must beware - running on pavement cannot be replicated. Those who train on a treadmill exclusively could be in for a surprise on race day, Santoro said.
"I hear from time to time from people who have trained on a treadmill, then go to the race having not run on the street at all, that they can't walk for a week afterwards," Santoro said. "You have to get your legs used to the pounding. The physics of running - it's three to five times your body weight when each foot hits the ground, and that's 85 to 100 times a minute, depending on your pace.
"It's a pretty brutal thing. Treadmills are cushioned and will absorb a lot of that impact."
For runners averse to early rising, there are a handful of indoor tracks in the East Valley. Two of them - at the Freestone Recreation Center in Gilbert and Tumbleweed Recreation Center in Chandler - see their clientele soar in the summer.
"Being in Arizona, it's tough to do your running outside in the summer," said Mike Leppert, recreation coordinator at the Freestone Center. "We have a lot of people in here working out on our treadmills and the indoor track. It's definitely the busiest time of the year."
The Freestone track is one-12th of a mile, with lanes for runners and walkers; the Tumbleweed track is one-10th of a mile.
The daily use of the Tumbleweed track and fitness center "will easily double, sometimes triple" in the summer, said Liam O'Mahony, information specialist for the Chandler recreation division.
In general, longer races are off the Valley calendar until at least October, leaving seasoned runners looking out of state. The Rock & Roll San Diego Marathon and Half Marathon on June 5 is a popular destination among locals.
Two of Santoro's running partners are training for the U.S. Olympic marathon trials.
"People will need to do 20-milers," Santoro said. "We recommend using your best judgment and caution. Get it done by 8 a.m. or under 100 degrees, no matter how far you run."
Hearn, who has completed a 5K, 10K and half-marathon, said it might take time to find the right balance between training on the trails and treadmill.
"This will be my first summer of trying to keep running in the god-awful temperatures," Hearn said. "In some ways, running in the heat seems like you're abusing yourself.
"But once you work up to being able to run a half-marathon, you don't want to lose that."