One of the worst sunburns of my adult life happened during the Boston Marathon years ago. It was an unseasonably warm day in April and the race started at 12:00 p.m., so the sun was directly overhead. After training through a long, cold winter, it was the first time in five months that I was running outside with shorts and a tank top, and it hadn't occurred to me to apply sunscreen. Fortunately, some helpful spectators at the start were squirting sunscreen into the hands of unprepared runners like me. I was able to quickly slather it on my face, shoulders, and neck -- but didn't bother to cover the back of my legs. By the end of the race, my calves were bright pink. The pain from the sunburn was actually worse than the post-marathon muscle soreness.
Although it's not summer yet, you can still get a bad sunburn while running, trust me. Follow these tips to make sure you're protecting your skin:
Choose the right sunscreen. Use a waterproof sunscreen that has an SPF of at least 15 and offers broad spectrum protection, which means it protects against both UVA and UVB rays. Stick formulations are good for runners' faces because the sunscreen won't run into your eyes.
Apply sunscreen ahead of time. Slather on your sunscreen at least 20 minutes before you head out for your run. Your skin needs time to absorb the lotion.
Don't skip sunscreen for short runs. You can get a sunburn in as little as 15 minutes, so a short run means you still need sunscreen.
Reapply after two hours. Sunscreen starts to lose effectiveness at about the two-hour mark, or even sooner if you're sweating heavily, so you'll need to reapply if you're doing a long run or race. Carry a small tube of sunscreen or a one-use sunscreen wipe in your pocket, so that you can reapply it to your face, neck and arms as you run.
Put on sunscreen before getting dressed. Some running clothes are made of mesh or very thin fabric, so they might not provide protection from the sun's rays. Also, your clothes move when you run. So it's best to make sure you're fully covered with sunscreen.
Get more tips for protecting your skin from the sun.