Whatever your pace, you can’t outrun the sun

Runners are often outside for extended periods of time for training and competition and are subject to UV reflected off the track, road and surrounding surfaces as well as directly from above, which can increase your risk of skin cancer. Long distance competition can often take place over an entire day so even at very low levels of UV, good sun protection is needed year-round.  

Five tips for how to Slip, Slop, Slap, Seek and Slide your way across the finish line

1. Cover up exposed skin: SLIP on clothing that covers as much skin as possible while still being comfortable. If you can see skin, UV can reach it. Try densely-woven, loose-fitting, cool clothing or running gear labelled UPF50 to help block UV.   

2. Apply sunscreen correctly and frequently: SLOP on SPF50+ broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen to any parts of skin not covered by clothing. Sunscreen won’t provide 100% protection but used in conjunction with other sun protection methods it will greatly reduce your risk of skin damage.

  • Apply sunscreen at least 20 minutes before heading out. Choose a formula that feels comfortable on your skin that you’ll be happy to reapply.
  • Sunscreen should be reapplied at least every two hours and more regularly if you’re sweating. Hydration breaks or shady parts of the path provide the perfect opportunities to reapply.
  • Correct application of sunscreen is essential. 85% of Aussies don’t use enough sunscreen putting themselves at risk. Check out our sunscreen calculator.

3. Protect your face, neck and ears: SLAP on a legionnaire hat with a peak at the front and long flap for best protection. The last resort would be a cap. It won’t provide full protection but at least it will help protect the top of the head, forehead and eyes. Be extra vigilant in applying sunscreen to your cheeks, chin, ears and neck because those parts will be particularly vulnerable during the run.

4. Avoid peak UV times: Try to run earlier in the morning or later in the day when the sun’s UV isn’t as intense – particularly for long runs. Download the free SunSmart app to stay on top of UV levels and sun protection times. SEEK shady running paths whenever possible. Hydrate and rest in the shade.

5. Protect your eyes: SLIDE on sunglasses to help protect your eyes from UV and sun glare. Roads and paths can reflect high levels of UV so eye protection is important. Sunglasses can also help protect your eyes from wind, dust, grit and bugs. For best protection, choose a wrap-around style that meet the Australian Standard (AS/NZS 1067).

Check out this video series from Cancer Council WA for more SunSmart tips for triathlon, ironman and fitness events.