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Ultrarunners, marathon runners at increased risk for skin damage

Your ultra and marathon running customers are at increased risk for skin damage due to the sun's UV rays. Find out what to sell and tips to offer.

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The trend of everyday athletes pushing themselves to finish more marathons and ultramarathons not only puts them at risk for increased awesomeness, but also puts them at higher risk for melanoma, according to a study done at the Medical University of Graz in Austria.


With the recent implementation of new FDA regulations requiring that sunscreen be labeled water-resistant and back up claims that it’s broad-spectrum (protecting users against both UVA and UVB rays) with scientific testing, running and trail running consumers have added impetus to protect themselves from the sun.

But back to the science of why they might be reaching for more sun protection — from both clothing and sunscreen.

Researchers studied 210 white male and female marathoners from ages 19 to 71, and compared them with 210 white men and women non-runners. The study found that the running group was in greater danger of developing sun damage like age spots and liver spots that could lead to skin cancer. The lead researcher, Dr. Christina M. Ambros-Rudolph, noted that as runners increase their outdoor miles, they increase their risk for melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer.

The reason for choosing lighter-skinned study participants is that many experts believe that fairer skin is at higher risk for skin damage due to UV rays.

Not only are runners outside for longer hours and at the time of day when the sun is most intense, they also tend to neglect sun care or apply sunscreen that is not water-resistant, Dr. Ambros-Rudolph said.

For your ultra or marathon-running customers, recommend sun protective active clothing such as ExOfficio’s Sol Cool collection (which also includes the cooling agent xylitol) or various sunscreens that are water-resistant. For more information on how to sell sun-protective clothing, check out our recent Retail College piece

At Outdoor Retailer Summer Market, New Balance will debut a new line of cooling apparel with its cooling technology called NB Ice. Brooks will also introduce a cooling story in products with its DNA fabric. Most notably its new PureProject apparel line has DNA cooling pieces.

Also, offer these sun protection tips from the Skin Cancer Foundation:

>> Run during hours when sun is less intense or find shady places to run if you do so when sun is at it’s strongest — between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.

>> Apply sunscreen before putting on your running clothes to give it time to soak in. Use SPF 15 or higher and make sure it’s water-resistant and sweat-resistant.

>> Run in a hat and UV-blocking sunglasses. Polarized lenses help beat the glare.

>> Always keep sunscreen in your race bag.

>> Have a friend or family member give you a small, one-use sunscreen wipe so you can reapply while running.

>> Right after a race ends, reapply sunscreen as you massage sore muscles.

>> Include a lightweight, long-sleeved T-shirt and sweats as your post-race outfit, remembering that darker colors offer better protection from the sun’s UV rays.