- - Sunday, April 15, 2012

BOSTON — If you can’t take the heat, get out of today’s marathon.

That has been the motto here this weekend as more than 26,000 entrants prepare for the 116th Boston Marathon, the world’s oldest and most prestigious 26.2-mile race, from rural Hopkinton to downtown Boston.

According to the National Weather Service, Monday’s temperatures are expected to reach a high near 87.

Officials of the marathon, who have been tracking the weather predictions all week, have been proactive as they fear the high temperature will take its toll on this field of mostly recreational athletes, sending thousands of runners to the hospital.

In a preemptive strike, officials have offered to defer entry for this year’s race into the 2013 race. The course also will remain open an extra hour, until 6 p.m.

“We are now making the recommendation that if you are not highly fit or if you have any underlying medical conditions [for example, cardiac disease, pulmonary disease or any of a number of medical problems], you should not run this race,” said co-medical director Dr. Pierre d’Hemecourt. “Inexperienced marathoners should not run. Those who have only trained in a cooler climate and who may not be acclimated [for at least the last 10 days] to warm weather running conditions should also consider not running.”

Temperatures are expected to be the hottest since the famous 1976 “Run for the Hoses” race, when the mercury was reportedly as high as 96 degrees during the first half of the course. In 2004, a record 2,000 people from the field of 18,000 sought medical attention mostly for heat-related illnesses caused by temperatures as high as 86 at the finish.

The good news, d’Hemecourt added, is that it’s going to be a dry day.

“This is the most dangerous race we’ve had since the Run for the Hoses,” said Dr. Arthur J. Siegel, former Boston medical team member who said he has approximately 20 Boston Marathons under his belt, including 1976. “They’re going to be dropping like flies. It’s going to be a very busy day.”

Siegel said about 600 patients are treated on an average year, 800 when it’s hot. He expects 1,000 Monday.

Defending champions Geoffrey Mutai and Caroline Kilel from Kenya do not expect to suffer from the heat, in stark contrast to last year’s perfect conditions - temperatures in the 50s and a significant tailwind.

“We’ve been training in the heat so for me that’s OK,” Kilel said at a news conference Saturday.

There will not be much of an American elite presence Monday as the U.S. Olympic Team marathon trials were contested just three months ago.

But there will be numerous Washington-area runners: 182 entrants hail from D.C., 491 from Maryland and 680 from Virginia.

Stephen Godek will be one of them. He ran his only Boston Marathon in 2009.

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