Race Day: Sunday, April 26, 2015

Medical Advice to Make Your Experience a Successful One 

The decision to participate in a marathon is often made for many reasons.  These include challenging your body, marking a milestone in age, remembering a loved one or simply fulfilling a lifetime goal.  Regardless of the reason, the decision to run in a marathon should be followed by dedication to preparing for the exciting day.  Whether this is one's first race or just the marathon of the week, every runner must be prepared for the challenge that lies ahead.  From the medical team viewpoint, we are most concerned with runners who are new to the marathon experience or those who have not properly prepared for the goal.   The following advice is simply a set of recommendations to help you enjoy a safe and successful marathon experience.  Please consult with your doctor regarding if running a marathon is a wise decision.

Preparation for days leading up to marathon

  1. Make sure that the shoes and even the socks you'll wear are appropriately for your feet and will not cause injury.  Train in them and the running clothes to ensure they do not cause irritation or discomfort.
  2. Run in a half-marathon or even a 5-K race if you are a beginner to get the feeling for running in an organized, timed race.  Mentally you'll be better prepared for the big day knowing how these events are planned.
  3. Practice running the planned GCM course and become familiar with any unexpected surface issues or turns.  Also identify where the water stations will be located.
  4. Most important point of all is that you should have put in the work to be able to run in this marathon long before the days leading up to race day.  Suddenly increasing mileage or changing technique may result in fatigue or injury preventing you from participating.  Even more concerning are those who are nowhere near being ready to compete but still try with often dangerous consequences.
  5. Over the three days before for the marathon, the racer should consume good carbs such as pasta, potatoes, bread, fruit, low-fat milk, and sports drinks.  You do not have to eat more than usual just more wisely.  The carbs are your fuel for the race and without them you will be out of gas quickly.
  6. The runner should get his body used to race day by waking, eating, and training exactly as if this was the big day.  This will ensure the body is finely tuned and ready to give its best performance.
  7. Keep an eye on the race day weather forecast and prepare for any situation.  You must factor in your race attire, hydration levels, and the role of heat, wind, rain into your training regimen.
  8. Avoid trying any new foods, gel packs, or sports drinks to ensure side effects or reactions do not develop and jeopardize your preparation.  It is advisable to train using the foods and even the sports drinks provide by the marathon organizers if possible.
  9. You should eat breakfast 2-3 hours before the race consisting of carbs i.e. bagel and banana.  Also consume a sports drink to ensure adequate hydration.
  10. During the race you must stay hydrated and should drink from each station.  Using gel packs for extra energy is also advisable.
  11. If at any time you do not feel well or have concerning symptoms (i.e. chest pain, difficulty breathing, and dizziness) notify any member of the race volunteers and medical attention will be provided.
  12. You should by this time be confident that you have dedicated the time to properly train and prepare for the race.  Your body is ready, pre-run routine is well established, and you are knowledgeable about course and its terrain.  Only the distance to the finish line should be your concern.

Preparation for few days before marathon

  1. Over the three days before for the marathon, the racer should consume good carbs such as pasta, potatoes, bread, fruit, low-fat milk, and sports drinks.  You do not have to eat more than usual just more wisely.  The carbs are your fuel for the race and without them you will be out of gas quickly.
  2. The runner should get his body used to race day by waking, eating, and training exactly as if this was the big day.  This will ensure the body is finely tuned and ready to give its best performance.
  3. Keep an eye on the race day weather forecast and prepare for any situation.  You must factor in your race attire, hydration levels, and the role of heat, wind, rain into your training regimen.
  4. Avoid trying any new foods, gel packs, or sports drinks to ensure side effects or reactions do not develop and jeopardize your preparation.  It is advisable to train using the foods and even the sports drinks provide by the marathon organizers if possible.

Preparation for marathon day

  1. You should eat breakfast 2-3 hours before the race consisting of carbs i.e. bagel and banana.  Also consume a sports drink to ensure adequate hydration.
  2. During the race you must stay hydrated and should drink from each station.  Using gel packs for extra energy is also advisable.
  3. If at any time you do not feel well or have concerning symptoms (i.e. chest pain, difficulty breathing, and dizziness) notify any member of the race volunteers and medical attention will be provided.
  4. You should by this time be confident that you have dedicated the time to properly train and prepare for the race.  Your body is ready, pre-run routine is well established, and you are knowledgeable about course and its terrain.  Only the distance to the finish line should be your concern.

Post marathon advice

Completion of a marathon is an incredible task and the runner is often meet by both enthusiasm and intense exhaustion at the finish line.  Heed these words of advice to ensure you are able to enjoy completion of your challenge.

  1. At the end of the race your blood is mostly in the legs pumping your muscles.  As a result stopping as soon as you cross the finish line often results in fainting, falling, or dizziness. Do not stop to celebrate or chat with family or friends.  You must continue to walk for at least the next 5-10 minutes to allow your blood circulation to adjust itself.
  2. Many runners will be able to complete the marathon but suffer from dehydration due to not drinking properly or preparing for the weather conditions.  If you have any signs of dehydration i.e. excessive thirst, dizziness, confusion flag down a volunteer near the finish line or go the medical tent for evaluation.  This can be a life threatening condition.
  3. Head over to the refreshment area and refuel on the offerings provided.  This ensures proper rehydration and also healing of your body from the race.
  4. Some medical injuries may not be experienced right away but later in the evening.  Any runner experiencing symptoms such as chest pain, difficulty breathing, abdominal pain, or anything as a matter of fact should seek medical attention immediately.
  5. Orthopedic injuries such as stress reactions to bones or even true fractures are common and should be evaluated to avoid long-term injury.

 

Hopefully these tips have given you an idea of the dedication and discipline one must have to be prepared to have a safe and successful race.  I wish you Good Luck on running the Glass City Marathon.

Nael Bahhur M.D.

University of Toledo Sports Medicine

Medical Director, Glass City Marathon