Tips for Marathon Runners

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Tips for Marathon Runners

Written by UPMC on 04 May 2017.

For runners getting ready for the Dick’s Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon, the UPMC Health Plan Pittsburgh Half Marathon, or the FedEx Ground Pittsburgh Marathon Relay on Sunday, May 7, specialists from marathon medical sponsor UPMC Sports Medicine offer these tips:

Properly Hydrate

Jeffrey Lucchino, sports dietitian, recommends that you maintain your fluid and carbohydrate intake in the days leading up to the race. Taper your training, not your fluid or carbohydrate intake!

  • Drink freely the day before the race—consume fluids that you’ve consumed all throughout your training that worked well for you.
  • When you wake up, drink 16 ounces of water. Drink eight to 10 ounces of a sports drink about 10 minutes prior to racing.
  • Carbohydrates will help keep your brain and body energized throughout the race. Once per hour, you should consume at least 30 to 60 grams of carbs, which could be 8 to 16 ounces of sports drink and/or a sports gel in addition to water.
  • It is important to drink fluids during the race. Fluid requirements vary by runner. A good guide is to drink what you drank on your long runs and drink when thirsty. Take small gulps rather than sips. Gulping actually increases the rate at which you digest and absorb the beverage compared to sipping. Drink toward the higher amounts if you sweat moderately to heavily. If you’re a salty sweater, lean more toward the sports drinks that contain sodium to replace the salt your body is losing through sweat.
  • Everyone’s fluid requirements can vary. Be sure not to over-hydrate, especially if you do not sweat a lot. Your body is like a sponge, you can only absorb so much fluid at one time. Plan out a breakfast with plenty of healthy carbohydrates in the form of whole grains and produce at least three hours before the race. Only use foods that have been staples in your sports nutrition plan throughout training; 60 to 75 percent of your breakfast in the form of carbohydrates (whole wheat bagel, banana and low-fat yogurt parfait). 

Train With What Will Be Provided

If you plan to drink or eat anything provided throughout the course on race day, Lucchino recommends training with them early to avoid any discomfort or stomach upset. The following items will be available to runners at the 2017 Dick’s Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon:

  • To help maintain hydration, water and lemon-lime flavored Gatorade will be provided at every fluid station.
  • For extra energy, Honey Stinger Energy Gels are available on the course at Miles 9.9, 12.3 and 20.7, and LÄRABAR Protein Bars are available at miles 15 and 22.2.
  • For those who lose high amounts of salt when sweating, snacks such as Herr’s pretzels will be offered at miles 24.4 and 25.4.
  • Refreshments also will be available beyond the finish line: bottled water, Gatorade, bagels, cookies, fruit bowls and chips.

Don’t try anything new

This is not the time to experiment with new shoes, clothing, food, drink or anything else that you haven’t tried on several training runs, according to Kathleen Nachazel, the Pittsburgh Marathon’s medical operations director and certified athletic trainer.

  • Choose the same clothing you have been wearing during your training. Anything new may cause discomfort and prohibit you from running optimally.
  • Tie your shoes with a double knot, the better to avoid tripping. Utilize anti-chaffing products where appropriate.
  • To avoid discomfort or upset stomach, maintain a consistent diet. By now you should have figured out what works and stick with it!
  • Remember to apply sunscreen and wear protective clothing including a hat and sunglasses.

Be mindful of the weather

Spring weather is often unpredictable so be prepared for various weather scenarios on race day. Ron Roth, M.D., the Pittsburgh Marathon’s medical director and an emergency medicine physician at UPMC, recommends the following:

  • Be careful not to overdress. At the starting line, you should actually feel a little chilled because your body will warm up a few miles into the race.
  • If it is very cold in the morning, wear a top layer of clothes that you won’t mind discarding along the course as the day warms up.
  • If the weather is warm, wear clothing that is light-colored, loose fitting and lightweight.
  • If it’s raining, wear a trash bag or disposable poncho at the start line and throw it away when the race begins.
  • Be flexible with your performance goals. Running your personal best time when the weather is 50 degrees and overcast may not be achievable if it is 80 degrees and sunny.

Know What To Do On Race Day

Aaron Mares, M.D., sports medicine physician, recommends following these tips before the race to help prevent discomfort and optimize performance during your run.

  • Apply sweat-resistant sunscreen to prevent sunburn and Vaseline or BodyGlide to prevent chafing in key locations like armpits, nipples and inner thighs.
  • After getting dressed, weigh yourself (this will help to measure your post-race fluid balance).
  • Confirm that all contact information on your bib is complete.
  • Keep your warm-up brief to loosen your muscles yet conserve energy.
  • Address problems early. A poorly tied shoe, chafing skin or a pebble in your shoe could result in injury over time.
  • Relax. It is normal to feel nervous the morning of the race. Have faith in all of your hard work and preparation. Feel confident that you can achieve your goals. Enjoy the marathon experience! 

Runners can visit UPMC Sports Medicine’s marathon-running website for tips on marathon training, preparation and recovery. For additional training tips and other information about UPMC Sports Medicine’s involvement in the Pittsburgh Marathon, follow UPMC Sports Medicine on Twitter.

As medical sponsor of the Dick’s Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon, UPMC Sports Medicine provides free training seminars for marathon participants, as well as medical support along the race course and at the start and finish lines. With UPMC’s Department of Emergency Medicine, UPMC Sports Medicine will assemble a team of medical volunteers from UPMC, other local hospitals, the City of Pittsburgh’s Bureau of Emergency Medical Services and other local EMS departments to provide medical care to the thousands of runners on race day. UPMC is the official medical provider for the event, as it has been since the first Pittsburgh Marathon in 1985.

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