Fall marathon training is well underway, and it’s almost time for the Morgantown Marathon on September 23. I am a marathoner as well. I am neither fast nor do I have an ideal body type for running, but I love the sport for the fun of it, health benefits, and being out in nature. Here are some tips to help you on your upcoming race.
Stick to food and drinks you’ve already tried.
I recommend not eating or drinking anything that you have not tried during marathon training. If the course offers carbohydrate fluids (like Gatorade) or energy gels (like GU) that your body is not familiar with already, avoid them during the race. Bring your own fluids or energy gels.
Wear clothes that you’ve already broken in.
You want to be comfortable during your race, so make sure that all of your running apparel is completely broken in by the time you start the race. One of the most common mistakes is buying a new pair of shoes close to the marathon.
Be mindful about overhydration and dehydration.
An indicator of reasonable hydration status is to see light yellow urine. Do not try to overhydrate the last day or two before the race. Even if the temperature is cooler but the humidity and dew point are higher (like we saw last year), consider bringing adequate water and electrolytes to the race. Your performance may significantly decrease if you become dehydrated. Wear a hydration vest or belt to drink your own supply.
Another option is to utilize the available hydration stations along the course. Consider walking through these stations while drinking. You won’t noticeably increase your time, but you will get better hydration. A trick to remember is use the left-hand side if there are water stations on both sides of the street. Most people are right-handed, and they will use the right side of the road.
Drink something besides water.
Marathon runners face a potentially lethal condition called hyponatremia where a person consumes so much water that the salt levels in their blood become diluted. Be sure to get your hydration from something other than just water. Take in some carbohydrate liquids (like Gatorade), which provide a little sugar as well as electrolytes (like sodium). Lo Cal G2 type Gatorade will give you some of these nutrients without overloading on sugar.
You should already know this, but life is a marathon. Even during a marathon, there is no real benefit to going out hard and fast at the start. You should run the first half of your race slower than the second half. Consider breaking the race down into three parts. Run the first third at 15 to 30 seconds slower than your goal pace/time then the second third at goal pace. Finally, run the last third at 15 to 30 seconds faster than goal pace.
Follow the taper period.
Since the Morgantown Marathon is approaching soon, continue to run at lower mileage to recover and prepare for the race. You may be tempted to get one more hill run in or one more tempo run, but it won’t be enough to offset the great benefit of slowly weaning your mileage and effort down before the marathon. This will allow for healing of some of the micro-tears that have occurred in your muscles during training. Being undertrained at the start is better than overtraining. Know about common running injuries and how to prevent them.
Congratulate yourself no matter what.
Regardless of when you cross that finish line, remember one thing: you did it! For you first-timers, savor the experience and congratulate yourself on finishing your first half or full marathon. For experienced runners, congratulate yourself on being able to do what most Americans cannot do. Resist the temptation to hang your head in frustration if your time is not exactly what you had hoped. You still ran on a great course with no traffic among fellow dedicated runners. Remember there are many runners who are sitting at home with an injury that prevented them from running.
Get a sports medicine evaluation to plan for your next race.
If you were one of those unfortunate runners who never made it to the start or finish line, aim to learn from your experiences, seek out advice, and correct any training flaws. Check in with me – Dr. Monty, your fellow runner and sports medicine doctor. We can plan for your future together.
Enjoy the run!
WVU Medicine is the presenting sponsor of the Morgantown Marathon.
Make an appointment with Dr. Gaetano Monteleone or another sports medicine physician: 855-WVU-CARE.