Training Tips from the Medical Directors
Congratulations on signing up for the Mohawk Hudson River Marathon & Half-Marathon! Whether this is your first marathon/half-marathon or you are a seasoned veteran, this event requires training, preparation, and confidence to go the distance. As experienced endurance event participants ourselves, we understand the work that has gone into the last several months. But as physicians, we also have an understanding of the risks that are present in such an event.
A marathon should be a fun event, one that you will enjoy and hopefully want to do again. The event is best when it is safe and runners can avoid injury and problems. The race organizers have made every effort to keep this event safe – now all you need to do is prepare yourself as well. The miles have already been logged, now the task is at hand to get through the 13.1 or 26.2! Keep these tips in mind:
- Hydration is key! Leading up to the race, and especially the 24 hours just before the race, you should try to keep your body as hydrated as possible with water or caffeine-free sports drink. Urine should be clear to pale yellow to indicate that hydration is adequate. Energy drinks are best the morning of to keep the glycogen stores maximal as well as preventing electrolyte imbalances.
- During the race, don’t forget to take in fluids at each aid station. Don’t ever skip more than one aid station in a row! Hyponatremia (the lack of salt or too much fluid diluting the salt in the body) can be prevented by avoiding “overhydration” with water the day of/during the race, so try to include some energy drink, at least every other station. If you are especially prone to muscle cramps, consider salting your food the night before while carbohydrate loading!
- Avoid anything new on race day – new shoes, new clothes, new diet – this will only risk you having a problem – a blister, chafing, upset stomach, etc.
- Your diet the week prior to the race should be heavy in healthy carbohydrates such as pasta, bagels, wheat breads, potatoes, etc. This will help get the body ready for a big effort.
- The morning of a marathon should include some sort of breakfast because the race is long. But, deciding what to eat can be difficult. Pre-race nerves get you ready to go but can make digestion difficult. If you have a sensitive stomach, carbohydrates are best because they are easily digested. Protein and fat slows digestion and can cause more cramps or upset stomach. Avoid dairy and acidic citrus (such as orange juice) if you have an especially sensitive stomach. Possible options for a good meal include a bagel with honey and/or a little peanut butter or an energy bar. While training, practice your pre-race breakfast, and experiment in regard to food selection.
- Sunscreen can make you faster! It helps by protecting the skin and reflecting the suns rays, thus preventing absorption of more heat.
- On bright, sunny days, a light colored hat and/or sunglasses help prevent strain and can conserve energy.
- Warm-ups before a marathon are less important than before a shorter race. Move enough to get warm, stretch, then you’re ready to go!
- Pace yourself! If you have done it right, you will feel energetic and fast at the start of the race. Hold back as much as possible and know that the race is long and there will be plenty of time to pick up the pace later on. Faster marathon times can be run with a negative split (second ½ faster than first ½)!
- If at any point in the race you feel that you cannot go on, stop at the next aid station for assistance. It is normal for a marathoner to have moments of doubt where self confidence can waver. Wait for 15 minutes before you make a final decision. Don’t be afraid to seek aid. If you feel sick or are having pain that causes you to change your running/walking style, stop at a medical aid station. At these stations, volunteer physicians and medical personnel will be there to help you. Take advantage of these free services to ensure a healthy and successful finish.
Remember these tips and you are well on your way to a successful day and avoiding a visit to the medical tent! Anticipate the ups and downs of a long run and you will make it to the finish.
Good luck and have fun out there!
Todd S. Shatynski, MD,
Primary Care Sports Medicine Specialist,
Capital Region Orthopaedics, (518) 489-2666
Kimberly A. Kilby, MD, MPH,
Family Medicine Physician,
Albany Family Practice Group,
Michael Dailey, MD,
Emergency Medicine Physician,
Albany Medical Center