8 Tips for Marathon Runners from Northwestern Medicine

George ChiampasNorthwestern University will have a strong presence at this weekend’s 36th Bank of America Chicago Marathon, as George Chiampas, assistant professor of emergency medicine at the Feinberg School of Medicine, will serve as the Marathon’s medical director for the seventh consecutive year.

He is also an emergency medicine physician at Northwestern Memorial Hospital and will lead more than 1,400 medical volunteers from numerous hospitals and healthcare schools statewide to oversee the health of race runners.

Chiampas offers eight tips to help runners have a healthy marathon experience:

1. Eat smart
Preparation starts well before you step up to the starting line. Pre-race nutrition is critical, as the 26.2 mile run drains the body’s resources. During the 48-72 hours and evening before the race, enjoy a meal full of protein and carbohydrates and do not consume alcoholic beverages.

2. Get a good night’s sleep
Make sure to follow a regular sleep schedule during the week leading up to the race in order to get plenty of rest. This will guarantee you are well-rested in case pre-marathon jitters prevent you from sleeping the night before the big race.

3. Check the weather
Chicago meteorologists are predicting cool temperatures for this year’s race. Although it may feel cooler in the morning, it will feel 10 or more degrees warmer once you get going, and temperatures will rise throughout the day. Make sure to dress in layers so you’re able to shed clothing as needed. Participants should listen for the Event Alert System (EAS) tips that will be sent out via the Marathon with instructions if the weather becomes dangerous.

4. Benefit from breakfast
About two hours before your start time, eat a high protein breakfast combined with a good balance of carbohydrates and fat, while avoiding sugary foods.

5. Stick with what you know
One of the biggest mistakes marathoners make is trying to change their routines on race day. It’s best to stay with what’s familiar. Wear clothes and shoes you’ve worn on long runs before and don’t try any new foods or drinks.

6. Pace yourself
The excitement of the race can often cause racers to get off to a faster start. This will hinder a runner’s performance and can lead to health issues during the competition. Instead, running at an even pace is most efficient and safest, but be prepared to adjust your pace if weather conditions change.

7. Hydrate appropriately
Both dehydration and over-hydration can pose serious threats to runners. Hyponatermia, a condition that occurs when fluid intake exceeds your rate of fluid loss from sweating, results in abnormally low blood-sodium levels. When this happens, the body’s water levels rise and cells begin to swell. Race participants who experience symptoms of nausea, dizziness or disorientation should seek medical attention immediately.

8. Post-race routine
After crossing the finish line, you’re still not quite finished. Be sure to stretch thoroughly and ice any areas that are sore. While you celebrate your accomplishment, eat a meal that is high in protein to help repair muscle damage and start your recovery phase.

Good luck to all the participants, especially those from our Northwestern community! Read more about Chiampas’ experience working with the Chicago Marathon.

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