Running a marathon is
often included on many bucket lists. But even if you’ve trained well, many
runners make race-day blunders that can make this ultimate test of strength and
endurance an awful experience.
“People often plan their pre-marathon training carefully, but then make some common mistakes on race day,” said Laura Gleason, physical therapist at Athletico Physical Therapy. “Following some simple advice can improve your chances of finishing strong with a big smile across your face.”
Athletico, a leading provider of physical and occupational therapy in the greater Chicago area, offers five race-day tips to avoid the marathon blues including:
- Stay the course – Forget donning a new pair of shoes, or trying a new carbohydrate bar the morning of the big race. Now is not the time to try anything new or you will likely regret it. Wear the shoes you’ve been training in, eat foods you’re used to eating and wear the clothes you know don’t chafe you on your longer runs.
- Eat and drink smart – Don’t be tempted to gulp a cup of coffee and forgo eating the morning of the race. While you may be too nervous to eat or think it will weigh you down, you need every bit of energy you can get. An hour or two before the race eat something high in carbohydrates and low in fat, such as a bagel and peanut butter. During the race, stay hydrated, but don’t drink too much or you can deplete your sodium stores. The best rule of thumb is to drink the same amount you’ve been drinking on your longer runs the week before the race.
- Weather watch – Dress properly for changing weather conditions by wearing clothes that can easily be removed or added to. When it’s hot, try cooling a towel in the freezer the night before and keeping it on your neck at the start of the race. For rain, keep dry as much as possible by using a poncho, that you can easily be disposed of, and have loved ones on the sidelines with dry clothing items such as socks to change into half-way through the race.
- Warm up and cool down– Take about 15 minutes waiting for the race to start to do a dynamic warm-up: jog a little, do some high knees and butt kicks, and some light stretching, especially of your quads, hamstrings and calves. When you finish the race, don’t just collapse in a heap as you’ll be tempted to do, but keep moving and do some easy stretches.
- Don’t bolt – You’ll likely be raring to go and tempted to charge out of the gate, but don’t do it! Pace yourself, or you’ll use up your energy and run out of gas long before the finish line.
- Get a massage afterwards – Not only is a massage a great reward for a job well done, but it can decrease the natural post-race soreness and swelling, as well as promote healing.
Hopefully you won’t limp away from the marathon injured, sore and swearing that you’ll never do it again. But if you are in still in pain several days after the race, you might have sustained an injury. The good news is you can get a free 30-minute injury screening at Athletico, which includes an assessment of your condition, suggestions on how to care for it, and a plan for next steps such as stretching, exercise and ways to prevent the injury or pain from happening again. Visit www.athletico.com to learn more about how physical therapy can help alleviate pain and improve your life. Physical therapists also can give you some great tips so that you’re even more prepared for your next marathon.