Leslie Bonci, R.D., C.S.S.D., director of sports nutrition at UPMC Sports Medicine, recommends that you increase your fluid intake, with both water and sports drinks, in the days leading up to the race.
- Drink freely the day before the race and consume 16 ounces of water before bed.
- When you wake up, drink 16 more ounces of water. Drink eight to 10 ounces of a sports drink about 10 minutes prior to racing.
- During the race, don’t drink only water. Sports drinks will help to prevent muscle cramping and hyponatremia (a condition caused by low sodium levels in the blood).
- For every hour of running, drink 14 to 40 ounces of fluid, depending on how much you sweat.
- Each individual’s fluid requirements can vary tremendously, so be sure not to over-hydrate, especially if you do not sweat much.
Boost Your Carb Intake
Loading up on carbohydrates may help to optimize performance and prevent fatigue during the race, according to Ms. Bonci. Follow this advice during the final days leading up to the marathon.
- Three days before the race, try eating smaller, more frequent meals (about every three hours) and begin increasing your carb intake. A good rule of thumb is to eat five grams of carbs per each pound of your body weight.
- The night before, eat a high-carb meal with small portions of protein and vegetables, keeping fat to a minimum. Treat yourself to some frozen yogurt, sherbet or “light” ice cream for dessert!
- Don’t skip breakfast on race day. Your meal should contain mostly carbohydrates (about 200 to 400 grams), keeping your protein, and especially your fat and fiber, consumption low. Bananas, bagels, oatmeal or energy bars are good picks.
Train With What Will Be Provided
If you plan to drink or eat anything provided throughout the course on race day, Ms. Bonci recommends training with them now to avoid any discomfort or stomach upset. The following items will be available to runners at the 2010 Dick’s Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon:
- To help maintain hydration, water and lemon-lime flavored Gatorade Endurance Formula will be provided at every fluid station.
- For extra energy, PowerBars (in chocolate and wild berry flavors) and GU brand sports gels (in vanilla bean, chocolate, tri berry, strawberry banana and jet blackberry flavors) will be available.
- For those who lose high amounts of salt when sweating, snacks such as potato chips or pretzels will be offered.
Step Up Your Mental Game
Mental toughness is just as important as physical preparedness when running a marathon. Aimee Kimball, Ph.D., director of mental training at UPMC Sports Medicine, offers tips to optimize your mindset:
- Get out the racecourse map and develop a mental approach for each stretch. Have “focus cues” already picked out to keep your mind in the right place. For example, when you see a playground, use it as a reminder to relax your shoulders. Every time you see someone throw their water cup, imagine throwing any pain away.
- Develop a race-day support system. Tell friends and family where you want them to stand and what you want them to yell as you run by.
- Practice visualizing yourself running strong. Imagine “hitting the wall” but staying positive and continuing to push through it. Think about how you will manage obstacles at difficult points during the race. Picture the pride you’ll experience while crossing the finish line.
- Most importantly, prepare yourself to have fun, be excited and embrace the challenge!
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 at UPMC Sports Medicine.
- Stick to the same clothing that you have been wearing during your training. Anything new may cause discomfort and prohibit you from running your best.
- Don’t wear new shoes, but your existing shoes should have no more than 500 miles on them.
- To avoid discomfort or upset stomach, don’t eat or drink anything new close to or on race day.
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 top layer 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 a certain 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
Eric Anish, M.D., a primary care sports medicine physician at UPMC Sports Medicine, recommends following these tips before the race to help prevent discomfort and optimize performance during your run.
- Before you get dressed in the morning, apply sunscreen to prevent sunburn and Vaseline or BodyGlide to prevent chafing in key locations like armpits, nipples and inner thighs.
- Keep your warm-up short to loosen up your muscles yet conserve your body’s energy.
- Address problems early in the race. Don’t ignore issues like a poorly tied shoe, an area of skin that is beginning to chafe, or a pebble that has made its way into your shoe. Letting the problem persist could result in much bigger trouble, like an injury.
- 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!
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, as well as real-time updates from the medical tent on race day, 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.