Crossing the Finish Line: Race-Day Tips for New Marathoners

Friday, October 11, 2013 10:31 AM comments (0)

marathonYou’ve come all this way. You’ve spent months training and run hundreds of miles to prepare for race day. Don’t let a preventable injury keep you from crossing that finish line or ruin the prospects of running marathon number two in the near future.

From mile one to the final stretch, stay injury-free with these tips from Carrie Jaworski, MD, Director of Primary Care Sports Medicine at NorthShore: 

  • Don’t try something new on race day. This rule applies to nearly everything. Don’t eat a food you haven’t eaten during training. It could upset your stomach and result in more time than you would like spent in the restrooms along the race route. Don’t wear clothing you haven’t worn before, from shorts and shirts to socks and shoes. Untested clothing might feel fine at mile five but by mile 18 you could be dealing with race-ending chafing or blisters.
  • Start slow and maintain a steady pace. Don’t let the excitement at the starting line get the best of you. There are 26.2 miles ahead of you, so conserve your energy and start slow. Passing and weaving amongst the thousands of runners at the starting line also increases the possibility of injury from tripping and falling. Maintaining a steady pace means you’ll finish strong instead of struggling to the end. 
  • Have a plan about fluid intake. Prepare ahead of time by staying hydrated on the days leading up to the race. Your urine should be clear yellow, not dark. On race day, you should alternate water and an electrolyte drink at the pace you established during your training. Be careful to avoid drinking at every fluid station, as that can increase your risk of hyponatremia (low blood sodium). A good rule of thumb is to drink 4-6 ounces every 15-20 minutes after the first 30-60 minutes of exercise.  Be sure to consume gels with water. And don’t forget to hydrate after the race as well!
  • Listen to your body. If the race doesn’t go as planned, don’t ignore what your body is telling you. There are medical aid stations throughout the course and at the finish line to help you if you are unsure. Remember, no matter what happens, you have already succeeded by all the hard work you put in to get to the starting line.
  • Bring a change of clothes. Always have a change of warm, dry clothes waiting for you after the race. You’ll need to keep your muscles warm to avoid cramping after the race is over. Depending on the weather, if you sit in sweat-soaked clothes for too long, you risk developing hypothermia.
  • Stretch! Make sure to stretch and roll out sore muscles soon after finishing the race. Stretching after the race is an important way to help minimize muscle soreness the next day. Scheduling a massage for the next day is good too!

Wishing Chicago Marathon runners, old and new, a happy and successful race day from NorthShore University HealthSystem. 

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