It’s marathon time in Houston, and for those who are gearing up to run either the half or full marathon this weekend, sports medicine expert Dr. Theodore Shybut of Baylor College of Medicine has some last minute tips to get you ready and keep you safe during the run.
Before the run
"One important thing to remember is to stick to the routine that you’ve been following over the past few weeks or months," said Shybut, assistant professor of orthopedic surgery at BCM. "Try not to do anything out of the ordinary like buying new shoes or clothes or even introducing a new supplement into your diet."
Shybut says to avoid doing a demanding run or workout in the days before the marathon. Instead try to do some light running to keep your muscles tuned up. A very abbreviated low-volume speed work session during the last week can help experienced runners feel fresh on race day. He also suggests hydrating well over the next few days, loading up on carbohydrates and getting enough sleep.
"Try not to introduce any new or unfamiliar variety of food into your diet over the next few days," he said. "Stick to what you’ve been eating throughout your training."
Shybut says it is not ideal to drink alcohol prior to the run since it can be dehydrating, but if a glass of red wine is a part of your normal routine, it’s ok to still have. Any excess alcohol consumption can impede your performance.
Try to avoid taking an anti-inflammatory prior to the run since it can have side effects on your kidneys, which are working hard during the run, said Shybut.
During the run
Many people who train for half and full marathons consume gel packets with glucose supplements during their runs to keep them fueled. Shybut says that if you’re not used to these packets, the day of the run is not a good time to try them for the first time. They could upset your stomach and make your run even more difficult.
If you do experience a significant injury during the race that is altering your run or markedly slowing you down, Shybut suggests not pushing through pain; consider getting the injury looked at by a physician at one of the medical aid tents.
After the run
After you’ve completed the run, don’t stop moving altogether—this can cause muscles to cramp up. Continue hydrating afterwards and be sure that your urine is not a dark color—this means you are dehydrated, said Shybut.
If you experience some muscle pain afterwards, take anti-inflammatories on a full stomach. Gentle stretching can also help.
Because significant muscle breakdown occurs during the run, don’t do any strenuous exercise for a few weeks after the marathon. Shybut suggests taking two to four weeks off from running and focus on recovery. Consider other exercises such as upper body strengthening that won’t affect the same muscles.
In case of rain
If the forecast calls for rain, pack a hat, visor or headband to keep water from getting in your eyes and be sure to dress for the weather, said Shybut.