Tips for running a marathon successfully
Running a marathon is the new high. Each year the Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon 2015, sees the number of runners swell by a few thousands on the one hand, and on the other also sees injuries, runners unable to complete the run, participants fainting or even failing to complete the race!
According to Vinata Shetty, Reebok Master Trainer who has worked with both cardiac patients and otherwise running the marathon, “three in every 20 new runners quit running, after enthusiastically starting to run, because of an injury or so.”
It isn’t as if those few hadn’t trained enough, they, in all likelihood, had.
“Most runners, at least the first and second timers, adds Shetty, “tend to overtrain, rehydrate less and try taking on to a different run map than what was decided and trained on. Result: they end up with muscle soreness, ligament tear and pulls that puts them off running for weeks or months as they recover.”
Interestingly, says Sport Therapist and Marathon Coach, Nilesh Shah, the muscle soreness and ligament tears aren’t always the result of the run on the D-day, it is also the excessive run that most try to clock in during the last week/days before the Marathon that eventually causes such injuries.” Nilesh, in fact, considers that last few days before the marathon the most crucial.
“It is a time when a runner, especially the first and second timers, would get nervous or excited and in that flow of emotion try and do something completely out of his/her routine or miss out a day of the run, which would prove equally disastrous on the day of the run,” adds Shah, who insists that maintaining the same routine till the day of marathon gives you better results than trying something new at the last hour.
At best, says Shah, “You are in all likelihood, exhausting the muscles instead of prepping them for the marathon.”
So how should you last few days to the Marathon look like? Here is the list by the experts.
RUNNING: While it is good to assume that one should clock the same kilometers as he intends to run on the final day till the last day before the marathon, Shah’s view differs. That, he says, is considered ideal.
However, given the conditions under which the Mumbai Marathon is run, it is better to give the muscles an extra rest but not clocking the same kilometers on the last day. So those running the full marathon, which is 42 km, should not run beyond 35 km, 3 weeks before the event. They should not run 42 km on a single day. The same holds true for half marathon. The idea behind the shorter run is to save themselves from any injuries before the main event. Runners can face variation in injuries like fracture, stress fracture (minor cracks in bone), ligament tear, or Ilio Tibial Band Syndrome, which is weakness in muscles or over firing of one muscle over the other.”
A good inclusion, adds Shetty, “will be to ensure you run around the same time as the marathon, which in case of full marathon starts at about 5.30 in the morning. This will help acclimatize the body and muscles to the change in the temperature.”
But run every day!
SHOES AND GEAR
One of the common mistakes that first time runners often make, says Shah, is to wear a brand new shoes and gear. AVOID, says Shah, who believes that trying to break in to the shoes is a bad idea as it can cause much more discomfort than a shoe bite. “Often a new shoe doesn’t roll well and that causes difficulty in running and strains the muscle,” adds the Sports Therapist, who recommends to wear a shoe that has seen one month at least of running.
Ensure he adds, that it has good cushioning and has ample space around the toes to allow the foot to roll.”
The same rule, says Shetty, “applies to the entire attire. Do not wear anything brand new unless you have had a 3 week practice in it.”
Comfort is key to a good run.
FOOD & REHYDRATION
Ideally it is said that if you have run your practice marathons on a breakfast of two eggs, bread and coffee or a bowl of porridge, that should remain your diet for the D-Day too. But new science has shown that loading on carbohydrates, complex carbohydrates that is, loading also helps. In other words, having a carb-heavy pre run meal.
So when does one start on carb heavy diet and when? At least 48 hours before the run, says Shah, who recommends complex carbs like a multi-grain chappati, potatoes, sattu as a good choice.
“On the day of the marathon, it is good to have an apple, dates and tea/coffee (whichever is preferred). During the run, they must have electrolytes. Coffee has caffeine, which spikes up the blood level and keeps the runners alert. But the best thing is to follow the same diet routine that one has followed during the training as the body has adopted to utilize that for a run. Anything above it might not be advisable.”
Rehydration before and during the run is a must as the muscles start losing water and sodium content soon, says Shetty who advises to have a drink with 6% of the carbohydrates content. Like Gatorade, she adds, or other sports drink with same combination as the it dissolves into the blood stream with ease, unlike other drinks, which have a greater percentage of the carbohydrates and take longer.
Ensure you carry a bottle and sip occasionally, which is before you feel thirsty because at that time the muscle is already starved of its water and sodium. This will prevent the muscles from going under sudden spasms.
STRETCH & RELAX
A fast throbbing heart is a good sign before every competition. What adds to the anxiety – and this says Shah happens to the most seasoned Marathoners – is the crowd. “You are now used to the crowd and here you will run with them. The thought is unnerving so you need to relax by breathing, jumping and just shaking your limbs.”
This, adds he, “will not only ensure that the blood has reached the muscle and warm up your body. A little session of stretching ensures that your muscles are action ready and aren’t thrown into sudden action, which leads to various injuries along with muscle soreness.”
FLOW WITH THE ACTION
For most a marathon is over once they reach the finish line. However, says Shetty, for the muscles it is still in the process. So never stop abruptly, jog a little more before you come to a halt and stretch again, much like you would in a gym post a workout. Try moving the limbs in the opposite direction to relax them.”
Once, she adds, “ that’s done, rehydrate as the muscles will need more water and food to begin repair themselves. Also it helps recovering the water content that you may have lost during the run.”
Since the muscles are still in the state of exhaustion, absentee from run for a week or more is advisable. “ Since your muscles are still recovering from the soreness and fatigue caused by the run,” adds Shetty, “it is always advisable to take as much of rest as possible. And by rest one doesn’t mean you shouldn’t return to exercise. In fact, sports science has proved the low impact exercises like swimming and tai chi or yoga are more effective aids at muscle recovery than no exercise at all.”
Deep tissue massage is also a good idea to help the muscle relax and untangle the knots, says Vinata, who insists on a balanced diet of carbs and proteins during the time as it aids in muscle recovery as well as weight recovery that you may lost through sweat.
Once the aches and pains are ebbing, says Shetty, “you can go back to running, but shorter distances like perhaps 3 km a day and then gradually increase to whatever level you would like to maintain. This slowly trains the muscles to be back in action without any soreness or ligament pull. Depending upon which level of runner you are and the age this may take time, so be patient.”
It’s in fact, adds Shetty, “perfectly normal to not be able to clock even 2km at a go the first two days, so don’t overstress and overstrain. And if there are any sign of discomfort, consult a doctor or the trainer who will work with you to get you back on the running track, as it is possible that the muscles haven’t really recovered.”
And lastly, ends Shah, “start the re-run with the shoes that you have run already. A new pair can come in later.”