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The Day Before a Marathon

The First Step: Marathon's Medical Director Advises How to Prepare the Day Before the Race

 

The Day Before a Marathon

The moment marathon runners step up to the starting line of a big race marks the conclusion of months of intensive training. How athletes spend the day before the race can also have a major impact on their success and stamina on race day.

John Cianca, M.D., medical director of the marathon and a medical director for TIRR Rehabilitation Centers, a part of Memorial Herman Sports Medicine, offers tips on how to spend that all-important day before the event.

Primarily, Cianca said, runners should not do anything unusual the day before the marathon or make any big changes to their normal routine.

"Runners should get good rest, and their diet should support their training," said Cianca. "Additional carbohydrates could be beneficial, and the morning of the marathon runners should eat something that is a good source of energy and easy to digest. Some runners do carb-loading prior to the marathon, and that can be beneficial if it is done correctly."

 

Hydration Initiative

Runners should ensure they are hydrated well, but be careful not to over hydrate.

"Be reasonable when you are drinking water," said Cianca. "You do not 'store up' fluids. Water should help food digest for optimal performance if you are carbohydrate loading."

A runner's weight is affected by hydration, and runners should weigh periodically as one aspect of monitoring their hydration. Scales are available along the Houston Marathon course. If a runner has a problem during a race, his or her weight fluctuations can help physicians better understand the problem.

"We recommend that runners write their weights on the back of their bibs - along with other emergency information - before the race," said Cianca. "If a runner requires medical attention during the race, this will help the staff understand what could be happening."

Take a Break

Rest is key to preparing for the marathon. If possible, athletes should get more rest that usual and go to bed earlier in the days immediately before the run.

"People underestimate the importance of rest," said Cianca. "Intensive training requires more sleep for the body to recover and absorb the physical stress. Recovery helps the training process; rest and training must be proportional.

"Runners should do whatever it takes to feel rested," he said. "If you want to get a massage, go for it. The most important thing is to not change your training routine just prior to the marathon."

Consult the Weather Report

The last variable that comes into play the day before a race is weather, and last- minute adjustments are often required. Clothing is a main consideration, and runners must take precautions to prepare for whatever Mother Nature brings the day of the marathon. Also, runners must be prepared for weather conditions in the early morning when the race begins, as well as in the afternoon as the marathon concludes.

Clothing tips:

  • Cold weather: Preserve heat where you lose it most: the head and the hands. Wear a hat and gloves.
  • Windy weather: Windy conditions require more cover and windbreaker material.
  • Heat: Use light clothing with good coverage.
  • Humidity: Wear lightweight clothing that moves, or wicks, perspiration away from the skin.