The secrets to . . .

Dealing with medical problems

By John Powers
Globe Staff / April 15, 2011

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Dealing with Heartbreak Hill is challenging enough without having to worry about the marathoner’s two eternal stumbling blocks — cramps and blisters. Hydration and electrolyte balance are vital for fending off cramps and race organizers will have water and Gatorade Endurance Formula at every aid station along the course. But take care to monitor your intake. Drinking too much fluid can cause hyponatremia, which can lead to organ failure.

“If a cramp does occur, the best thing is to stop for a minute and stretch it out and massage the area,’’ says Dr. Pierre d’Hemecourt, the marathon’s co-medical director. “Side stitches’’ from diaphragm spasms, while painful, often can be remedied by breathing deeply and exhaling through pursed lips. “They’ll generally go away,’’ says Michael Pieroni, the BAA Running Club coach. “They do tend to work themselves out.’’

Preventing blisters is all about suitable footwear, which should be neither too snug nor too loose nor just out of the box. “Don’t wear that brand-new pair of shoes your parents bought you,’’ Pieroni advises. “Make sure you’re racing in a pair of shoes that you’ve been training in.’’ A 50-mile break-in period should be adequate. And spend a bit extra for socks. “Get a good pair of breathable socks that wick away moisture,’’ says d’Hemecourt. There’ll be bandages and petroleum jelly available at the medical tents in the Athletes’ Village at the starting line. If blisters do pop up, pull over and have them treated at one of the 26 Red Cross stations along the route.


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