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Boston Marathon race day tips

Posted by Steve Silva, Boston.com Staff  April 17, 2009 08:59 AM

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Courtesy of Brigham and Women's Hospital

After months of tireless preparation, on Monday, April 20, more than 20,000 runners will embark on the 113th Annual Boston Marathon. Having volunteered in the medical tent at the finish line at the Boston Marathon in previous years, Reg B. Wilcox III, PT, clinical supervisor of Physical Therapy in the Department of Rehabilitation Services at Brigham and Womenís Hospital, can offer runners some tips to have a safe and successful race day.

To prepare for the marathon on the day of the race, Wilcox suggests the following tips:

  • Wear clothes and sneakers that youíve worn on long runs before that you know will be comfortable.
  • While at the start area prior to the race stay off your feet as much as possible until the start of the race.
  • Prevent chaffing by using petroleum jelly products on sensitive skin areas, such as inner thighs and armpits.
  • Finish a large meal two to four hours before race time, and eat your final snack no more than 30 minutes before the start. Foods should be high in carbohydrates.
  • Drink fluids up to 15 minutes before the start of the race and sip fluids with electrolytes throughout the race to stay hydrated. Even if it is a cool overcast day you still need to hydrate appropriately throughout the race. Too often many runners skimp on fluid intake during cooler weather.
  • Do not consume any beverages, gels, or bars that you havenít used before. Stick with the products you know wonít upset your stomach.
  • Know your pace and stick to it. Consider a strategy to resist getting caught up in the movement of the crowd and tiring yourself out too quickly.
  • Keep a good posture; hunching will reduce lung capacity and cause strain and possible cramping.
  • Immediately resolve any issues that arise, like a poorly tied shoe or a pebble in your shoe. Letting a distraction persist could cause you to strain or overcompensate in a way that could cause cramping or injury.

    After running 26 miles, you may want to collapse, and though you deserve to rest, there are a number of precautions Wilcox suggests, to help ease soreness and prevent injury:

  • Keep walking. After the race, walk for at least 10 minutes to gradually slow your body to its normal resting state. Throughout the remainder of the day, walk for 10 to 15 minutes every few hours.
  • Change your clothes. If running attire is damp and cold change into dry clothes as soon as you can. If you donít you may become cold as you cool down in wet clothes, particularly if it is a wet or cold day.
  • Ice down. Apply ice to any joints or muscles that are particularly sore shortly after the race to reduce inflammation.
  • Hydrate. Sip water and sports drinks throughout the day that will replenish electrolytes and restore hydration.
  • Refuel. Aim to consume carbohydrates with lean protein and salt within the first thirty minutes after race because research indicates that this improves recovery rates. No need to eat a whole meal, but grab a drink or snack that contains carbohydrates and protein.
  • Take advantage of resources. A staff of athletic trainers, chiropractors, massage therapists, podiatrists, physical therapists, physicians, and nurses can be found at various locations before, during and after the race to assist with a variety of medical concerns, such as cramping and dehydration. If you are not feeling well, donít ignore your symptoms seek medical advice in a timely manner.

    In the days and weeks following the race, Wilcox advises, ďGive your body a chance to rest and recover, but do not stop activity completely. Instead of running, try walking, swimming or biking for the week following the marathon, then gradually build up to running again, starting with shorter distances in longer times.Ē Light periodic stretching should also be incorporated until soreness subsides and flexibility returns, being sure not to overstress muscles, which can cause injury. Finally, Wilcox recommends allowing for extra sleep and eating the foods you havenít been able to, loading up on carbohydrates to replenish the bodyís energy stores.

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    Look for updates, news, analysis and commentary from the following.
    • Steve Silva, Boston.com senior producer, two-time Boston Marathon sub-four hour runner.
    • Ty Velde is a 16-time Boston qualifier who's completed 12 consecutive Boston Marathons and 25 marathons overall. Ty is now training for his 13th Boston run and will provide training tips for those who train solo and outside, no matter what temperature it is.
    • Rich 'Shifter' Horgan is a 19-time Dana-Farber Marathon Challenge team member who runs in honor of his father, who died of colon cancer. He will provide updates on local running events with a focus on the charitable organizations that provide Boston Marathon entries for their organization's fund raising purposes

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