Physical Therapists working with runners place emphasis on the development of good training habits and exercise programs to increase muscle strength, flexibility, and endurance over a long period of time. This remains the most effective way to improve performance and prevent injury, but with race day approaching for several local marathons, now is a good time to share a few race day suggestions.
Many runners make the mistake of training hard right up to the marathon. A good training program should peak 2-3 weeks before race day. At that point, it is strongly recommended that runners initially cut their weekly mileage by 50%, then 70-75% the week before the race, with little or no running 3 days before the race. Doing so allows you to compete with rested legs and perform to your best ability.
On race day, consider using a high quality pair of socks (or wear an extra pair) to help prevent or minimize blisters. Visit your local running shoe store to find out what is available. Don’t run in shoes that are worn and/or have more than 300-500 miles on them, as this may increase your risk of injury. Race day, however, is not the time to break out a new pair of running shoes. High mileage on brand new shoes can result in blisters. Try logging at least 40-50 miles before running a marathon in new shoes. One idea is to start training with new shoes when you start tapering for your race.
Chaffing will occur during your marathon if you don’t take precautions to prevent it. Bodyglide or Vaseline works very well and may be available at aide stations. Use liberally on nipples, under arms, and between legs. High performance outdoor wear, such as Dri-fit and Under Armor can also be very effective.
- Hamstrings: 3 x 20 seconds each side from the hurdler’s position
- Quadriceps: 3 x 20 seconds each side, grasping your ankle and pulling your thigh backward
- Groin: 3 x 20 seconds in the butterfly position
- Calves: 3 x 20 seconds each side in the sprint start position
- Hip Rotators: 3 x 20 seconds in the figure 4 position
Your muscles can cramp if they get dehydrated. Drink lots of fluid during the race.
If you rest adequately before the race, your legs will feel fresh and you may feel very strong in the beginning. Resist the temptation to start too fast. It can cause your performance later in the race to fall and increase your risk of injury. Even if you run slower than your expected marathon pace for the first five miles, you’ll have 21.2 miles to make up the difference.
After the Race
Keep moving. Light walking immediately following the race will help minimize post-race muscle soreness. The same light stretching done pre-race will keep your muscles loose. Most importantly, drink lots of water and eat something. Refuel and rehydrate.
What’s Next? Your body needs adequate rest before your next running adventure. Take at least 3 days to a full week off from running. If you feel a need to get going again sooner, do a little cross-training after a few days of rest, or try a very slow jog of no more than 5 miles. After a week, you should be able to build your mileage back up again fairly quickly, but keep the pace much slower than usual for 2-3 weeks.