It’s time for another Austin Sports Medicine 101 class!
Runners often train for months leading up to a marathon or big race. Long distance runs affect the body in many (and sometimes unexpected) ways, and even minor mistakes can lead to disappointing results. Since it pays to be prepared for any eventuality, we’ve put together a list of mistakes that are often made by first-time racers on competition day. Improve your game by avoiding the following:
1. New clothing. Whether it’s shoes, socks or any piece of apparel, race day isn’t the time to try out a new article of clothing. If a runner hasn’t broken it in over at least a couple of runs, don’t even consider putting it on.
2. Skipping breakfast. Many first-time marathoners have pre-race jitters and, therefore, not much of an appetite. But it’s important to not supplement the morning meal with just coffee or a sports drink. Eat a high-carbohydrate breakfast so the body will have enough fuel to make it to the finish line.
3. Overdressing. Since races typically start in the morning hours when it’s cooler, runners often dress more warmly than necessary. It’s important to remember that once the race begins, body temperatures will rise, so it will feel at least 10 degrees warmer than the actual temperature. Extra clothing leads to sweating and dehydration, and can be generally uncomfortable.
4. New foods. Just like with new clothes, before or during the race is not the time to try out different foods. Stick to the familiar, preferably foods that were eaten while practicing for the event. Even if a racer is used to a certain type of food, if they haven’t previously run on it, it may have an adverse effect on their performance.
5. Warm-up extremes. When it comes to getting the body prepared just before the race, runners often make one of two types of mistakes: skipping the warm-up completely or warming-up for too long. While it makes sense to conserve as much energy as possible for the actual race, it’s important to loosen up the muscles used in running. Keep the warm-up short, but don’t leave it out of the pre-run routine.
6. Starting out too fast. Every runner knows the importance of keeping a steady pace during marathons. It’s hard to fight the urge to bolt off the starting line, especially when others appear to be doing so. But even-pace running will ensure a racer will go strong and have the endurance to pass the quick-starters later in the race.
7. Failure to hydrate. For long-distance runners, every ounce of water consumed helps maintain the blood flow to the skin, heart and muscles. Liquids help keep body temperatures down, which is essential during a marathon. Running for an extended time slows the absorption of fluids by the body, so consuming liquids should begin early.