Fit to Complete
It is the responsibility of the runner to be fit to compete on the day of the race. If you have any medical issues which you think may put you at risk when running a long distance race, see your GP prior to commencing on a training programme. Runners who should seek medical advice from their doctor include those with existing medical problems or symptoms/signs as follows:
1. Heart disease
You should also see your own doctor if you have had any signs or symptoms of heart disease, such are chest pain or chest tightness on exertion, shortness of breath, or palpitations that is out of context of the physical exertion. You should discuss any relevant family history such heart disease or sudden collapse. Once you have obtained consent from your doctor to start your training programme, you are required to declare any serious medical issues/conditions that might require special attention to the Race Organisers before the event. In addition, any medical condition needs to be declared on your race number. The Medical Director may wish to discuss, in confidence, any condition with your own doctor. Please note that the event medical team cannot give individual advice. I stress again, it is your responsibility to be fit on the day, do not ruin it by becoming a medical casualty.
As part of your structured training plan, you should be able to comfortably run the following. ‘Comfortable’ meaning that you must feel as though you could still run more at the end of the distance. These distances are minimum targets to ensure that you can enjoy your event in safety and enjoy the experience. If you can complete them it doesn’t mean that you can stop your training, you must keep following your training plan up to the race.
15 miles continuous training run, comfortably one month before a marathon
8 miles continuous training run one month before a 13 mile race
6 miles continuous training run one month before a 10 mile race
4 miles continuous training run one month before a 10 km race
If you cannot, you will not manage your event in safety and are unlikely to enjoy it. Please do not run on this occasion, even if you have raised money for charity – it will be better to give yourself more time and take part in another event.
Some races may have a deferral policy if you are unable to race; it’s worth checking the conditions of entry or contact the race organisers.
Muscular aches and pains occur most commonly after an increase in training. Running training should be increased gradually so that you do not suffer prolonged exhaustion. Separate your days of heavy mileage with one or two days of lighter training or rest, so that your body can refuel your muscles with muscle glycogen. To reduce injury risk, vary your training routes, running surface, pace and distance, and do not always use the same pair of shoes. Always face oncoming traffic and BE VISIBLE – for example, wear bright or reflective clothing at night.
ILLNESS AND TRAINING
If you have flu, a feverish cold or a tummy bug, do not train until you have fully recovered. Then start gently and build up gradually. Do not attempt to catch up on lost mileage after illness or injury, as this may cause further damage or illness.
If you have flu it can take as long as a month to recover – so you should consider carefully whether or not you can run a race if the event will take place after you have been ill.
Fluid lost in sweat must be replaced, otherwise your body will become dehydrated (short of water) and less efficient. Alcoholic drinks and drinks containing caffeine – such as tea and coffee – can be dehydrating. Take plenty of non-alcoholic drinks with you when you run, especially when training in hot weather. Drink enough to keep your urine a pale straw colour. Also, drink plenty of liquids after training – especially after long runs – and practise drinking during longer training runs. You could also try drinking sports energy drinks in training to see if you like them.
Drink plenty of fluids and preferably no alcohol in the two days before a race. DO NOT drink excessively before, during or after a race, as you may get hyponatraemia (see ‘Drinking Safely’ below).
Drinking on a race day
Start a race well hydrated by drinking up to half a pint (250ml) of water or sports drink in the half hour before the start. Do not be greedy and take extra drinking water from drinks stations during the race to pour over yourself, as you may be depriving slower runners of much needed drinks. Only take water if you need a drink. If it is hot, additional water will be provided and showers will usually be set up on the race course – so use these to cool yourself, rather than using drinking water.
A balancing act
Drinking too little can lead to problems, as you will always need to replace some of the fluid you lose as sweat. On the other hand, drinking too much can be very dangerous and lead to hyponatraemia (water intoxication), fits, and in some cases death. Drink when you feel the need and DO NOT gulp large volumes of fluids before, during or after a race.
A rough drinking guide
Your drinking needs for a race will vary according to your build, your speed and above all the weather, as these affect how much you sweat.
Faster runners (for example, runners who aim to complete marathons in under 3hrs 30mins) on a warm day may need as much as a litre of fluid per hour (two pints). Slower runners should need less – particularly on a cool day – and should not drink more than 500 ml per hour.
There will be frequent water stations on your race route, but YOU DO NOT NEED to drink at each one. Instead, just swallow a mouthful of water occasionally. If you like sports energy drinks, have one of these instead of or as well as water.
After finishing a race, DO NOT drink large amounts of water. You can only rehydrate (replace lost fluids) gradually over the next 24-48 hours. Eat some salty food as well as spacing out your drinks; by doing this you will not get hyponatraemia and will replace the water salt and glycogen lost when running the marathon.
Aches and pains occur most commonly after an increase in training. Running training should be increased gradually
Eat what suits You! Large doses of supplementary vitamins and minerals (such as iron) are not essential and produce no benefits if you are already on a good mixed diet, but additional vitamin C in small doses is reasonable when fresh fruit and vegetables are in short supply.
Training (with adequate rest) helps you to sustain a high level of muscle glycogen as long as you eat enough carbohydrate. If you can, eat within the two-hour period after your long runs and your race. This will help to replace the muscle glycogen quickly and will speed up your recovery.
Do not change your normal diet drastically in the last week before a race, but eat less protein (meat) and eat more carbohydrate (pasta, bread, potatoes, cereals, rice and sweet foods) – especially for the last three days before the race, when you should also be markedly reducing your training. Eating more carbohydrate loads your muscles with glycogen and will delay or prevent you from ‘hitting the wall’. NB: you will not eat enough carbohydrate unless you reduce your protein intake.
Note also that depleting your carbohydrate levels with long runs and sticking to a low-carb diet, and then carbo-loading closer to your race, can make your muscles very heavy – and so this is best avoided. Make sure you include enough carbohydrate in your diet throughout your training.
Do not run a race if you feel unwell or have recently been unwell, even if you are raising money for charity. Most medical emergencies during races occur in people who have been unwell but do not wish to miss the event. If you feel feverish, have been vomiting, have had severe diarrhoea or any chest pains, or otherwise feel unwell, then it is unfair to you, your family, your sponsoring charity and the race support staff to risk serious illness and become a medical emergency. You are unlikely to do yourself justice, and there are many other races that you will be able to compete in.
On the Day
Use running shoes that you know from experience will not give you blisters, and wear appropriate clothes for the weather. The day before your race, make sure that you check the weather forecasts on the TV or on online / apps to help advise you on the coming conditions and prepare yourself accordingly.
WHAT TO DO IF IT’S A HOT DAY
You should forget about achieving a PB – instead, slow down and just enjoy the experience.
Even though it’s a hot day, you should only take one drink from drink stations (see separate notes on drinking) – (a) because you don’t need more; (b) you shouldn’t use one to pour over your head (drink it don’t wear it); (c) if everyone takes more than one drink, the drink stations will simply run out for the runners behind you – who will also be needing a drink!
Pack sun block (don’t smear loads on your forehead as you’ll end up with sweaty sun block stinging your eyes). Try using some sun block on a sunny training day to find the best type for you.
Wear a baseball hat. You can buy various brands of lightweight running hats – often with mesh top to keep the air flowing. The peak is ideal to keep the sun off your face, or (without trying to make a fashion statement) wear it backwards to protect the neck.
WHAT TO DO IF IT’S A COLD DAY
Turn up with some warm clothes that you can sensibly discard once the race has started.
Warm your muscles up before stretching them. Think of your muscles like putty: if it’s cold it can be quite brittle, but once it’s warm its very pliable.
You may want to wear some warmer clothing – ideally something that you can take off once you start to heat up, such as a hat and gloves.
Start the race slowly and let your muscles warm to the task ahead.
Once you finish make sure you have some warm clothes to change into ASAP.
AT THE FINISH
Do not stand about getting cold. Keep walking, especially if you feel dizzy, and drink to replace lost fluid. Go to the baggage area as soon as you can – where you should get your kit and change into warm, dry clothing – and then go to the reunion area. Note that foil blankets will not stop you from becoming cold! Keep drinking slowly and have something to eat. Some runners feel faint more than half an hour after finishing a race, often because they have taken insufficient fluid and/or not eaten anything. If this is the case for you, then DO NOT DRINK EXCESSIVELY – instead, drink in moderation and have something to eat.
FIRST AID ON RACE DAY
If you follow our advice above, you will probably not need medical aid on your race day. However, if you do find you need medical attention, go to one of the race’s First Aid posts, which will be located at various points along the race route.
Please keep this medical advice and refer to it throughout your training and nearer to the race day itself.
Common running injuries… and how to deal with them.
Although running injuries often display clear and distinct symptoms together with equally clear and distinct solutions, some will more readily respond well to self-treatment while others may require specialist attention. If you are unfortunate enough to pick up a running injury, check out the following realbuzz.com guide – which provides an insight into the top ten most common injuries and also details the appropriate action to take should you suffer from any of them. This guide includes advice on:
How to use this guide
It is extremely important to remember that although there are many common injuries, your injury is individual to you and a precise diagnosis can only be made by a qualified medical practitioner or physio/sports therapist. A specialist will be able to thoroughly examine you and professionally advise you on your particular condition – so make sure you visit one!
This guide will help you identify the most likely injury that you are suffering from and is categorised according to the relevant area of the body that it affects. So if you have pain when you run, please click on the links below, because prompt action can frequently speed your recovery.
1. Achilles tendonitis
2. Groin Strain
3. Shin Splints
4. Lower Back Strain
5. Hamstring Pull
6. Tennis Elbow
8. Runner’s knee
Get well soon…
There is a common theme running through the causative factors of many of these top ten running injuries, and that is: prevention is better than cure. By warming up, regularly stretching and keeping your body in balance, a great many injuries can be avoided. However, if injury does strike then prompt action is paramount to minimise downtime. When you are injured it will frequently pay dividends to seek professional advice and treatment, in addition to maintaining a home rehabilitation programme – which importantly should be continued with after you return to training so that the likelihood of re-injury is reduced. Get well soon!