Austin Sports Medicine Tip Sheet for Race Day

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Medicine in Motion helps athletes prepare for a racing event with an essential checklist of race day to-do’s

Austin sports medicine

Austin sports medicine

The wrong clothes, food or supplies can make a long run seem grueling or even cause a runner to not finish.

When it comes to preparing for marathon races or long runs, athletes train extensively for months at a time. But a successful race depends on more than just the ability to run long distances.

The wrong clothes, food or supplies can make a long run seem grueling or even cause a runner to not finish. The following is a list of considerations for runners on the day of their race prepared by the Austin sports medicine team at Medicine in Motion. The best athletes always come prepared!

1.    Don't do anything new. Race day is not the time for new shoes, new food or drinks, new clothing, or anything else that hasn't been done on several training runs. Stick with a routine that works.
2.    Eat first thing. Too many marathoners skip breakfast on race day, opting for just a cup of coffee and/or some sports drink. Runners need more than that. Without a simple, high-carb breakfast, a runner is going to be in trouble before reaching the finish line (and maybe even the halfway mark). Bananas, bagels, or energy bars are good picks.
3.    Don't overdress. Marathons often start in the cool of early morning, and it's easy to overestimate the amount of clothing needed. As a rule of thumb, it will probably feel 10 or more degrees warmer once racing begins, and temps will rise as the day goes on. Wearing too much clothing gives runners extra weight to carry. This can lead to higher perspiration levels, which can increase body temperature and risk of dehydration.
4.    Prevent chafing. During a marathon, every moving body part that can chafe will chafe. Little is more irritating and painful than skin rubbed raw. To prevent this, make sure shoes, socks, and clothing have no raised seams that will rub against the skin. Also, use Vaseline, BodyGlide, or something similar in key locations, including armpits, nipples and inner thighs.
5.    Wear sunscreen. Marathoners sometimes don't think about the fact that they're in the sun long enough to get sunburned. This is particularly true if racing for four or five hours, which takes runners into the high-sun time of the day.
6.    Arrive early for the race. Arriving early gives competitors sufficient time to warm up. Arrive about one hour early. This will ensure a good starting position and the best place in the parking lot, so walking back to the vehicle after an exhausting race will be minimal.
7.    Pin race number on shorts. That way, runners can fiddle all they want with upper-body apparel. If the temperature rises, athletes can peel off the long-sleeve shirt that kept them warm for the first three miles. If the wind kicks up, they can reach for the shirt that's wrapped around the waist.
8.    Go for the jolt. Twenty years ago, researchers thought that caffeine helped runners burn more fat, thereby sparing precious glycogen. That theory has been mostly disproved, but caffeine does make the marathon feel easier. Feel free to drink the normal amount of coffee before the race.
9.    Top off the tank. Most marathoners know enough to stay well hydrated in the days before their race. It's tough to super-hydrate, however, because the kidneys have time to release any excess water consumed. But in the final minutes to half hour before the start, the kidneys can be tricked by sneaking in a late drink. (Kidneys will mostly shut down once the hard running starts.)
10.    Keep warm-ups short. It makes sense to not warm up much before a marathon. After all, saving energy is a priority. But athletes actually run more efficiently if they loosen up the leg muscles first. About forty minutes before the race, spend several minutes with the warm-up program. Spend time going through a range of stretches, focusing on a number of muscles that are used when running, including: Achilles tendon, calf muscles, hamstrings, quadriceps, lower back, shoulders and neck.
11.    Run at an even pace. This is possibly the oldest and most important of marathon strategies. Laboratory data and experiences of countless marathoners show that even-pace running is the optimal approach. Runners may feel they’re moving too slow for the first several miles, but they’ll feel giddy when going strong and passing other runners in the later portion of the race.
12.    Fix it sooner, not later. Maybe that shoelace begins to come untied. Or perhaps chaffing is starting in that one particular spot. Or a pebble has taken up residence in the left shoe. These things don't go away on their own. The sooner they’re dealt with, the better runners will fair over the distance.
13.    Drink early (and late). When aiming for a fast marathon time, every ounce of fluid consumed helps maintain the blood flow to skin (for cooling) and to the heart and muscles. Since running hard slows the absorption of fluids from the stomach, runners need to begin drinking early to have the fluids become available later. If runners expect to run four hours or slower, be careful not to over-drink and develop hyponatremia. Drink when thirsty, and stop drinking if the stomach becomes uncomfortably full of fluids.
14.    Use some gel. Sports drinks contain carbohydrates and other good stuff, but gels provide a more concentrated source of carbs that can prove especially helpful in the last half of the marathon. Some experts recommend carrying four gel packs, and taking them at miles 10, 14, 18, and 22 during a full marathon.
15.    Draft off someone. The drafting effect isn't as strong in running as in cycling, but it's still there. Tucking in behind someone during a long race is considered a more efficient running style by many. Just be courteous and don't follow too closely, or better yet, agree to take turns leading to work together with the person.
16.    Don't charge the hills. The goal in marathon running is to maximize efficiency over 26.2 miles. That's why drafting works. And it's why running hard up the hills doesn't work. From an energy-output perspective, runners gain more speed by putting effort into the flats than the hills. When on the hills, just relax. Don't worry about those people who are passing. That ground will be made up later.

Medicine in Motion (MIM) specializes in providing top quality sports medicine in Austin, Texas, for athletic individuals of all ages and levels. The staff at MIM believes active bodies are healthy bodies, therefore it is the office's goal to keep patients energetic and fit. To that end, MIM provides treatment of injuries and illnesses, including the use of physical rehabilitation; promotes healthy living with personal training and nutrition coaching; and offers comprehensive sports medicine evaluations to optimize health, activity level and sports performance. For more information or for questions regarding sports medicine in Austin, contact Medicine in Motion at 512-257-2500 or visit the website at

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Daniel Harvell
since: 11/2010
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