Marathon Race Tips

Nutrition

Elite runners have long understood the importance nutrition has on their race performance. Consuming the right food at the right time will afford you energy to train and recover more quickly from training sessions, especially when it comes to preparing for long distance races like the half and full marathon. Understanding what to eat and when makes a difference in tackling challenging races.

Running short distances, less than 10km does not require any particular nutrition plans. Training and racing longer distances does.

Consider a healthy diet rich in fresh fruit and vegetables, as they contain vital vitamins and minerals.

Most runners chose to consume moderate amounts of slow-release carbohydrates (such as oats, wholegrain pasta and brown rice)

Use lower intensity training days to consume protein, which is vital for muscle growth and repair.

Fats, in moderation, are part of a balanced diet.

Readily accessible muscle-energy is stored as glycogen. This is topped up through the consumption of carbohydrates and this is why some athletes ‘carb-load’ before distance races.

It's best so avoid spicy, high fat and high fibre foods before long run sessions.

You probably won't need extra fuel while training for less than 90 minutes. For longer sessions, readily digestible carbohydrates may be needed.

Aside from energy gels and drinks, some consume small portions of jellied sweets, bananas, oranges, dried fruit and nuts.

'Hitting the wall' is a term used by runners to describe the feeling when they run out of energy (when glycogen reserves are depleted) - typically around 30km into a full marathon. To avoid this, replenish your energy during the race. Perfect your own race-fuelling strategy during training.

Running can be a tool for weight loss, but only if accompanied by a healthy, balanced diet.

New runners’ tips

What equipment do you need to be able to take up running? Should you run on a treadmill? Is it okay to mix running with walking and is it normal to have sore muscles? Running should be straightforward, it’s what we all do as children, but any new sport can be confusing when first starting out.

The only kit you need is a pair of well-fitting running shoes. These should be replaced at around every 800km or at least once a year.

Speak to your doctor before undertaking any new activity.

Build up mileage and time spent training very slowly to avoid risk of injury. You are advised to follow a personalised training programme.

Ooredoo has partnered up with Endomondo training application to help you find a training plan to suit your goals.

Any sport-specific training programme will adapt the body to small stresses the training puts on it. You risk injury when these stresses are presented too quickly for the body to adapt to.

Rest and recovery is a vital part of any training programme.

You do not have to run on the road in order to train. However, treadmills do not entirely simulate the feel of a hard road surface

Runners often find that they need to do some running on the road to get used to it.

Try to find a running partner to train with, particularly if you will be running outside on the roads. Always carry your ID, emergency contact details and wear high visibility clothing particularly after dark.

Layer up in cooler temperatures, particularly if you are better acclimated to the heat. Warm up thoroughly to avoid injury.

Do not stretch cold muscles.

Wear loose clothing in hot weather and start your training slowly to adjust. If possible, run in the shade and always hydrate.

End your runs with a cool down before stretching.

It's normal to experience some muscles soreness and stiffness after training.

Your training plan should mix high and low intensity workouts with rest periods.

If you are at all worried that you may be injured speak to your doctor. Speed of treatment can help to reduce their severity, so you can return to training faster.

Cross-training – doing other activities such as cycling and swimming - can help to prevent repetitive overuse injuries.

Stretching and strength-based workouts such as yoga and pilates can also complement your running.

Marathon dos and don’ts

The big day has arrived, the gruelling hours of training are over, you’re feeling fit and energised, all set to attempt your first long distance race. Make sure that you know what to do, when and how, on the actual race day have a more enjoyable experience. Embrace those nerves, warm up, focus by following these key race and running etiquette dos and don’ts.

Dos:

  • Make sure you arrive well before the start time of your race.
  • Pace your race: Start out slightly slower in the race than you usually run. This will help your muscles to warm up and means you are less likely to run out of energy.
  • Listen to officials: The race stewards are there for your safety, listen to their instructions.
  • Respect other runners at water/ aid stations: Be courteous and try not to cut in front of other runners.
  • Cool down thoroughly: Take a few minutes to lower your heart rate and recover before heading to meet your family and friends. Your body temperature will drop quickly so it’s important to keep moving to stay warm. Stretch gently.
  • Rehydrate and recuperate: Keep consuming water and isotonic (electrolyte) drinks after you have finished, particularly if it’s hot. Replace lost body salts with bananas, recovery bars, fruit juices and milkshakes.

Don’ts:

  • Try anything new on race day: All your kit and nutrition and hydration strategies should have been tested before the race. Don't end up stopping because an untested part of your kit is causing problems.
  • Run if you are ill: If you have the flu, a feverish cold or a stomach bug, do not try to run. You would risk serious and long-term damage to your health.
  • Push your way to the front of the start holding area: its demoralising to be overtaken by hoards of runners because you cannot sustain the pace you set off at. Start further back, it’s much more rewarding to pass others.
  • Stop suddenly on the course: If you need to retie your shoelaces or remove a stone from your shoe, move to the side of the track.
  • Stop other runners passing you: Make way for those overtaking you. If you want to overtake, let the person ahead know that you are intending to pass and let them move aside.
  • Block the road: Be mindful of other runners who may wish to pass. Do not run in a group with friends during the race

Hydration

Everyone knows how important it is to drink enough water, don’t they? Yes, well imagine how much more vital water becomes while running and training hard. Athletes need to learn and test for themselves how to replenish the critical body salts lost during exercise and sweating. Learning when and how to consume isotonic drinks, and water can mean the difference between training and racing well or poorly.

Managing your hydration levels is important. Dehydration and over hydration can severely affect your performance.

Your body will use more water while exercising. You should start all training sessions well hydrated.

If training for more than 90 minutes, replace lost body salts with an isotonic (electrolyte) drink or additive. Test these products, as some people do not tolerate all of them.

You are more likely to get dehydrated in hot weather. Sip water regularly as you exercise and afterwards.

You can determine your estimated sweat rate by weighing yourself before and after running (wearing minimal clothing). Every 1kg lost is roughly equal to 1lb in sweat. This fluid needs to be replaced after running.

Urine is an indicator of the body’s hydration levels. It should be clear and pale straw-coloured or lighter at all times.

Avoid over-consumption of tea, coffee, and fizzy drinks. Caffeine and high levels of sugar and artificial sugars can trigger dehydration and gastro-intestinal discomfort.

Sip water so as not to cause gastro-intestinal upset while running.

Water and isotonic drinks will be available at regular aid stations during the Ooredoo Marathon races.

Runners should also be aware of the potentially life-threatening risk of hypernatremia. This very rare condition occurs when there is too much fluid in the body. Early symptoms include headache and confusion.

Final race day countdown

What you do on the days just before a long distance running race can seriously affect your performance. Putting your feet up and resting isn’t the only action you need to take to get your body to the start in the best possible shape. Ensuring you are properly hydrated, following the correct carbohydrate loading programme, and preparing your recovery plan, will all go towards making your race a day to savour.

A few days before your race

  • Eat more carbohydrates.
  • Do a few turnover runs, but do not risk injury.
  • Pack your running kit in your hand luggage if you are flying from abroad.
  • Start to get plenty of sleep a couple of days before the race.

The day before

  • Fill out the emergency contact details on the back of your number and pin it to the front of your running shirt.
  • Lay out the rest of your kit in preparation for the next day, including extra clothes.
  • Pack your post-race kit into your labelled drop bag (if applicable).
  • Plan your pre-race breakfast.
  • Arrange with friends and family the location at which you’ll meet them after the race.
  • Be familiar with car parking arrangements to save time.
  • Take a final look at the race route map to familiarise yourself with the general course, turning points and aid stations.
  • Rest as much as you can and try not to let nerves get the better of you.

On the race morning

  • Eat breakfast around three hours before the start of the race.
  • Mix any chosen electrolytes you will be carrying with you. Get to the race start well but not over hydrated.
  • Arrive at the race start well before the scheduled start. Pick up your number pack and attach your bib/number chip as directed.
  • Drop your post-race bag into the drop bag area (if applicable).
  • Be in the start holding area around 15 minutes before the scheduled race start. Stand near your appropriate pace board.
  • And smile - you’re going to have a great run! You’ve trained hard so enjoy the experience.
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