Are You Marathon Ready?

Pro Triathlete Kelly Williamson undergoes a performance assessment at Memorial Hermann IRONMAN Sports Medicine Institute.
Pro Triathlete Kelly Williamson undergoes a performance assessment at Memorial Hermann IRONMAN Sports Medicine Institute.

There are 33 days until thousands of runners descend on Houston to fulfill their dreams of conquering 26.2 in the Chevron Houston Marathon. While veterans and beginners alike have put in months of preparation, decisions in these last few weeks could make or break their race.

Three experts at the Memorial Hermann IRONMAN Sports Medicine Institute, including Kimberly Gandler, M.S., sports biomechanist/exercise physiologist; Brett Singer, M.S., RD, CSSD, LD, sports dietitian; and Trevor Cottrell, Ph.D., CSCS, director of human performance , weigh in to ensure participants are marathon ready.

Strength Training. Proper strength training minimizes the occurrence of repetitive strain injuries, can help to improve gait, and can improve running economy.  It will not add non-functional body weight if done properly.  Seek out a well-credentialed strength coach in your area who has experience working with endurance athletes.

Shoes.  If you are thinking of wearing a new pair of shoes for the marathon, break them in now.  Start by wearing them only on short runs and slowly add mileage.  You should wear them on at least one long run, preferably two, to work out any issues you have prior to race day.

Recovery and Rest. At this point, rest and recovery is much more important than one more run during the week.  Listen to your body and prioritize a day of recovery over an extra short middle-of-the-week run.  Also, focus on getting a good night’s sleep every night leading up to race day.

Group of runners

Pacing. Practice your pacing for race day.  Especially now that the cold weather has moved in, utilize your first few miles to focus on nice and easy warm-up paces and make it your goal to negative split. Finish at a faster pace than you started.  If you cannot achieve this during training runs, there is a good chance you are going out too fast and come race day you may be faced with a rough final few miles.

Carbohydrates.  During the marathon you’ll need to consume carbohydrates to help fight off fatigue. Typically the goal is to consume 30-60g of carbohydrates each hour for activity lasting greater than 1.5-2 hours in duration. If you haven’t already, start incorporating carbohydrate sources into your long training runs. Find out which products work best for you, and establish a plan for whether you’ll carry your nutrition with you, or utilize the aid stations along the way.

Pre-Race Meal.  Pre-race nerves are a common feeling that can sometimes lead to gastrointestinal issues. Uncertainty about what to eat for breakfast and how your body will respond can only add to that anxiety. Test out your pre-race meals the next few weeks prior to long runs. Once you’ve established what feels most comfortable, utilize that same routine on race day.

Running shoes on the floor

Hotel/Restaurant Plans.  If you’re coming from out of town or plan to stay in a hotel near the race course, make your restaurant plans now. Since Saturday night restaurant waits can be lengthy, avoid the crowds and long waits and set up a reservation. If reservations aren’t available, determine which options in the area are best for you so you’re not stuck searching for a place to dine.  You’ll also want to determine what is available in your hotel. Is there a fridge or microwave available for easy food prep? Being proactive now will make decisions easier the week of the race.

Athletes looking for help to achieve their highest level of performance in the 2017 Chevron Houston Marathon can schedule an appointment at Memorial Hermann IRONMAN Sports Medicine Institute’s Human Performance Lab. The Institute offers performance testing services, including gait analysis, sports nutrition, and lactate threshold testing.  For more information, visit ironman.memorialhermann.org.

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Tashika Varma