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Marathon Tips for First-time Runners

With race day fast approaching, don't change the methods that got you this far

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    NEWSLETTERS

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    Don't let the other 44,999 runners psyche you out.

    Running with 45,000 people tends to drown out those voices in your head.

    That’s according to Dr. George Chiampas, the Chicago Marathon’s medical director, who cautioned first-time runners not to get caught up in the moment when coming to the starting line on Oct. 9.

    “Be prepared,” Chiampas said. “You're going to be coming to a different type of setting where you are going to be running through a crowd with 45,000 other runners. I think a lot of times, first-time runners get overwhelmed by the crowd at the event. They've been running by themselves, only listening to their voices in their head.”

    With a little more than a week left before the 34th running of the Chicago Marathon, runners have started to taper down their training. Meanwhile, their nerves are kicking into high gear, especially for the some 15,000 first-time runners.
     
    “In this last week, there is a bigger mental and psychological impact on first-time runners,” Chiampas said. “They have to believe in the training that they've put in over the past five or six months. What happens before race day is that some of them start to doubt. They change their hydration pattern and their food intake when they really need to stick to the plan that got them to Oct 9.”

    One way to ease the nerves is to drive or bike the 26.2-mile course at some point before the actual race.

    “It helps to have a sense of the visuals you’ll see on race day, whether that be a building, a storefront or a corner,” Chiampas said.

    Both Chiampas and Wendy Jaehn, the executive director of the Chicago Area Runners Association, agree the biggest trap for first-time runners is over-hydration. On race day, they suggest mixing their water intake with Gatorade and gels, thereby consuming much needed sodium and electrolytes.

    “Make sure you hydrate but don’t overdo it," Chiampas said. "There’s no need to start drinking from Wednesday expecting to fill your tank."

    Jaehn said to start carbo-loading not just the night before, but a couple of days before, and Chiampas said runners should avoid non-steroidal medication such as Advil, Motrin or other ibuprofens the day before or the day of the race.

    “If you need to take anything, take Tylenol,” Chiampas said.

    If something does go wrong during the race, runners can stop at one of the 21 medical stations along the course. While first-time runners should trust their bodies, if they start feeling pain or discomfort they have never felt before, that should be cause for alarm.

    “Any sort of chest pain, headache or shortness of breath needs to be addressed immediately,” Chiampas said. “If you're experiencing any sort of hip pain, leg pain or anything causing you to change your gait, it should be checked out at one of the medical stations.”

    Weather for race day can be unpredictable—it could be cool and windy or hot and humid. Therefore, it’s a good idea for runners to wear an old sweatshirt and sweatpants they can drop at the starting line to make sure their bodies stay warm, Jaehn said.

    Both experts agree that getting to the start line is half the battle. The other half is finishing.

    “Make sure there are people there to meet you at the end,” Jaehn said. “Don’t set unrealistic goals. Your goal will be to finish. Just have fun with it.”

    Full Coverage: 2011 Bank of America Chicago Marathon