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How to prepare yourself before a marathon run? by Dr William Chan

After the giving my talk on sports injuries, many runners often ask me about their own injuries. From my experience as a marathon runner and running the sports clinic over the years, I can reassure the public that running is still a very safe sport. You can reduce your risk of injury in many ways. One of them is the way you prepare yourself for the run.

After registering yourself for the run, how do you prepare yourself for the run? There are four important aspects before a run; these are training, shoes and clothes, food and rest.

If you're not ready by now, it's far too late to prepare yourself if your 42 km run is next week. I often hear athlete telling me about their last minutes training before a competition. Some runners desperately try to cram in as many kilometers as possible in the last week. It will only make things harder on the big day. Your body is exhausted and your legs are too sore to run.

By now your long runs should be well behind you and your last two hour-plus run should be a few weeks ago. Take it easy and save your strength for the race day.

The week before the run, on Tuesday and Thursday, do a short run of about four to six km at an easy pace. You should rest for two to three days before the race day. You need to stretch your muscles daily even when you are not training.

Shoes and clothes
It is not the time to use your new pair of shoes for this coming long run. Experienced runners will tell you that you'll be experiencing yourself a few painful days if you do. Using a brand new pair of shoes just before a competitive long run is not a good idea.

Running a half or full marathon in shoes or clothing that havenít been broken in is asking for injuries. Wearing new clothes may cause bleeding and chafing. Using a pair of new shoes may cause blisters on your feet by the time you reach the finishing line. Stick with the most comfortable clothes that you has been using during training and don't waste any time worrying that you might not look your best.

During your training your body burns off extra carbohydrate to burn. This is a sure way of losing weight compared to using diet pills. By now you'll be used to eating meals that comprise about 70% carbohydrate - noodles, potatoes, fruit, bread and rice.

Some experts believe that an increase in carbohydrate intake of up to nearly 100% in the two days before a run - a practice known as carbo-loading - will increase your chances of getting through the race without hitting the wall (the point at which your body has exhausted all available supplies of energy). Others disagree. Either way you should be eating plenty of high carbohydrate content food, less fatty food and drinking lots of non-diuretic fluids (i.e. water and fruit juice rather than bear, tea or coffee).

On the morning of the run have a couple of slices of toast or bread, a bowl of cereal or noodles and a cup of juice or milk. Most runs in Malaysia are in the early morning. It is common to hear many runners run without breakfast. If they do eat, some of them eat too close to the run and cause stomach upsets.

A quick and simple energy supply for many regular and top runners is PowerBar and PowerGel. During my run or training these days I often eat one PowerBar with 500ml of water the moment I get up from the bed. By the time I arrived at the run it is about one hour later. The PowerBar can easily provide me with one hour of energy for my run. If the run is more than one hour, then one PowerGel will help to maintain the energy requirement for every half hour. Do carry a high-energy PowerBar or PowerGel in the mid-to late stages of the race to recharge your energy. Always practice using PowerBar and PowerGel during training before the race day.

Sports drink like 100Plus and Excel are also an excellent source of liquid carbohydrate before and during the run. The drink helps to ease the thirst and hungry feeling very quickly. Practise drinking sports drinks during training and drink plenty of fluid the day before the race.

Take it easy one week before the race. Your body is about to undergo the biggest test of endurance. Get lots of sleep and rest. It is not the time for late night and long hours of shopping. The night before, after a high carbohydrate meal go to bed early. If your muscles are sore or tight, a relaxing massage a day before is beneficial.

Questions to Dr William Chan can be directed to him. His contact number is 03-563 55113 or 012-252 1898. His e-mail is See also the Sports and Backcare Specialist page.



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