Chicago Marathon Medical Director Offers Tips for a Healthy Race Day
Northwestern Memorial physician stresses the importance of early preparation
The 34th running of the Bank of America Chicago Marathon will bring 45,000 runners to the city. Serving as the Marathon’s medical director for the fifth year, George Chiampas, DO, emergency and sports medicine physician at Northwestern Memorial Hospital will lead a team of more than 1,200 medical volunteers from Northwestern Memorial as well as numerous hospitals and healthcare schools statewide to oversee the health and well-being of runners. While the medical team will tend to injuries or emergency situations that may arise, Chiampas offers runners tips to help them have a healthy marathon experience.
“Running 26.2 miles takes a significant toll on the body,” said Chiampas, who is also an assistant professor of emergency medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. “It is important to adequately prepare in the days leading up to the event.”
Chiampas recommends runners focus on the following as they prepare for the race:
Because the 26.2 mile run drains the body’s resources, pre-race nutrition is critical. The 48-72 hours and evening before the race, enjoy a meal full of carbohydrates and protein and do not consume alcoholic beverages.
Get a good night’s rest
In order to get plenty of rest, make sure to follow a regular sleep schedule during the week leading up to the race. This will guarantee you are well rested in case pre-marathon jitters prevent you from sleeping the night before you approach the starting line.
Check the forecast
Chicago’s unpredictable weather can cause race day temperatures to change throughout the day. Although it may feel cooler in the morning, it will feel 10 or more degrees warmer once you get going, and temperatures will rise throughout the day. Make sure to have multiple clothing options and apply sunscreen as needed. It is also important to follow the Event Alert System (EAS) tips that will be sent out via the Marathon.
Benefit from breakfast
Approximately two hours before your start time, eat a high protein breakfast combined with a good balance of carbohydrates and fat while avoiding sugary foods.
Stay with what you know
One of the biggest mistakes marathoners make is trying to change their routines on race day. It’s best to stick to the familiar. Wear shoes and clothes you’ve worn on long runs before and don’t try any new foods or drinks.
Oftentimes, the excitement of the race causes runners to get off to a faster start. This will hinder a racer’s performance and can lead to health problems during the competition. Instead, running at an even pace is most efficient and safest. Be prepared to adjust your pace if weather conditions change.
Both dehydration and over-hydration can pose serious threats to runners. Hyponatermia, a condition that occurs when fluid intake exceeds your rate of fluid loss from sweating, results in abnormally low blood-sodium levels. When this happens, your body’s water levels rise and cells begin to swell. Runners who experience symptoms of nausea, dizziness or disorientation should seek medical attention immediately.
After you cross the finish line, be sure to stretch thoroughly and ice any areas that are sore. While you celebrate your accomplishment, it is important to eat a high protein meal in order to help repair muscle damage and start your recovery phase.
As a Level 1 trauma center in close proximity to the race route, Northwestern Memorial is among the first-responder hospitals for race day emergencies. Emergency department physicians are prepared for the potential added volume of patients while Chiampas will manage medical needs along the race course.
“The Bank of America Chicago Marathon is an event that draws thousands of participants and volunteers and 1.3 million spectators who participate in race day activities,” said Chiampas. “We want everyone to have a safe and enjoyable experience in this great city and know that we are here if they need us.”
For more information about this year’s race, visit http://www.chicagomarathon.com/.