Tips To Prevent Marathon Runners From Getting Sidelined With Injuries Come Race Day


Special to rgVision

Marathon training season has kicked into high gear and along with this comes injuries, according to Loyola University Health System sports medicine physicians. The most common injuries in marathon runners are shin splints, iliotibial band syndrome, which leads to pain on the outside of the knee and hip, stress fractures, muscle strains, and patellofemoral pain syndrome, which causes pain under and around the knee.

“These injuries often result from overtraining or increasing mileage too quickly,” said Haemi Choi, MD, who specializes in sports medicine at Loyola and plans to run the marathon in October. “That is why it is important to build up mileage slowly and take rest days.”


Athletes also put themselves at risk for health issues, if the number of calories they burn from exercise is greater than their caloric intake from food. Women in particular tend to not alter their diet to compensate for the rigorous training endurance sports require, so they are at greater risk for health problems.

“Energy requirements increase as the amount of distance you run increases, so proper nutrition during marathon training season and the race is essential,” said Jim Winger, MD, who also specializes in sports medicine at Loyola. “Consuming small, balanced meals every three to four hours ensures energy levels support training needs.”

Carbohydrates are an essential component of a marathoner’s diet. A training diet should consist of 65 percent carbohydrates, 25 percent protein, and 10 percent fat, which will vary depending on an individual’s energy requirements. Runners also should eat 30-45 calories per kilogram of weight daily and adjust this based on exertion levels.

“Endurance athletes should consume a small snack or meal at least one to two hours prior to exercising consisting of carbohydrates with a low to moderate glycemic index,” Dr. Choi said. “Low glycemic index foods such as bananas and apples are preferable, because they enter the bloodstream slowly and provide sustained energy for longer periods of time.”


Drinking to thirst also is critical. This ensures that athletes are not dehydrated or consuming excessive amounts of fluids, which can put them at risk for hyponatremia. This condition, which can be fatal, occurs when sodium levels are diluted in the blood. One way to determine if a runner is over or under hydrating is by checking pre- and post-body weight after a long run. Athletes who gain weight are at significant risk for hyponatremia.


Clothing that wicks away sweat from the skin will help to keep runners dry and comfortable while exercising. Athletes should avoid wearing new clothes or running shoes on race day, as this can cause blisters and chafing. Body glide is an effective tool to prevent chafing. Shoes also should not be worn for more than 300 miles. If necessary, they should be replaced three to four weeks prior to the marathon to ensure the feet adjust to the new fit.


Runners should sleep at least eight hours a night while training. However, every individual has different needs and may require more than eight hours a night. Runners should practice good sleep hygiene and avoid running right before bed. Sleep allows the muscles to restore energy necessary to recover and train. Insufficient amount of sleep can lead to fatigue and lack of energy, which can hinder the training process and race day performance.


Warming up before exercise is helpful, but it is more important to cool down and stretch for at least 15 minutes after running. This helps with muscle recovery, flexibility and injury prevention.

Source: Loyola University Health System