On Pace To Race: Injury Prevention For Marathon Runners

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ROSEMONT, Ill. — On the brink of Chicago’s popular marathon, 45,000 marathon runners from all 50 states and more than 100 countries will turn corners and pick up their pace for the big race in October.

But training for a 26.2-mile race is no easy feat, which is why it is so important to take precaution and keep your body in tow to prevent injury before, during and after the race. The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) urges runners to follow a running regimen that suits their activity-level and to not overlook aches and pains, no matter how minor they may seem.

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“Completing a marathon is a huge accomplishment, but what many people don’t realize is that just getting to the starting line is half the battle,” said Ron Noy, MD. “Many common overuse injuries, such as tendonitis, shin splints and stress fractures, which take runners out of the race, can be prevented.  Have at least a year of consistent running under your belt before beginning marathon training and then find a progressive program that matches your skill level.”

  • According to the Running USA Road Running Information Center annual marathon report, 2009 saw a record 467,000 U.S. marathon finishers, an increase of 42,000 over the previous year.
  • In 2009, more than 165,000 people were treated in hospitals, doctor’s offices and emergency rooms for running injuries, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Preparing for a 26.2-mile race means high mileage, and high mileage means runners are spending more time on their feet and out in the sun than ever before, making them vulnerable to a number of injuries. The AAOS wants to help these athletes get to the finish line safely and offers the following training and injury prevention tips:

  • Throw out old athletic shoes. After 250-500 miles of use, 60 percent of a shoe’s shock absorption is lost.
  • Take the time to warm up. A good warm up prepares your body for more intense activity. It gets your blood flowing, raises your muscle temperature, and increases your breathing rate.
  • Avoid doing too much, too soon. Planning a progressive running program that also includes stretching, warm-ups and cool-downs will help prevent injuries. A running group is another option that allows runners to follow a program that will gently build up mileage, and do so at a realistic pace. Keep in mind to gradually increase your mileage, no more than 10% per week and allow yourself at least one day off each week.
  • In high altitudes, runners should gradually acclimate themselves to lower oxygen levels, by slow, steady increases in speed and distance.
  • During hot weather, running should be scheduled in the early morning or evening hours, to avoid heat exhaustion. Keep hydrated and wear at least SPF 15 sunscreen, sunglasses and a hat with a visor to help stay cool.
  • In cool weather, you are less likely to get chilled if you run into the wind when you start running and run with the wind at the finish.
  • Make sure you have access to water on your route. You can lose between six and 12 ounces of fluid for every 20 minutes of running. For every pound lost, drink one pint of fluid.
  • Just as a warm up prepares your body for exercise, an effective cool down gives your body time to recover. Once you are breathing easily, stretch while your muscles are still warm.
  • Rest days are just as important as training days. Give your muscles the time they need to rest and rebuild each week to avoid overuse injuries.

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