Philadelphia Marathon Survival Guide: Staying Injury-Free, Tapering and Race Day Prep
Staying Injury-Free, Tapering and Race Day Prep
Training and prepping for any race can take time. For a marathon, that training and preparation can start months in advance. If you’re gearing up for a big race soon, like the Philadelphia Marathon, it’s important to focus on staying injury-free, tapering and your race day prep—all to help ensure success on race day.
“Before training for any race, it’s important to make a plan that goes all the way to the moment you cross the finish line. Having a safe training strategy can help you reach your goal and decrease your risk of injury,” says Kevin DuPrey, D.O., Crozer-Keystone sports medicine physician. Make sure to discuss your plan with your doctor too to make sure it’s right for you.
Avoiding injury is sometimes difficult because you can get hurt in any number of ways while training or even racing. Whether it’s running with the wrong shoes or a minor injury that goes untreated, even the smallest problems can end up hurting you on race day.
Luckily, your best bet to avoid injury is to focus on three main aspects of your training: having a strong body, good form and wearing the right shoe.
Having a strong body may seem obvious, but it can impact how you run in more ways than you think.
“Strong muscles, ligaments and tendons, especially your core muscle group, are all important for maintaining good form. If some are weaker than others, they can cause your body to be out of balance and overwork certain muscles,” DuPrey says. “It’s important to make sure you’re giving attention to each muscle group to help avoid imbalances.”
While having good form could mean different things to different runners, most can agree it means maintaining good posture and stride. Some basics you can focus on when running are to keep your head up, shoulders back, arms bent at 90 degrees or less, and to maintain a short, quick stride.
Similar to having balanced strength, having a good shoe can make a difference in how you run. A good rule of thumb is to find the shoe that works for you based on your body structure, feet, and race goals. The experts at your local running shoe store can help you find the pair that’s right for you.
Tapering is the point in marathon training when you run less and rest more. Every good marathon-training plan should include tapering—typically in the last 21 days to race day. For some runners, backing off from training in the final days to the race can feel like they might lose everything they’ve built up.
“Rest is an important part of race training and can actually be more valuable in the final weeks before a race. When tapering, your muscle glycogen levels return to optimal stores after being depleted by intense training,” DuPrey says. “During this important recovery period, your body heals the microdamage to your muscles, which decreases your chance of injury right before and during the race.”
The aim (and importance of tapering) is to help your body recover after serious training for many weeks or even months. Overall, it can help minimize accumulated fatigue and even improve your performance during the race.
Race Day Prep
On the big day of the race, stick to a routine you’ve either done before or planned out. Remember the runners’ mantra: Nothing new on race day. This can help you avoid any surprises and issues you might encounter before getting to the starting line. Doing “dress rehearsals” during training runs is the perfect way to prep for a race.
It can actually be better for you to carbo-load a few days ahead of the race instead of trying to cram it all in the night before. This can help build up your glycogen reserves. These reserves are important for your muscle performance during the race.
For warming up, less is often more and it can all depend on your goal in the race. You want to avoid burning up your carbohydrate and glycogen stores before you get in the race. A quick walk, brief jog or stretching should last no more than 10 minutes to get your body moving, but not too much.
“Stay as relaxed as possible on race day, visualize yourself having a great run and be confident in all the training you’ve put in,” DuPrey says. “And most importantly, don’t forget to enjoy yourself!”