In half marathon events anything can happen. Even the most experienced half marathon runners have been known to develop medical problems during the course of the 13.1-mile event. The most common problems are weather related heat or cold stress, dehydration and exhaustion. Muscles strain and blisters are also common occurrences. This advice sheet supplements any advice that you may have already received from your personal physician and trainers.
If you have any current medical or mental health conditions that make running a half marathon a risk, such as, but not limited to diabetes, epilepsy, asthma, coronary history, or recent surgery, please:
- Notify the event medical staff in advance. We are here to support you, and are located in the large white tent at the finish line on race morning.
- Place an “X’ across the front of your race number to let us know you may need extra care. On the back of the bib write the details of your condition, especially any medication that you may be taking.
- If you are regularly taking medication prescribed by your physician, do not interrupt your routine.
Before the event, eat familiar foods. Do not make any drastic changes. This means if you are not accustomed to pizza, do not eat pizza. Many people carbohydrate load prior to the race by increasing the intake of pastas, breads, potatoes, cereals, rice and sweets. At the same time your mileage should be reduced and the amount of rest you get increased. Excessive carbohydrate loading can cause stomach irritation.
Large volumes of fluid are lost though sweating. The body rapidly becomes dehydrated during the course of a half marathon. It is important to drink plenty of fluids for several days prior to the event, as well as during the race. Drink enough fluids to maintain an abundant amount of pale urine. Drink plenty of fluids throughout the race, even before you feel thirsty, especially during the first half.
Alcohol and caffeinated drinks are dehydrating. For example, if you drink a pint of beer or coffee, you will produce more than a pint of urine. Thus, excessive consumption of caffeinated or alcoholic beverages can be dangerous prior to running a half marathon. If it is raining, continue to hydrate by mouth during the event. Rain does not substitute for internal hydration.
It is important to wear comfortable clothing. Irritating spots such as tags and seams should be examined. They can rub, irritate and possibly cause bleeding. This is also true for shoes. Make sure the shoes you are wearing are well broken in, yet still have plenty of life left in them. Blisters are a well-known nemesis to runners & walkers.
Properly fitting shoes and quality socks can prevent such occurrences. Petroleum jelly or Glide may reduce irritation at sensitive spots such as nipples, inner thigh, underarms and toes.
The Night Before
Relax and enjoy yourself. Drink plenty of fluids and eat plenty of carbohydrates. Lay out your singlet, shorts, socks and shoes. Make sure nothing is missing. In the morning you will not have time for last minute adjustments.
This also helps prevent surprises at the starting line. Double check that you have your running bib with number and attached timing tag.
Make sure your relatives know your race number. Carry a cell phone. If you don’t feel well at the start of the race, DON’T RUN. Most medical emergencies occur with people who have not been feeling well prior to the event. If you feel feverish, have been vomiting, have diarrhea or any type of chest pain, it is unadvisable for you to jeopardize your health for one race. There is always next year, or another event. Wear appropriate clothing for the weather.
ON A COLD DAY wear several layers that may be shed during the course of the race if needed. A hat and gloves are easily carried and prevent a great deal of heat loss. IF IT IS HOT, wear loose clothing, preferably a wicking material that enhances evaporation. If it is sunny, try to run in the shade as much as possible and drink whenever you can. Starting the race well hydrated will help prevent muscle cramping and dizziness in the later stages of the race.
The Finish Line
At the finish line, DO NOT STAND AROUND OR STOP. Regardless of the weather, it is important to keep moving. Your circulatory system is your body’s antifreeze and coolant; therefore, your body needs to keep moving to keep your blood moving. If you stop too soon it is easy to become too hot and hyperthermic.
It is equally important to keep moving in cold weather, because body movement produces heat and circulation prevents body parts from getting too cold. Foil blankets will help you stay warm, but may not prevent you from becoming too cold. Therefore, it is important that you have additional layers or change into dry clothes immediately, especially if the weather is cool. Keep drinking plenty of fluids to help relieve your body of muscular by-products.
Fluids and foods are available in the recovery tent at the finish line. Massage is available at the finish festival and may aid in the recovery process. Make sure you hydrate and eat food before consuming alcoholic beverages and be sure to monitor your consumption at the festival. If you are feeling ill or weak, you need to get rest and/or medical attention.
Where Can I Get Help?
On the Course:
A Medical Aid Station will be available at mile 5.8; the medical personnel will have red shirts with a medical cross on them. They are equipped to assist with minor emergencies and will properly direct those with major emergencies, including calling for the on-course ambulances for assistance. If elsewhere on the course and need assistance, go to the nearest aid station for assistance.
If you are unable to finish the race, stop. The SAG vehicle will provide transport back to the finish area, but not to the medical tent. If you require medical attention, please proceed to a hospital.
At the Finish:
A comprehensive medical aid station is available where you can receive temporary treatment for medical conditions. If you proceed into the Wine & Music Festival and decide you need medical assistance, return to the medical tent.
Make sure your relatives know your race number. Carry a cell phone. Be courteous to other runners. Have FUN!