Let me start by saying that the NYC Marathon is an excellent way of raising a ton of money for charity, which is one of the reasons we love it. It supports foundations ranging from the North Shore Animal League to the American Cancer Society. Aside from raising funds for good causes, it promotes physical activity, which is another reason we love it. However, we hate the marathon for the following reasons: INJURIES. Here are the 7 most common ways that our clients have been injured, and how you can prevent them while running in a marathon, or just the day to day. 1) Almost everyone will end the marathon with foot blisters. If you have put in your full training schedule, you will have been toughening your feet and building calluses. You will also have experimented with which combination of shoes, socks, drying agents, covering pads and lubricants work best for you. Blisters endanger your race when they occur in the early miles of the marathon and upset your usual gait for a longer period of time. It is best to stop at the first sign of a hot spot and cover the area with a gel bandage or moleskin pad. If a blister has already developed, you may want to sterilize the area, drain it, and then cover with the bandage or pad.
2) Black toenails: A black toenail is caused by a blister or blood pooling under the nail. During the marathon, this is most often caused by the repeated trauma of your foot sliding forward in your shoe with each step. You can prevent black toenails by lacing your shoes to retain your heel in the heel cup and prevent your foot sliding forward in the shoe. Often, you only notice the black toenail after the marathon, rather than it hurting during the marathon. You will lose the toenail and it will grow back over the course of three to five months.
3) Chafing occurs where skin rubs against skin. Add salt from sweat and you have raw, painful areas. The chief areas that chafe are the underarms, nipples, under-breast area, groin and thighs. As you discover on your long training days which areas chafe, take measures to keep those areas dry with cornstarch, or lubricate them with petroleum jelly or roll-on silicone products. If your marathon is in a different climate than your training days, you may chafe in new areas. Most marathons provide petroleum jelly at water stops. Take advantage of it to generously lubricate the areas that are chafing.
4) Dehydration: It is important to know how your body handles its needs for fluids by keeping track of it on your long training walk or run. Weigh yourself before and after a long session. You should neither have lost or gained weight. Signs of dehydration include dry mouth, fatigue, dizziness, stomach ache, back pain, headache, irritability and decreased urination. If you experience these, slow or stop and drink sports drink until you have recovered. It is unwise to continue the marathon once you have these symptoms.
5) Hyponatremia occurs when you drink too much fluid and your body doesn't have time to eliminate it. This dilutes the salt concentration in your cells, which is very dangerous. Signs of hyponatremia include nausea, headache, cramps, confusion, slurred speech, bloating and swollen hands. Stop and do not continue with these symptoms. Hyponatremia has killed runners during the marathon. A study at the Boston Marathon showed that hyponatremia is more common in marathon walkers and slow runners, who spend more time on the course drinking more fluids, regardless of whether they drank only water, only sports drink, or a combination. Don't drink when you aren't yet thirsty, unless your experience shows your sense of thirst isn't accurate.
6) Classic leg cramps can hit you during the marathon, especially if you experience dehydration and salt depletion. If a cramp strikes, stop and gently stretch and massage the cramped muscle. Drink sports drink to replace fluids and salt. But you may also experience strange cramps or muscle spasms in muscles anywhere in your body. This can happen from the strain of using the same posture and gait for several hours. To prevent these, work on proper posture throughout your training walks and runs. During the marathon, think of your posture and relaxing your shoulders. Change up your stride and pace on uphills and downhills. Have fun waving at the crowds or dancing past any on-course bands.
7) Sprains, Strains and Stress Fractures: In the crush of runners and walkers, or after long hours on the course, you may sprain an ankle, pull a muscle, or experience a stress fracture. Sharp, sudden, extreme pain that isn't a muscle cramp signals you to stop and signal for assistance from the course volunteers.
We support our clients who are running in the NYC Marathon this Sunday. Please be safe, stretch, get a massage, and take care of yourself!