Akron Marathon experts provide running tips for everyone
The FirstEnergy Akron Marathon, Half Marathon and Team Relay hits the streets of Akron on September 24. The marathon, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary, is also a big community event, with thousands of supporters also lining the course.
This month Healthy Actions column, which is a monthly look at a medical topic of interest with a local medical expert, will focus on running. To read previous columns, go to www.tinyurl.com/BettyHealthyActions
I spoke to Dr. Nilesh Shah, Sports Medicine Physician for Summa Health, who is the Marathon Medical Director as well as Akron Rubberducks and Kent Roosevelt High School Team Physician, and Laura McElrath, Vice President of Operations and race director. for the marathon.
This is an edited version of the interview. There is also Now you know Akron podcast and a video available.
Laura, most Akronites know the “blue line” route, but give us some highlights
The FirstEnergy Akron Marathon is part of the Akron Marathon race series, which is a three-part series that spans the summer. There’s a mile and 8k in June, a 10k and half marathon in August and a full marathon, half and five-person relay on September 24 and a fun mile race for kids the day before the race.
We’re still kind of coming out of the COVID world. We expect around 8,500 runners this year and we will have spectators and volunteers on the course.
Tell me about the spectrum of people who go out and participate
We have an elite category where we choose 40 to 60 athletes. Many people don’t realize that runners come in all shapes and sizes.
The full marathon course (which is 26.2 miles) is open for 6.5 hours, which is a pace of about 15 minutes per mile. The half marathon (which is 13.1 miles) is open for 3.5 hours, or about a 16-minute pace.
Sometimes people can get scared of the idea of a big event and think they need to run less than 5 minutes or less than 6 minutes, but we try to open the course as long as possible to accommodate all abilities in the race.
Dr Shah, what advice do you have for people who are motivated to start running or walking?
Many people read or hear that when they talk about starting a new exercise regimen, you should consult your doctor. Do you really need to see your doctor? Taking a stress test and consulting your doctor is usually not necessary for the vast majority of people looking to start a light to moderate exercise program.
As long as they are rising slowly and appropriately, they do not need to see their health care provider. But there will be people who haven’t done anything for two years, especially with COVID, and if you have specific symptoms while resting or exercising or have a certain medical condition, you might want to see doctor. Things like chest pain or chest pressure with exercise, pain in the neck or jaw or left arm specifically with exercise, shortness of breath, unusual tiredness, ankle swelling or shortness of breath during night or feeling dizzy during exercise. Medical conditions would include previous heart problems, kidney problems, lung problems and diabetes.
If you don’t have any of these problems, but start having them while exercising, see a doctor.
Start with a walk-run program. Start with 15 minutes and break it up into five-minute segments. Walk for four minutes and run for one minute and repeat. Do this three times a week and take a day off every other day to recover.
If it went well, then change that ratio from five minutes to walk for three, run for two. Keep running some more until after about four weeks you’re running 15 minutes straight and then you can play with your numbers. There are many online tools like Couch to 5K or other things to progress slowly.
I train, but I hate running. I’m grumpy all the time and I don’t know if I should breathe through my mouth or through my nose. Any advice for others like me?
Choose what you like. Don’t force yourself to be a runner. Yes, we have all these great races in the Akron Marathon and they do a great job of including everyone. But if running isn’t for you, running isn’t for you. I prefer someone to do something. If they say “Oh, I’m not going to run and then forget, I’m just going to sit on the couch because I don’t want to go for a run”, I’d rather you get on the elliptical or the rowing machine or A bike.
When it comes to breathing, I tell people not to strain either. Do not think about it. When you’re tired, you’re tired and you’re going to breathe as much as you can.
(McElrath also suggests slowing your pace if you’re having trouble breathing; you may be trying to run too fast.)
What are the tips to protect your feet and protect yourself from periostitis?
The most important thing is a good pair of running shoes. We have a lot of specialty running shoe stores in our area and the people there are very knowledgeable.
I tell my patients to try on 10 pairs of shoes or as many as they suggest. They’ll let you run outside. Don’t just walk three steps in the store. Once you’ve narrowed them down to one or two, try one on each foot.
You might spend a little extra money at these specialty stores, but I think you’re paying for the service and knowledge. Also bring a good pair of running socks. It’s amazing how much difference socks can make.
You also need a good warm-up and for me it’s not just a static stretch of putting your leg on something or stretching your hamstrings. This is a dynamic warm-up with arm swings, leg swings, jumping jacks and lateral movements.
Then, for your cooldown, you can do a brisk walk or a bit of static stretching.
I have heard that there may be chafing problems in the chest area. No advice?
There can be a lot of friction issues if you run too long. It’s not just on the chest, but under the arms and between the legs. If you run long enough, it can become a problem. There are good things like skin lubricant to put on sensitive areas and even for your feet if you are prone to blisters.
What about food and water consumption?
As for hydration, if you’re going for an hour or less, you probably don’t need a lot of excess water or even an electrolyte replacement drink. I tell people to drink 8-10 ounces of water a few hours before you go for a run, then maybe another 8 ounces about 15 minutes before you go, then usually 8 ounces every 15 minutes you’re there.
If you’re going longer than an hour, you’ll probably want to make some sort of electrolyte replacement drink. For salty sweaters, or ones that have a higher concentration of salt in their sweat and where you can see a ring of salt on your hat or clothes after drying, they just need to replace some more of that salt and it won’t fair enough by drinking something like Gatorade. These people may need to take salt tablets to replace these electrolytes.
Laura, any other tips for beginners or moderate runners?
We have some training plans on the Akron Marathon website, www.akronmarathon.org.
Dr Shah, for people who have been preparing for the marathon, what advice do you have for them over the past few weeks? Should people stock up on carbs the night before?
If you’re really going to do carbo-loading the way it’s really prescribed is it’s really almost carb-restriction at first and then until the start of the week actually carb-loading at the beginning of the week, which is really a bit heavy for most people.
Honestly, it’s probably not necessary. Proper hydration and good sleep are the most important things. Most of us don’t sleep well, recover or rest.
For our education, our work, and our families, that’s usually what we skimp on. Get a good night’s rest, not only before the race, but also during your training.
On race day, train with some type of carbohydrate replacement. For the marathon we have gels on the course so make sure you know which ones we use (GU Salted Caramel and Three Berry Gels) as everyone’s stomachs are different in what they tolerate. Train with those on your long runs.
Laura, do you have any other advice as people head into race day?
Don’t try to pack all your training in the last 10 days before race day. It’s best to rest and recover, then be ready for race day. Be sure to take care of your body on these days instead of trying to adapt to the last long run or heavy training.
Beacon Journal consumer columnist and medical reporter Betty Lin-Fisher can be reached at 330-996-3724 or [email protected] Follow her @blinfisherABJ on Twitter or www.facebook.com/BettyLinFisherABJ and discover all her stories on www.tinyurl.com/bettylinfisher