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Marathon Preparation: How Should You Stay Healthy & Hydrated?

October 9th, 2016
Running a marathon is a major accomplishment.  Whether you are a seasoned veteran or aiming to finish your first 26.2, it is important to stay safe and run smart to ensure your best experience. Appropriate preparation is key to reaching your goals. Adequate nutrition and hydration will allow your body to function during the stress of marathon running.

For the last two to three days of preparation, you should focus on eating carbohydrate-rich foods which will provide fuel on race day. Carbohydrates, which stored as glycogen in muscle cells and the liver, provides the body’s most easily accessible energy source.

Once glycogen is depleted, the body switches to breaking down fats for energy, which is much less efficient. To maximize preparation, you do not have to change your overall calorie intake, however, the percentage of carbohydrates should be increased with healthy choices such as pasta, potatoes and fruit.

Staying hydrated during the race is crucial as well. Optimal intake of fluids is dependent on many factors, including body size, running pace and environment, including heat and humidity. For faster runners, drinking early will help to compensate for the slowed absorption of nutrients from the stomach. Slower runners must be careful not to overdrink, which may lead to hyponatremia, or dangerously low levels of sodium. Symptoms of hyponatremia range from nausea, vomiting, dizziness, confusion, headaches, muscle weakness and cramping to seizure and coma. Recreational runners should have a strategy to hydrate when thirsty without forcing themselves to drink at every aid station.

Katie Kelly, DO, an emergency physician at Good Samaritan Hospital Medical Center, advises runners to approach the event with caution. “The most important thing is to recognize your limits. Runners should watch for signs of serious illness, which include lightheadedness or dizziness, dangerous increases in heart rate, or chest pain and palpitations. We want everyone to reach their goals and have fun without endangering their health.” Medical staff from Catholic Health Services and Progressive Emergency Physicians will be on-site during race day to make sure that everyone has a safe and healthy experience.

For more information on the 2nd Annual Catholic Health Services Suffolk County Marathon or to register, visit