UCSF Medical Experts Offer Tips to Marathon Runners

By Vanessa deGier on July 19, 2005
Doctors from UCSF Medical Center will be volunteering their time and medical expertise to assist runners at the 2005 San Francisco Marathon on Sunday, July 31. For the second year in a row, UCSF is the only medical center in the Bay Area to team up with the Red Cross and care for the thousands of individuals participating in the race. From patching blisters and icing sore joints to preventing life threatening injuries, the UCSF medical team from the departments of orthopedic surgery and family and community medicine will work with the Red Cross to ensure runners have a safe race, and when necessary, will be there to provide on-site emergent medical care. For the UCSF team, taking part in the marathon provides the opportunity to reconnect with the community and patients. For orthopedic surgeon C. Benjamin Ma, MD, volunteering is a passion. "I am inspired by watching individuals, especially my patients, who have overcome physical pain, debility and surgery to go the distance." Rehabilitation from a sports injury is only part of the process, however. "In sports medicine, we work to emphasis activity promotion and injury prevention," Ma adds. "The San Francisco marathon is a way for us to promote healthy activity." The UCSF medical team is providing these tips to help prepare marathon runners for race day: Stretching - Stretching helps to prepare the muscles for strenuous activity. Stretch before and after the marathon, concentrating on the legs, including the calves, hamstrings, quads and feet. Socks - Feet sweat during a marathon. Synthetic (acrylic) socks that wick away moisture from feet are the best choice for avoiding blisters and keeping feet cool. Runners should check that socks fit well and that the seams do not cause an area of pressure. Shoes - A good pair of running shoes that fit correctly can help runners avoid blisters and injuries. "Each step will generate force equal to three to four times your body weight across your knees, ankles and feet," says Anthony Luke, MD, MPH, primary care sports medicine specialist at UCSF Medical Center. Running shoes are designed specifically to take this kind impact and can dissipate the force while running. Shoes should be broken-in prior to the race. Orthotics - Most professional athletes won't run 26 miles on hard streets without them. Individuals with arch or heel pain can especially benefit from using orthotics. Make an appointment with an orthopedist or foot doctor to get the right orthotic for your feet. Nutrition - Eating on race day will help runners perform. UCSF dieticians recommend eating at least three hours before the start of the race. "This will give you enough time to eat a carbohydrate rich meal and have it mostly digested before the race begins," says Luke. Eat plenty of carbohydrates the evening before the race as well. Foods rich in carbohydrates such as pasta, bagels and bananas will help restore the body's glycogen levels. Avoid taking aspirin or ibuprophen before running. Kidney failure has been reported during marathons, in part due to these substances in the body combined with dehydration and strenuous effort that takes place over several hours. Hydrate - Hydration should begin at least 48 hours before the start of the marathon. The body needs time to fully hydrate in preparation for the race. Drink water during the race before getting thirsty. "By the time you start feeling thirsty, your body is already dehydrated," Luke says. "Each individual should learn how much fluid one's body needs during training and apply that in the race." After the race - Runners should continue to take in fluids and eat a small meal or energy bar within 15 minutes of finishing to aid in recuperation. Getting rest, icing sore areas and keeping feet elevated will also help to relieve pain and swelling. Ma and Luke also recommend remaining in the company of others for several hours after the race. Medical problems, including kidney failure, can occur after the race has ended, so someone should be nearby to help you get medical attention if needed, they say. Source: Vanessa deGier