Marathon Medical Director Offers Tips for a Safe, Healthy Race

Northwestern Medicine
News October 09, 2014
The 37th annual running of the Bank of America Chicago Marathon® will host approximately 45,000 participants running a 26.2-mile course on Sunday, October 12. For the eighth consecutive year, Northwestern Medicine emergency and sports medicine physician George Chiampas, DO, will serve as race medical director leading more than 1,500 dedicated medical volunteers to ensure the safety and well-being of all runners and spectators.

George Chiampas, DO“The Bank of America Chicago Marathon is a celebration of the wonders of the human body and spirit, but running 26.2 miles will take its toll on even the most prepared runner,” said Chiampas, who is an emergency medicine specialist at Northwestern Memorial Hospital and is an assistant professor of emergency medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.  “To ensure their health and safety, runners must prepare appropriately in the days leading up to the event.”

Chiampas suggests the following tips for runners as they prepare for Sunday’s race:

  • Eat smart. Pre-race nutrition is critical as the 26.2-mile run drains the body’s resources. Runners should avoid sugary foods and alcoholic beverages beginning 48 to 72 hours prior to the marathon. The evening before the race, Chiampas recommends eating a meal full of carbohydrates and protein such as pasta, rice, fish or chicken. On race day, runners should eat a high protein breakfast with a good balance of carbohydrates and fat approximately two hours prior to their start time. 
  • Get a good night’s sleep. Runners should follow a regular sleep schedule during the week leading up to the marathon. This will ensure they are well rested in the event pre-marathon jitters disrupt sleep the night before the race.   
  • Check the weather. Chicago meteorologists are predicting temperatures in the low-60s for this year’s race. Although it may feel cooler in the morning, it will feel at least 10 degrees warmer on the course and temperatures will rise throughout the day. Dressing in layers allows runners to shed clothing as needed. 
  • Listen up. Changing conditions on the race course will be communicated through the Event Alert System (EAS). Runners should remain aware of the EAS and listen for updates throughout the run. Updates will be made via the public address system and color-coded flags at the start and finish areas, as well as the aid stations along the course. 
  • Stick with what you know. Runners should stick to their routine and not make changes on Marathon Sunday. Stick to familiar clothes and shoes worn on previous long runs and don’t experiment on race day with new foods or drinks. 
  • Pace yourself. Don’t let the excitement of the starting line throw off your pace. Running at an even pace is most efficient and safest, but be prepared to adjust pace if weather conditions change. 
  • Hydrate regularly. Both dehydration and over-hydration can pose serious threats to runners. Hyponatremia, which occurs when fluid intake exceeds your rate of fluid loss from sweating, results in abnormally low blood-sodium levels. When this happens, the body’s water levels rise and cells begin to swell. Race participants who experience symptoms of nausea, dizziness or disorientation should seek medical attention immediately. Medical volunteers are stationed at 20 aid stations along the racecourse to help runners in need, as well as an additional station in the last mile of the race.   
  • Post-race routine. Congratulations on making it to the finish line. After crossing the finish line, be sure to stretch thoroughly and ice any sore areas. While celebrating, eat a meal that is high in protein to help repair muscle damage and start the post-race recovery phase. 

As a Level 1 trauma center close to the race route, Northwestern Memorial is among the first-responder hospitals for race day emergencies. Emergency department physicians are prepared for the potential added volume of patients while Chiampas will manage medical needs along the course. Northwestern Medicine volunteers will also be working with Chiampas on the marathon route. 

“We want to have a safe and enjoyable experience for those participating in the Bank of America Chicago Marathon and the more than 1 million anticipated spectators,” Chiampas said. “We encourage everyone to familiarize themselves with these safety tips and to not hesitate to reach out to the medical staff if they have medical concerns along the race route. We’ll be here on race day if you need us.”

Northwestern Medicine’s new Center for Comprehensive Orthopaedic and Spine Care will offer a robust sports medicine clinic, including a rehabilitation program for sports injuries. The center includes a multidisciplinary team of experts trained to treat the full spectrum of sports-related injuries. The center will debut on Monday, October 13, at 259 E. Erie, the newest pavilion on Northwestern Medicine’s Streeterville campus, home to Northwestern Memorial and the Feinberg School. To learn more about the Comprehensive Center for Orthopaedic and Spine Care call 855.466.7746. 

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