A 22-year old runner died in the Chicago Half Marathon yesterday, probably a victim of the record high temperature. When I ran the Nashville Half Marathon in 2009, also in record high temperature, we had a similar experience: another young runner died. Why does this happen?
I found myself asking this question as I went for my morning run today. With 101 degrees forecast, we are under a weather advisory, with the National Weather Service advising us to “reschedule strenuous activities to the early morning or mid- to late-evening hours.” I intended to take a long run this morning, but decided to cut it short when I realized how hot I was getting.
As runners, we are always tempted to push past our limits: it’s in our nature to see how much harder or faster we can run. With experience, though, we learn that sometimes pushing too hard can be dangerous: we want to live to run another day! It’s generally the younger, less experienced runners that succumb to the heat.
The lesson? Know when to quit! During the 2009 Nashville Half Marathon, I recognized that I was becoming dehydrated and overheated, with a section that had a paucity of water stations. I didn’t drop out, but I decided it was safer to quit running and walk until I could obtain some relief. No, I didn’t beat my anticipated time, but I finished strong and healthy, and was able to run again in 2010.
It’s fun to break your personal record, but not if you lose your life in the attempt.
It’s race day morning, and you’re fired up!
Your training didn’t go quite according to schedule, but you took my advice and left enough lagniappe to take care of it. You’re trained and ready, and excited to be going in for your first really big race.
You set out all your gear the previous evening to be ready for your big day. The start is at 8:00 am, and you have been told to be there by 7:30. It’s an hour’s drive, but with 50,000 runners arriving at 7:30 you decided it would be safer to leave at 6:00.
To give yourself plenty of time to get a snack and a bathroom break, you got up at 5:00 am. Now it’s 7:45 and you’re in the line getting ready for the start. Being a middle-of-the-pack runner, you’re in group #23 of 50. (Sometimes these are called “corrals” or “carousels” or some other name, but I’ll call them groups for today.)
The excitement builds, your adrenaline is kicking in and you’re getting thirsty. You drink another bottle of water as you listen to all the build-up. Now it’s 8:00 am, and the elite runners are off!
Suddenly you realize that you need another potty break. The excitement, the water you drank, the unfamiliar routine have all conspired. You realize that a diarrhea attack may be coming and you might need to find a porta-potty fast.
You’re embarrassed, but don’t be! It happens to the best of us. Poor Paula Radcliffe got caught during a race (with no porta-potty) and, of course, a press photographer could not resist really embarrassing her.
But the race has started, and your group is moving up fast. What to do?
First, calm down. It’s not the end of the world, but you do need to take care of your problem. Your group will probably have gone long before you return, but so what?
These days, big races are all chip-timed, so your time will be taken from the moment you start, not from when your group starts. So, even if you’re not sure if you need the break, it’s better to take it now rather than during the race, when the time out will be included in your race time. So take the break, join a later group if necessary, and start when you’re ready: you’ll be more comfortable, and your time will still be good!
Take care of yourself, enjoy the race, and accept the pre-race jitters. (They won’t hurt, and might even help your performance.)
And you thought running was just about running!
Knee Pain affects every runner at some time. We tend to believe it is running that causes it, but the truth is that any activity can cause knee pain – skiers, soccer players and windsurfers all suffer from knee pain. As runners, we tend to notice it more, because we practice our sport pretty much on a daily basis.
I have been fortunate enough to avoid knee pain almost entirely, except for occasions when I have suffered from a knee injury. Towards the end of this post, I’ll reveal what I believe to be my secret, but meanwhile I would like to give you the benefit of a newsletter I received from my physical therapist, Dallas Williams. Here it is in its entirety:
“Dallas, sometimes when I am running sprints or even long distance I feel this overwhelming pain around my knee cap. What is this pain, and do you have any solutions to remedy my pain?”
“Common causes of runner’s knee are pain, overuse, muscle imbalance, and tight hamstrings, but there are several other factors. Initially, rest is a good treatment choice for runner’s knee. Following rest; the RICE principle (rest, ice, compression and elevation), gentle stretching to all the tight muscles around the knee, and a treatment program that incorporates strengthening of the muscles that stabilize the knee joint. Make sure you pay attention to what your body is saying and don’t get back to the track before your body is ready!”
Assuming that you are experiencing the pain as described, Dallas’ recommendations are perfect, but of course, if you have a serious knee injury, such as a meniscus or anterior cruciform ligament tear, more work may be required. Ruling out serious injuries, then, following these recommendations will rehabilitate the knee. The question remains how to avoid the problem in future.
The strengthening exercises help, especially if you continue them for the rest of your running life. The strength training program I use includes knee exercises, but many runners quit doing additional exercises soon after the pain has gone. Strength training and stretching are both essential to running health.
I also believe supplementation can help. Supplements can never compensate for weak muscles or tight hamstrings, but they can help our cartilages remain young and pliant. I attribute my own freedom from knee pain to taking a glucosamine supplement daily. Very occasionally, I will start to feel pain in my knees or other joints, and when that happens I switch to a different formula. You see, the problem with glucosamine is that it takes months to be really effective.
So, if you already have knee pain, here is the protocol I recommend, based on my own experience:
1. Take a fast acting supplement until the pain disappears. This will normally occur within a week or two. If it’s not gone after a month, you might want to seek a medical opinion: more drastic measures may be necessary. The product I use is Fast Acting Joint Formula.
2. Now take a good glucosamine-based supplement daily. Do not quit taking it because your knees aren’t hurting: this is a supplement that will benefit your joints for the rest of your life if you continue to take it. If you can’t tolerate it, or don’t like taking supplements all the time, go back to the previous step every time you have knee problems, but recognize that your running life (and your active life) may be limited due to your joints aging.
1. I have absolutely no medical training and nothing I say should ever be taken as medical advice: only your doctor can provide that. I take no responsibility at all for what might happen to you from following my advice, and you should assume I don’t know what I’m talking about. What works for me and thousands of other runners may not work for you.
2. There is a distinct possibility that I might one day get a small commission if you ever buy enough of the Joint Formula. I have never received one so far, but when I found out that the company I use has an affiliate program, I joined it in case one day someone bought some of their products on my recommendation.
3. There – now you know!