A Guide to Competing In Your First Overseas Marathon
For many runners, taking part in an overseas race is an exhilarating experience. But it could be daunting too, if you aren’t mentally and physically prepared for it. Mr Lim Hun Teck, Chief Physiotherapist, Raffles Rehabilitation Centre, shares five things you need to know.
Understand the climate
The climate can affect your performance. If your first race is taking place in a country with hot climate, you want to ensure that you are prepared for the humidity. This is because when you run, your core body temperature rises, and perspiring helps your body to stay cool. However, humidity prevents this process from taking place and thus the heat stays put. If your body heats up and dehydration increases, it enters into survival mode by maintaining blood flow to your essential organs, and to your skin for regulating body temperature. As such, there will be less blood to your GI tract, making the digestion of sports drinks or gels difficult, you may feel nauseous as a result. Heat tolerance differs in age and body size.
If you are running in a cold climate, you would want to prevent heat loss and a fall in the core body temperature. When the body’s temperature falls dangerously low, the cooled state is referred to as hypothermia’ or exposure’. The symptoms are poor control of movement, shivering, disorientation, poor judgment and reasoning. The two ways to cope with this problem are to produce more heat or reduce the amount being lost.
Adjust your training
In hot climates, Although it has been shown that physical training in cool conditions can improve tolerance to hot conditions, but in actual fact, full adaptation to heat can only be achieved in hot conditions.
On the other hand, in cold climates, it may take longer for your body to get used to running in the cold, so allocate more time to warm up and tweak your workouts to be a little lighter at first before picking up to help your body adjust.
Plan your schedule ahead and allocate a few weeks of training in an environment similar to the temperature that you will be running in, so that your body can adapt. Whenever possible, try to arrive at the destination of your race a few days before so that you are able to get a few light trainings and conditioning exercises in before the actual race.
Pack your gears
In hot climates, wear light-coloured clothing. Choose from technically designed apparels that pull moisture from your body, keeping your skin cool. Expose as much of the skin as possible to maximise the evaporation of sweat.
If you are running in a cold country, wear several thin layers of clothing helps to trap warm air between each layer, keeping you considerably warmer than if you were to wear one heavy layer. However, don’t overdress as your body will heat up as you start running. Materials such as polypropylene, capilene, and some wool / synthetic blends keep moisture away from your body and keep you as warm and dry as possible. You will also want to cover exposed skin as much as possible and change out of your clothes, especially if they are wet from perspiration after your race.
Since the body loses more water than electrolytes during exercise in hot climate, there is a greater need to replace water than electrolytes during periods of heavy sweating so drink up! On cooler days, when fluid losses are less, there is still a need to stay hydrated. A higher concentration of carbohydrate in the fluid can assist to maintain a stable blood glucose levels, this is when you should have a bottle of sports drink ready.
The most commonly used heat index in sport is the Wet-Bulb Globe Temperature (WBGT) index which includes measurements of air temperature (dry bulb), humidity (wet bulb), and radiant temperature. Understand the climatic condition of the country during the period that you’re going to.