Health Corner

The aim for the check up is to minimize the risk of injury during the race. Since there might be some underlying health problems which may not be known by the runner, the underlying problems may be triggered and accident may happen if the runner has joined the intensified race.

The runner should not join the race if any of the following has been confirmed in the health check: 1) heart disease (including coronary heart disease, serious arrhythmia, uncontrolled hypertension and myocarditis. 2) cerebrovascular disease 3) uncontrolled diabetes 4) chronic lung disease 5) abnormal functioning of liver or kidney 6) common cold with wheezing and palpitations one week before the race.

After digestion, nutrients from food will be absorbed by the body. However, the undigested part will be stored in the rectum and bladder as metabolic waste. This will increase the weight and load in the body and this can lead to the feeling of emptying during the race. Apart from this, when the bladder is filled with urine, collision during exercise will increase the risk of rupture of the bladder wall due to its thinness. Therefore, emptying of urine and feces is necessary.

Marathon is an endurance aerobic exercise. The central nervous system (CNS) must be activated before the race begins. The activation of the CNS can increase the coordination of other systems such as the skeletal muscular system, cardiovascular system and the respiratory system. An enhancement in body temperature, muscle coordination, extension and flexibility is established through warm up exercise. Fatigue, muscle stiffness and ache and short of breathe might occur if warm up exercise has not done enough, and in some case, runner may be forced to stop the run. Therefore, we need to get well prepared before the race in order to achieve optimal status for the run and to avoid injury and accident to happen.

Stress, nervous, excitement, anxiety, restless, sweating or diuresis may occur prior the race. All these factors increase the load of the nervous system and the body, this can lead to getting tired easily during the race and therefore affecting performance and the final outcome. In order to relief the stress, we can shift our concentration on other thing such as doing some light and relaxing activities, listening to music and massage etc.

The type of footwear that you should choose is that which can cushion and protect your feet from getting hurt and tired easily. The size should not be too tight or too loose and should be comfortable to wear. If the size is too small, aching and blister may result. However, if the size is too big, force exerting will be blunt and feet are more prone to get hurt. The best footwear should be 80% new as we can be adapted to the new footwear before the race and can minimize the risk of getting blister. Furthermore, its elasticity and softness will be much better than brand new shoes. Slipping and falling can be prevented as the sole of the footwear has not been worn off. If the shoelace has been loosen, do not tighten it in the middle of the racing track, tighten it at besides to minimize accident.

During the marathon, fluids are lost, mainly through sweating. Apart from water, the main constituents of sweat are minerals such as sodium, potassium, chloride, magnesium, calcium and phosphorous etc. The lost of these important components will lead to an imbalance in electrolytes, therefore, if fluid lost is not replaced will lead to a decrease in blood concentration which may trigger cramps or even coma in some serious case. Ideal fluid replacement should be obtained from fluid that contains electrolytes (i.e. sport drink) because apart from fluid and electrolytes, sport drinks also contain some carbohydrate which can replace some energy lost through exercise. During exercise, athlete should drink 150-200ml of fluid every 15-20min to replace sweat loss.

Before the race, diet should be mainly consists of carbohydrate and fat should kept minimal. 3-4 hours before the race, food that takes longer to digest such as breakfast cereal, toast, rice and pasta can be consumed. Food that takes moderate time to digest such as energy bar, milkshake, smoothie, fruit yoghurt can be consumed 1-2 prior the race. If the race starts too early or athletes do not have any chance to consume any food before the race, food such as sport drink, energy bar, fruit juice, power gel etc can be consumed within 1 hour before the race. During the race, fluid replacement should be the priority. Small amount of carbohydrate food such as fruit, sport drink and energy can give the athlete some energy to maintain performance and to lower the chance of getting tired too early. At last, athlete should consume high carbohydrate food as soon as possible after the race to replace energy loss and helps recovery.

Muscle cramp or involuntary contraction in the leg may occur during exercise, this may due to insufficient warm up exercise before the race. During exercise, muscle enters strenuous state from static state. Due to the slow adaptation of muscle, especially under cold circumstance, wearing short trousers can give the muscle a cold shock, this can lead to muscle cramp in the leg. Also, a loss of body salt through sweating can lead to this phenomenon. To avoid muscle cramp, sufficient warm up exercise must be done. Under cold circumstance, warm up exercise need to be extended and make sure the legs are kept warm. If cramping occurs during the race, running speed needs to be slowed down gradually and massage to the leg is necessary. Seek medical help from first aid centre if muscle cramp persist.

Sprain in the ankle is not unusual during a marathon run. Spring in the ankle will cause the surrounding muscle and ligament to tear off leading to swelling, aching and bruise. The leading cause is attributed to insufficient warm up exercise, incorrect running posture, lack of concentration, rough running surface and previous injury etc. To prevent spraining, athlete should understand the importance of warm up exercise and strengthen running technique. Make sure safety is always the priority and concentration must be paid during the race. All previous injury must be treated and physiotherapy is necessary to strengthen the injured joint. Once spraining occurs, athlete should cease running and seek medical help from first aid centre.

If strain occurs during the race, athlete should cease running immediately and seek medical help at once. In order to prevent this occasion, sufficient warm up exercise is needed, especially in the lower part of the body. Athlete with weak physique or whose training intensity is not too high must run according to their ability. Make sure you run with the correct posture. Cease running if tiredness and ache appears.

Insufficient blood supply to the brain may lead to fainting, fainting may cause athlete to loss conscious temporary, however, conscious may regained after a few minutes. The sign of fainting included dizzy, nausea, lack of strength, poor hearing and vision and cold sweat etc. When these signs appear, give some indications to the staff around and slow down running speed with the help of staff. Seek medical help immediately from the first aid centre.

Relaxation is important after exercise as this can adapt our body and muscle back to the normal state. Athlete should slow down their running speed gradually and never stop running at once after the race. Relaxation exercise for the upper body: stand straight with the arms facing downwards and shake arms. Repeat it a few times. Relaxation exercise for the lower body: lie down with legs curled, massage and shake the adductor, quadriceps and hamstring muscle of the legs. Repeat it a few times. Relaxation exercise for the whole body: take a deep breathe and exhale slowly, walk and shake the upper and lower body until pulse return to normal.