Archive for March, 2011

Tribute To My Runners!

Posted: March 31, 2011 in Uncategorized

I commented recently that several of my Marathon Coalition runners mentioned there would be a huge void in their lives once the marathon is over.  There will actually be an even bigger void in my life.  I certainly have so much abundance in my life (i.e., family, friends, work, interests, etc.) to focus on after the training season concludes.  But coaching marathon runners has been such an integral part of who I am for the past 15 years.

I never imagined that I would ever become a coach.  When I lost my mom to leukemia in 1996 at only 57 years old, little did I realize that my last conversation with her would lead to my coaching.  I promised her that I would commit myself to doing something significant with my life, something that would make her proud.  I ran the Ocean State marathon in Rhode Island shortly after I returned to New England after her funeral.  That is when my focus began to shift to thinking about others.

Serendipitously, there were Leukemia Society of America signs along the entire marathon course.  I called the executive director of the Leukemia Society of America the following day and shared my story.  That was the beginning of what has become one of the most amazing journeys of my life.

I began to speak in front of large groups of people about losing my mom.  I shared my last conversation with her and my commitment to honoring her memory.  It was very emotional but I soon became comfortable with just speaking from my heart.

I struggled with giving oral book reports in school and always considered myself relatively shy so standing before a group was something I wasn’t comfortable with.  I suddenly found myself eager (albeit nervous) to open my heart and share my emotions with so many.  Losing mom changed my life considerably.  I began to realize the importance of giving to others.  It was an epiphany to realize I actually thought less about myself when I focused on others.  I also realized that I had the unique opportunity to inspire people to do far more than attempt to complete a marathon. 

I was the first coach of many of my runners…they had never been on a sports team.  When you have someone say, ‘ I have never had anyone say they believe in me!’, you begin to view your role very differently.  I realized that I also had the opportunity to motivate and inspire people to believe they were capable of achieving far more than they ever imagined!

The boxes of cards and letters that I’ve received during the past 15 years are the ultimate validation of the unique opportunity I’ve been given.  It’s an opportunity to honor my mom’s memory in a significant way and to establish a legacy of helping others…that’s important to me. 

None of this would have been possible without Lori.  We met shortly after I began coaching and her example of selflessness dramatically influenced my coaching and my view of the world…my view of myself!  She has stood in my shadow for far too long but I’ve never forgotten that I owe who I am today to her.  I also have been deeply influenced by all the runners that I’ve coached.

To witness thousands of runners commit themselves to making a significant difference in the world has changed my life.  I survived in a world of selfishness most of my life…coaching charity runners has dramatically changed that.  I’ve seen countless runners, who couldn’t complete one lap of running on a local track when training began, become marathoners in less than 5 months.  And they were able to accomplish that because they were so committed to helping others and making a difference in their lives.

Charity runners have a higher completion rate in the marathon than any other group.  That’s undoubtedly due to their commitment to serving others.  The marathon becomes far less about them than it is to fulfilling a commitment to the charity they’re representing. 

Completing a marathon training season is bittersweet for me.  The pride that I feel for each of my runners is immeasurable.  The sadness of knowing I may never say many of them again is something I don’t like to consider.  But I find considerable comfort in the knowledge that I’ve been given a unique gift of being their coach and I’ve given my absolute best effort to them.  My greatest hope is that I’ve instilled in each of them a belief that they can accomplish ANYTHING they commit themselves to and believe in.

I’m not looking forward to this amazing journey of training for the Boston Marathon to be over.  But I am looking forward to observing the  impact that this experience has had on each member of the Marathon Coalition TEAM!

Boston Marathon And Beyond

Posted: March 30, 2011 in Uncategorized

At this stage in your training you’re likely focused on the goal of getting to the finish line in relative comfort.  You have to focus on tapering properly by following the prescribed training schedule and avoiding injury.  You have to also ensure you eat well, stay hydrated, get sufficient rest and not introduce anything new into your routine. 

There is so much to consider in the remaining weeks before the marathon that you may not consider life beyond the marathon.  While focusing on the aforementioned tasks is precisely what you should be doing, I encourage you to take a moment to consider life beyond Boston.  Many runners have expressed concern over the huge void that will exist in their lives once the marathon is over.  It’s so easy to become consumed by the monumental task of training for Boston that you  don’t consider how your life may change from this experience.

You many never have a clearer glimpse into what you’re capable of accomplishing in life than when you cross the finish line of the Boston Marathon.  I’ve heard countless stories of how life-altering this accomplishment is to so many.   Once you prove that you’re capable of committing to and completing a major challenge you begin to consider what other pursuits may be in your future.  Completing a marathon, particularly the Boston Marathon, is one of the most empowering experiences you’ll ever have.

Becoming a  Boston Marathon Finisher will be part of your legacy forever.  No one will ever be able to take that title from you.  The finisher’s medal will likely be kept with your most valuable possessions.  But this experience is about so much more than checking it off your ‘Must Do’ list in life and the finisher’s medal.  It’s about discovering things about yourself that you never considered or imagined.  Training through the difficult winter and mostly on the hills of Newton likely revealed some weaknesses in your fitness, your mental state and possibly even your character.  Those runners that embrace the reality they’re not as strong as they once thought and dedicate themselves to improving are likely to take more than the finisher’s medal from this experience.  They take a passion and commitment to live their lives in the spirit of continuous improvement. 

Too many people focus exclusively on their strengths and attempt to ignore their weaknesses which guarantees their accomplishments and self-perception will forever remain limited.

I hope that you take a moment to consider life beyond the marathon….it’s never going to be the same!

Boston Dilemma

Posted: March 29, 2011 in Uncategorized

This is the period in training where I begin to feel guilty about running the Boston Marathon.  During my 12 year tenure as head coach for the Leukemia Society of America’s Team In Training program I was prohibited from running Boston.  I spent countless hours along the course providing encouragement and inspiration to my runners.  I knew each of them well enough that I could say something that I knew would resonate with them.  We shared amazing hugs, tears and laughter.  The laughter tended to arrive once the event was over and the stress and pressure of finishing were long gone.

Once I decided to leave Team in Training I knew I had to run the Boston Marathon again…it had been such an integral part of the fabric of my running history and it was as though I reconnected with a long-lost friend.  So in  2009 I ran my first Boston Marathon in over in 2009.  I didn’t realize how important running Boston in 2009 was until I entered my finishing time and realized that I had qualified for Boston in Boston in four consecutive decades.  I ran Boston for the first time in 1979 in 2:48:35.  So if I qualify for Boston on April 18th it will represent 5 consecutive decades of qualifying for Boston in Boston.  Qualifying for Boston in Boston is the ultimate validation of a qualifying time.  I’m not sure how many runners have accomplished this but it’s certainly something that makes me proud along with the sub 3:00 hour times in my first 24  marathons.

My times have slowed somewhat during the past 15 years.  Ironically, I attribute that mostly to my coaching because I’ve devoted so much time to helping others achieve their goals.  But I wouldn’t trade a world record in the marathon for the opportunity to help others realize and appreciate all that running offers.  The cards and letters that I’ve received from so many runners are now part of my legacy.  Most importantly, my coaching has taught me the importance of giving to others and sharing in their accomplishments.  Nothing I could ever achieve on my own could replace that.

To some degree I feel like I’m abandoning the Marathon Coalition runners by running the Boston Marathon and that’s extremely difficult for me to reconcile.  But I also want to continue to test myself at the marathon distance, particularly in Boston.  It’s important that I be a positive role-model for the runners I coach.  I want them to know that I still realize how challenging the marathon can be and I want them to see me put myself on the line, too.

So my goal is to qualify for Boston on April 18th but my thoughts will be with the Marathon Coalition runners the entire distance.  I look forward to sharing monster hugs, laughter and tears with them at the finish line!

The Proper Taper

Posted: March 28, 2011 in Uncategorized

It’s now time to allow your mind and body to fully recover as you enter the most important phase of your marathon training.  Properly tapering is critical to success in the marathon.  This will allow for proper glycogen storage in your muscles and provide a much-needed and well-deserved reprieve mentally from the rigors of training for Boston.

Many runners lose their focus because their mileage is reduced so significantly during the next three weeks.  It’s critical to maintain efficient running form throughout all your remaining runs, regardless of the distance.  It’s equally important to sustain the intensity of your runs and not become too lethargic.  You can easily become stale physically and mentally if you just casually cover the scheduled mileage.

Another major mistake is running in shorts too early.  The weather will soon be improving and the temperatures can rise dramatically in the coming weeks.  You’ll be more at risk for a pulled muscle if you’re not completely warm during your runs.  The best rule of thumb during the next three weeks is to not have any major changes in your training and always err on the side of caution.

The final challenge will be keeping your emotions in check.  You’ve already seen the Boston Marathon banners being hung along the course.  The finish line will soon be painted on Boylston Street and the press coverage increases dramatically in all media outlets for the remainder of training.  Your excitement will likely cause you to feel you need to put the final touches on your marathon preparation.  You simply cannot cram for this final exam by adding more intensity or mileage at this point.

No amount of running at this stage of your training will improve your marathon preparation.  However, too much running or intensity can certainly place your ability to finish in peril.  Find comfort in the knowledge that you’ve done all that you possibly can to prepare for Boston…allow you mind and body to rest and recover!

Continue to eat well, stay hydrated and get sufficient rest and you’ll enter the starting corral bursting with confidence.  Proper tapering is the capstone to successfully preparing for an enjoyable run from Hopkinton to Boston…a journey that will be indelibly etched in your heart for the balance of your life!

Time To Recover

Posted: March 27, 2011 in Uncategorized

Now that the 21 miler is in the books the tapering process begins in earnest.  It’s important to take several complete days off from running to allow the muscle soreness to completely disappear.  The residual effects of yesterday’s long run can actually cause soreness to worsen on the second day so don’t be alarmed if this occurs.  Walking and other forms of low-impact cross-training (i.e., spinning, water running, yoga, elliptical, etc.), along with getting sufficient rest, eating well, and staying hydrated will speed your recovery.

Many first-time marathoners can’t imagine how they’ll be able to run another 5 miles after the incredible effort it took to make the ascent up Heartbreak Hill yesterday.  There are two very compelling reasons that contribute to this doubt.  Once your mind knows the precise distance you’re running on a given day it communicates that to your body.  If you were only scheduled to run 13 miles yesterday, I can assure you that you would have been looking forward to just getting to 13 miles.  And you would have been just as grateful the run was over at 13 miles as you were when you completed yesterday’s 21 miler.

Most importantly, Marathon Day is a completely different experience.  Yesterday doesn’t even constitute a dress rehearsal for the Boston Marathon.  Despite running with several hundred other runners as you made the trek from Hopkinton to Boston College, you were largely running alone compared to what your journey will be like on April 18th.  Very few of the cars on the marathon course were happy about all the runners slowing their progress.  But in just a few short weeks, all of New England will be focused on the Boston Marathon.  The marathon course will be entirely yours for as long as you need it to be.

Those same drivers that were frustrated by your presence on ‘their’ roads yesterday will be laying out the red carpet for you and providing a heroes welcome as your make the journey into Boston.  You will plan to run 26.2 miles on April 18th and your mind will communicate that to your body to ensure it’s prepared to cover the entire marathon distance. 

And the unimaginable excitement of everything the Boston Marathon entails is your assurance that you will make it to the finish line!

Hopkinton To Boston

Posted: March 25, 2011 in Uncategorized


You will be running through most of these towns tomorrow during our 20 miler and all of them on April 18th.  There is so much running history that has taken place along this amazing route and you will soon be part of it.

You will create your own history beginning tomorrow and further developing it on April 18th.  Your current focus, as it should be, is likely on completing the distance.  But as I look back to 1979 when I ran Boston for the first time in 2:48:35, I continuously consider my history along the course from Hopkinton to Boston and the impact that it’s had on my life.  I hope that you will take a moment to look beyond the finish line and contemplate the impact that your Boston Marathon effort will have on your life.

You will discover this journey is so much more than just running.  It will define you in ways that you simply can’t imagine.  You’ll learn things about yourself for the very first time.  You may be sitting in the Athlete’s Village and hear a language for the very first time or be standing in the starting corral and be inspired by something or someone who you’ve never noticed before.

I remember signing my very first autograph just as I was entering the starting corral over 30 years ago and haven’t signed another one…that’s the power of Boston!  I’m always touched by the little girls that are always near the starting line with their autograph books asking every female runner in sight for their autograph.  You may spark a dream in a child to one day run Boston…that’s the power of the Boston Marathon!

The marathon is undoubtedly a challenging event and that’s why it is so special.  Boston has a history of being one of the most challenging marathons in the world.  But as with most things in life, the greater the challenge the greater the reward!

And when you cross the finish line in Boston you will be duly rewarded.  You will receive a heroes welcome from the volunteers at the finish line.  And when you look into the eyes of a friend or family member for the first time after finishing you may feel emotions that you’ve never anticipated.  And you will begin to feel the magnitude of your accomplishment. 

 When you hobble to work on Tuesday morning with your finisher’s medal around your neck and receive applause from your coworkers, you will feel their pride for you and realize that you’re an inspiration to so many.

You are an inspiration to me, too!  I will be forever grateful for the opportunity to play a small role in your incredible accomplishment.

I am always intrigued and inspired by the runners that I coach.  I briefly interacted with Charles Glick last Saturday when I decided to ride my bike during training in an effort to spend more time with each runner…I am so thankful I did.  Here are a few things that Charles shared with me:

Through my lobbying and consulting business, I have the honor of representing MMP and advancing the cause of “mentoring” to policy makers on Beacon Hill. I consider my marathon run to be another way to advocate and lobby for an outstanding organization and cause. I guess you go say that I am going the “extra mile” for one of our clients. But I really do believe that meaningful, quality relationships for our young people help to address issues such as the achievement gap, youth violence, and the school dropout rate, as well as the many other challenges youth face on a daily basis. It is my hope that my effort to run Boston will not only raise a small amount of philanthropy for a great cause, but encourage lawmakers to invest a much more significant amount of public money as well.

While this will be my fifth Boston Marathon, it will be my first marathon in 10 years. I often joke that it has been so long that and in some ways it feels (in all the places you feel after a long run) like someone else ran those races. A lot has happened in those 10 years, including surviving cancer. About seven years ago, I was diagnosed with a large malignant tumor (a sarcoma) under my left armpit. The doctors said that it had been growing for more than a year and was about the size of a softball. I had shoulder pain that I thought was a rotator cuff injury. When I saw my doctor to discuss the injury, he took one look at the lump under my arm and said, “Wow. What the hell is that? ” Lucky for me, I had access to great care (shout out to the MGH Cancer Center) and after radiation and surgery was declared cancer-free.

Finally, in many ways, this marathon will be the continuation of a journey I began twenty years ago when I chose to take my life into my own hands and through diet (Weight Watchers) and exercise lose a significant amount of weight. Just prior to moving to Boston, from LA, for graduate school in 1992, I weighed 350 pounds and had a size 54-inch waist. Back then, I couldn’t walk a flight a steps let alone run a marathon. God willing, (and thanks to fantastic coaching and support), I am prepared to run my fifth marathon and in the process help youth in need reach their full potential.

Practice Makes Perfect

Posted: March 22, 2011 in Uncategorized

The upcoming 20 miler is the perfect venue for practicing what you hope to implement on Marathon Day.  While the weather is a major variable on Patriot’s Day, you should wear what you expect to wear in the marathon.  The odds are in the favor of cooler temperatures so a long-sleeve top under your singlet is ideal.  I prefer to wear tights in temperatures lower than 50 degrees but I am in the minority.  Wearing a hat and gloves, particularly at the beginning of the 20 miler or marathon,  is highly recommended.  Many runners shed these as their core temperature rises and their muscles become  fully oxygenated.  I recommend holding onto these items as you may want to wear them again as your resources are depleted in the closing miles, particularly if there also happens to be a headwind.

I will wear the shoes in the 20 miler that I plan to wear in the marathon.  I like to have a few short runs on a new pair of shoes to ensure there aren’t any problems before the 20 miler.  I also prefer to have as few miles as possible on my marathon shoes so I don’t run in them again until April 18th.  Body Glide and sun screen are two often overlooked items.  I place Body Glide on my feet and all areas where friction occurs (i.e., calves, upper thighs, underarms, etc).  Women should also place this until their jog bras to reduce friction.  I’ve witnessed countless runners with sunburn, particularly on the back of their knees, during the marathon.  You can still get sunburn on a cloudy Spring day in New England.  Sunglasses will also keep your face relaxed.  Tensing your facial muscles is a drain on your energy.

Having a breakfast similar to what you plan to have the morning of the marathon is a good idea.  I will have a bowl of oatmeal with skim milk, a banana and toasted bagel with peanut butter.  I typically will have this two hours before the start of all my long runs.  I also carry red licorice that I’ve coated in salt along with Hammer Nutrition Endurolytes in a small pouch around my waist.  This will sustain me throughout the marathon along with the fluid I take along the course.  I typically ask (ahem…beg) a few of my closest friends and family to hold onto water bottles along the course that contain my favorite drinks (coconut water, FRS Mango, and Pedialyte are among my top choices).  Coordinating this effort is risky business simply due to all the logistical challenges so I always plan to NOT see them so I’m not disappointed and I don’t place myself at risk of dehydration.

The greatest challenge of the 20 miler is learning to properly pace yourself.  You’re still going to have an additional 5 miles to make it to the finish line in Boston.  Whatever excitement you experience at the starting line in Hopkinton this Saturday will need to be multiplied by 100 on Marathon Day.  Keeping this excitement in check on April 18th is difficult, particularly when you’ve waited for the start for so long, you’re full of energy and anticipation and the first 4 miles are significantly downhill. 

It’s imperative that you realize your energy level will never be higher than it is at the starting line.  How you manage the expenditure of energy from Hopkinton to Boston will determine how positive your marathon experience will be. 

Your focus should be to replicate your entire plan on Marathon Day during this Saturday’s 20 miler.  You may need to make some minor tweaks and adjustments but you should have your marathon strategy dialed in after the 20 miler.    Practicing pacing, fueling and hydration will make for a perfect marathon!

Boston Marathon Checklist

Posted: March 21, 2011 in Uncategorized

“Imperfect preparation gives rise to the thousand-fold forms that express physical and mental inferiority and insecurity!”    -Alfred Adler

It’s never too early to begin planning for Marathon weekend and beyond.  Here are my recommendations that will hopefully provide some basic guidelines to ensure you’re as prepared as possible for the marathon.  This checklist has been developed over 15 years of coaching marathon runners for the Boston Marathon.

I hope that you will offer any additional recommendations!

Marathon Weekend Checklist

• Rick Muhr •


Copyright: Rick Muhr•Head Running Coach•Marathon Coalition ©

Ÿ  Be sure to bring your driver’s license and your Number Pick Up Card to the Hynes Convention Center.

Ÿ  Save the bag that your number comes in as this is the bag that you will drop off at the buses returning to Boston once you leave the Athlete’s Village for the starting area.

Ÿ  Be sure that you have your Champion Chip before you depart the number area.

Ÿ  When visiting the John Hancock Sports & Fitness Expo DO NOT INGEST ANY OF THE SAMPLES BEFORE THE MARATHON!

Ÿ  Most of the Boston Marathon apparel that you see in local stores and at the Expo will be on sale after the marathon at significant savings.

Ÿ  Don’t wear anything that you purchased at the Expo in the marathon.

Ÿ  Try to get your number and Expo visitation over sooner rather than later.  As the weekend progresses this area becomes far more hectic.  You want to minimize the stress as much as possible before the marathon.

Ÿ  Saturday night is your most important night of sleep.  The odds are that you will not sleep as well Sunday night.

Ÿ  Don’t introduce anything new or different into your diet before the marathon.

Ÿ  Start organizing EVERYTHING that you think you’ll need before/during/after the marathon now.

Ÿ  Check your shoe laces to be sure they don’t require replacing.  It can be disheartening to break a lace just before the marathon.

Ÿ  When you affix your number to your singlet DO NOT attach the bottom of your number to your shorts.  You will understand why if you have to use the restroom.

Ÿ  Place your Champion Chip near the top of your laces.  You’ll want the BAA volunteers to be able to remove this quickly once you cross the finish line.

Ÿ  You can improve the circulation in your legs if you elevate the foot of your bed several inches Saturday and Sunday night before the marathon.  This results in your legs not feeling as tired.

Ÿ  DO NOT WEAR THE SHOES YOU ARE PLANNING TO WEAR IN THE MARATHON TO THE ATHLETE’S VILLAGE.  I have seen countless runners walk through wet grass in their marathon shoes before the race.  Wear an old pair and change into your marathon shoes after you leave the Athlete’s Village and are on pavement. 

Ÿ  Double knot your shoes but not too tightly because your feet are going to swell during the marathon.

Ÿ  Bring several large garbage bags to Hopkinton (several to sit on in the grass and one to punch a hole in the bottom and use as a poncho.

Ÿ  Bring a marker if you want to write something on your arms or legs before the marathon.

Ÿ  Writing your name on your singlet may seem like a good idea if you think you’ll benefit from the encouragement but I would not recommend it.  You want to recognize the people who REALLY know you when they call your name from the crowd.  It gets a little annoying, especially for the people running near you, to constantly hear your name being called.

Ÿ  Don’t forget the sunscreen and be sure to apply it even it’s going to be overcast.  The back of the neck and the back of the knees are two areas extremely vulnerable to sunburn.

Ÿ  Coat your feet and areas of friction liberally with Body Glide before the marathon.

Ÿ  Remove all jewelry before the marathon.  Fingers and toes tend to expand quite a bit during the marathon.

Ÿ  Wearing sunglasses will keep your face relaxed and will actually conserve energy.

Ÿ  I carry a small sponge with me to douse with water and wipe my face during the marathon.

Ÿ  I also carry a small straw with me to sip through at the aid stations.  You want to avoid taking in excess air as it can upset your stomach.


Ÿ  Leave the Athlete’s Village for the starting line no later than 9:45 a.m. and enter the corral that corresponds with your race number.  You will be allowed to move back to a corral with higher numbers but you cannot move forward. 

Ÿ  If you plan to check a bag in Hopkinton and retrieve it in Boston you should do this on your way to the starting line.  The buses will have a range of numbers posted on them so simply go to the bus that has your corresponding number.

Ÿ  I will be in the first wave departing at 10:00 a.m. so I will need to depart by 9:15 a.m.

Ÿ  Your official running time will not begin until you cross the starting line and activate your Champion Chip.  None of the times posted on the marathon course will have any relevance to you so simply monitor your watch if time is important to you.

Ÿ  Here is my strategy for running Boston:  Run the first 5 miles extremely conservatively, allowing my body to completely warm up and minimizing the damage of the extreme downhills.  I will then do most of my faster running from miles 5-15.  I will throttle my pace back as I drop down into Newton Lower Falls just after mile 15 and until I get to the top of Heartbreak Hill (Mile 21).  I will then evaluate how I’m feeling and then push again the final 5 miles.

Ÿ  The best way to complete a marathon is with even and negative splits.  Negative splits simply mean running the second half faster than the first.  This is not very easy considering the second half is more difficult than the first.  But if you run conservatively the first half you’ll improve your chances. 

Ÿ  Your goal should be to get to mile 15 in relatively good shape/condition.

Ÿ  If you have friends and family meeting you along the course be sure you know which side they’ll be on as you are running.  I recommend having them carry a helium balloon so you can spot them immediately.

Ÿ  I don’t recommend taking aid from any of the spectators.  While good intentioned, there could be bacteria on their hands (remember the aforementioned samples at the Expo) that could adversely affect you.

Ÿ  If you wear a watch during the marathon please don’t shut it off as you cross the finish line.  You don’t want your finisher’s picture to be of you shutting your watch off.  You will get an official time after the marathon so the time on your watch is really meaningless.

Ÿ  Be sure that your number is completely unobstructed as you approach the finish line.  Otherwise, you risk not getting a picture of your finish.

Ÿ  Once you finish your goal should be to continue moving and eat and drink as quickly as you can.  Be sure to accept the mylar blanket the volunteers will wrap around you.

Ÿ  Take a moment to glance down and appreciate the medal they will also place around your neck once you finish!

Ÿ  Taking a hot shower is possibly the riskiest part of your marathon day.  Keep the temperature moderate and have something non-alcoholic to drink while showering.  Keeping the door open, if possible, will also help prevent the humidity from building up. 

Ÿ  Check it with your respective Charity to let them know you have finished and are okay.  My cell phone is 508-353-6699 and I will be monitoring this number all weekend.  The only time I will not have my phone with me is when I’m running.

Ÿ  I don’t recommend running after the marathon until the pain completely subsides.

Ÿ  Walking and cross training will be instrumental in your recovery.

Ÿ  Take the time to thank all the people who were instrumental in helping you accomplish this incredible achievement.

Ÿ  I will always be grateful for the opportunity to play a small role in your amazing accomplishment…thank you!


Balancing fluid intake is very important in marathon training and on race day.  It is essential in maintaining good health and enhancing performance in any endurance event. Until around the last decade, people concentrated primarily on preventing dehydration.  However, drinking too much fluid can be very dangerous and lead to hyponatremia, a life-threatening condition in which the blood sodium levels drop to a seriously low- level causing a possible seizure, coma or death.  Immediate emergency care is necessary for hyponatremia victims. It’s important to educate yourself on the symptoms of dehydration and hyponatremia so you can be aware and know what treatment is necessary.

The BAA usually supplies complete information about Hyponatremia in your race packet- READ IT THOROUGHLY.  The following are guidelines published by the American Running Association and the American Medical Athletic Association

Dehydration and Heat Illness Signs:

Headache Fatigue
Dizziness Nausea
Muscle Cramps Weakness
Irritability Vomiting
Heat Flush Abnormal Chills

Hyponatremia Signs (Look for a combination of symptoms):

Rapid Weight Gain Bloated Stomach
Nausea Wheezy Breathing
Seizure Dizziness
Apathy Confusion
Severe Fatigue Swollen Hands/Feet
Throbbing Headache Cramping
Lack of Coordination  


Risk Factors for Hyponatremia Include:

 -Drinking  too much fluid without adequately replacing the sodium lost in sweat

 -Endurance athletes- exercising more than 4 hours

 -Athletes on a low sodium diet

 -Salty sweaters- often have an obvious white residue on face and skin

Hydration Plan

 -Drink to Stay Hydrated- Don’t Overdrink-  Overdrinking before, during or after a race increases the risk of hyponatremia dramatically. 

 – Determine Your Sweat Rate- The best way to prevent over-drinking is to determine your hourly sweat rate.  Simply weigh yourself, naked, before your run.  Run for an hour, and weigh yourself on your return, naked.  Every pound you lose is equal to 16 oz. of water.  If you take water in during the run, add that to the weight loss to determine how much water is safe to drink per hour.  For example, if you lose 2 pounds, that’s 32 oz. you can drink in an hour (so 8 oz. every 15 minutes).  If you drink 12 oz. of water in that hour, then you add the 32 oz. (for 2lbs. of weight loss) and 12 oz. for (water consumed) to equal 44 oz. total per hour (or 11 oz. every 15 minutes).  This method gives you the best estimate of how much water you can safely consume during your event.

 – Maintain a Salty Diet- to make certain you replace all of the salt lost during training during training. During a long race (e.g. more than 4 hours), eat salty snacks such as pretzels and saltine crackers, especially if you are a salty sweater.

 – Favor Sports Drinks like Gatorade over water during your event to help keep your body hydrated, fueled and salted.  However, sports drinks alone will NOT prevent  hyponatremia- any fluid, if consumed in excess, can cause a drop in blood sodium.

– Recognize Warning Signs of both heat illness and hyponatremia and learn to distinguish between them.

Writing your pre-race weight on the back of your bib number can be a helpful precaution if hyponatremia is suspected during or after the race.  An increase in weight is a sure sign of hypontremia.  Also, knowing your approximate sweat rate will give you confidence in your hydration plan during the race.  When in doubt, stop drinking and seek medical help fast.