5 scientific tips for running a marathon

15th April 2011
marathon runnerThe Virgin London Marathon is on Sunday and thousands of runners across the country are preparing themselves for the epic 26.2-mile event.

We test out the top high-tech running shoes in this month's issue of Focus, as well as explaining what barefoot runnning does to your body, compared to running in shoes.

If you are taking part, or thinking of testing your endurance levels in the future, make a note of our top five scientific tips for running the race of your life.

1. Eat well

Running diverts blood from your digestive system, so eat your last meal at least two to three hours before the start of the race. Maximise your energy levels during training by sticking to a 60% carbohydrate diet.

2. Stock up on electrolytes

Isotonic sports drinks contain 7-10% glucose and minerals such as sodium and potassium. Thirst is one of the last signs of dehydration so don’t just drink when you feel like it. Just a 1% decrease in hydration can cause a 5% decrease in performance.

3. Start slow

Nick Morgan, the lead sports scientist at Lucozade Sport has said: “I don’t mean to scare anyone, but we also found that 85% of runners last year set off at an unsustainable pace.” So if you start to feel tired, your body is trying to tell you something.

4. Use SPF

It is a common misconception that the sun can’t burn you on a partially cloudy day. Cover your face, shoulders, arms and chest in suncream with at least factor 30 SPF to avoid the problem.

5. Don’t take pills

A marathon takes 40,000 steps and so your legs sustain multiple micro tears. Yet medical experts have warned against taking ibuprofen before a race because it can affect blood flow to and from the kidneys. If you do plan on using painkillers, test them out safely on a longer practise run first.

By Sarah Jordan