Heat Takes Marathoners By Surprise

It was hotter than expected on Marathon Monday, and there may have been more charity or first-time runners than usual. Both these things could help explain why almost 4,000 runners and a few spectators walked or were wheeled into a medical tent along the course.

The Mecca Of Marathon Medicine

As temperatures rose above 70 degrees and the sun blazed, Clyde Dickey, from Rockwall, Texas, said he downed too much Gatorade.

“I just threw up a little bit, and I felt faint” as I crossed the finish line, Dickey said. “I thought I had heat exhaustion. I gave [the race] all I had, but the heat just got to me.”

Clyde Dickey from Texas tried for a personal record, pushed too hard and was treated for heat exhaustion. (Martha Bebinger/WBUR)

Clyde Dickey from Texas tried for a personal record, pushed too hard and was treated for heat exhaustion. (Martha Bebinger/WBUR)

Dickey was underground, waiting for the T when the bombs went off last year and regrets that he wasn’t able to help those wounded. He added Boston TV stations to his cable package so he could watch all the specials in the year since.

“I love coming here,” Dickey said. “This is the mecca of marathons.”

And perhaps the mecca of marathon medicine. So when a guy from Michigan, who trained all winter in 20-degree weather, collapsed at the finish line, a volunteer scooped him into a wheelchair and had him on a cot with an IV in his arms within minutes. Another volunteer caught a woman from Washington, D.C., who started spinning as she slowed down.

“I wasn’t quite expecting it but today we saw quite a bit of hyperthermia, people overheating,”
said Dr. Pierre d’Hemecourt, one of the marathon’s medical directors. He said the tents, which were larger with more staff and equipment than last year, were busy most of the day.

“Most of [the activity] being relatively minor, dehydration, things like musculoskeletal complaints,” d’Hemecourt said. “So overall it’s been a pretty good day.”

Which, in contrast to last year, was a relief for many of the doctors, nurses and other volunteers who staffed the medical tents. Continue reading

Listen To Your Body, And Other Mental Health Tips For Marathoners

In case you still want advice for the marathon (or you’re looking for advice to pass along to your hot friends still running), here’s a video from the Boston marathon medical team psychologist Jeff Brown:

And here are three top tips from Dr. Brown:

1. Leave the negative self talk in your hotel room. The marathon is about good preparation, focus and the joy of running—negative thinking only leads runners down the wrong path and burdens the mental energies needed later.

2. Stay mentally focused on the reason you are running. As the miles move along, enjoy the confidence of being that much closer to your goal.

3. Use dissociation wisely and sparingly. Dissociation occurs when we shift our thinking from pain to something else. If you experience pain, listen to your body. Runner’s who use dissociation often hit a wall sooner.

(Thanks to Martha Bebinger for passing this along.)

Cardiac Reassurance For Marathon Runners

A new study brings reassuring news about marathoners and heart attacks. In the public mind, they may be linked like…like…rock stars and drug abuse, say, or boxers and brain damage. But research just out in the New England Journal of Medicine reports that marathoners face heart risks no higher than participants in other vigorous sports.

The lead researcher is Dr. Aaron Baggish, who’s in the video above and in the past has kindly shared with CommonHealth his wisdom on cool-downs  and on “hands-only” CPR.

From the NPR report:

Running long-distance races isn’t going to hurt your heart any more than other vigorous sports, researchers say. Just make sure you’re fit enough to attempt the feat in the first place.

The average age of runners whose hearts stopped beating was 42. Most were men.

In the past decade, nearly 11 million runners participated in long-distance races, but only 59 suffered cardiac arrests, according to findings just published in the New England Journal of Medicine. Most of the cases happened to be in runners with undiagnosed, pre-existing heart problems.

“Certainly doing the run didn’t cause the heart conditions,” study author Dr. Aaron Baggish tells Shots, “but it was probably the stimulus that caused the near-fatal or fatal event.” Continue reading

And We’re Off! Start Your Own (Health) Marathon Today With FreshStart

Please go to the comments below this post to sign up, check out who else already has, and read get-started guidance from our wellness coach, Dr. Beth Frates.

Let’s begin with 30 seconds of marathon-morning advice from Ralf Hennig, who was Bill and Hillary Clintons’ personal trainer for seven years (My imagination: A very hard job. Bill would tend to slip out of work-outs, and Hillary would snap that more important things demanded her time. ) What do the Clintons now know, I asked him, that we should know? (Forgive the sound quality! It was windy out there in Hopkinton.)
1. Keep moving. Exercising on a daily basis helped them cope with their daily stress and their lifestyle as politicians.
2. Stay focused. Have a purpose in your life.
3. Don’t give up.

Reminder: FreshStart is our experiment in using CommonHealth not just to report on health but to actually help our readers get healthier. You figure out your own health goals for the next three months and post them here. We offer a forum for support and guidance, including from our wellness coach, Dr. Beth Frates, and other experts. Plus, by declaring your goal publicly here and reporting in with weekly updates, you harness the power of social pressure for your own aims. Here are the basics:
Join Us For FreshStart Spring: It’s Time To Get Healthier
How To Set SMART Spring FreshStart Goals

And now — drum-roll — how to sign on for FreshStart: Just post a comment below this post with your FreshStart goals and your plan to achieve them. Your email address will be visible to us here at CommonHealth, but not to the rest of the world. Choose a weekday for check-in — say, Friday — and I’ll send you an email asking you to post how you’re doing every Friday for the next three months.

And choose a prize, if you’d like one! If you’d like a WBUR water bottle or sport sac, just send me a message by hitting the “Get in touch” button at the very bottom left corner of CommonHealth, and send me your name and mailing address. We have 20 of each to give away to the first members who request them. If you’d like the hugely helpful Harvard special report “Simple Changes, Big Rewards,” please send an email to and give the kind folk at Harvard Health Publications your mailing information. (They’re giving away 25 copies, but if you don’t make it, they’ll offer the $18 report at a 25% discount to FreshStart members.) The only catch is that they may contact you later for feedback.

You’re welcome to submit goals and plans as lengthy as you’d like; they’re really for you, though making them public helps your loved ones nag — I mean, support — you. I’m just offering mine as a sample below, though it’s still a bit of a work in progress. And we’ll check in with Beth Frates soon to ask her to take a look at everyone’s posted goals, and whether they all seem SMART (specific, measurable, action-oriented, realistic and time-sensitive) enough.

My exercise goal: to be active every day, at the very least with a brisk 20-minute walk: Continue reading

Why To Exercise Today: If A 400-Pound Man Can Run The L.A. Marathon…

…then carrying a few extra pounds is no reason to slow down, is it?

Don’t miss this story in The Los Angeles Times today. It’s not just that sumo champion Kelly Gneiting is over 400 pounds and yet planning to run the Los Angeles marathon this Sunday. It’s that he’s facing all kinds of adversity, from lost jobs, to separation from his wife and five children in order to be able to support them, to discrimination based on his weight. But in the midst of hardship, he has set himself a goal and is working stubbornly toward it. He has something to prove. Times reporter Kurt Streeter writes:

The Fat Man is a three-time national champion sumo wrestler.

Now he has willed himself into something far more unlikely: He has become a long-distance runner. On Sunday, at the 26th Los Angeles Marathon, he wants to set a Guinness world record. Of the roughly 25,000 entrants, most of them honed into taut and sinewy shape, he hopes to be the heaviest to cross the finish line.

By far.

If he does, he says he will be sending a message to a society obsessed with being thin. “Big people,” he says, “can do the unimaginable.”

For photos of Kelly training, go to The Los Angeles Times here. And here’s a 2010 YouTube video of him doing a split:

Slideshow: Injury Prevention For Marathoners (And Others)

From an audio slide show on marathon injury prevention

Judging by the gaggles of runners on the streets these days wearing belts of little water bottles and other “I am serious” gear, final training for the April 18 Boston Marathon is in full swing.

So this informative slideshow by Anne-Marie Singh and WBUR intern Kristen Stivers seems especially timely, both for marathoners and for run-of-the-mill types heading back to the streets.

Click here for the slideshow and give it a minute to load…