Sunday, October 28, 2007

Hydration, dehydration, hyponatremia and risks of running a marathon

Probably, since you have your eye to run a marathon in early 2009, you took special notice of the news story that a Michigan man died while running the Chicago marathon. Or at least you took notice when you heard that the race was stopped early and 300 participants were hospitalized because of the heat.

It turns out that this unfortunate man passed away from a heart condition, but it serves us well to take notice of some of the risks associated with running a marathon. It will serve you well to learn much in the next 14 months. Proper hydration may be one of the more important lessons. Probably a good place to start is with this Washington Post article. At least for me, reading about a physiological phenomenon often has little impact (no offense to any physician, exercise physiologist, or Beth Leuck who may read this post) but reading about the honest mistakes of a real person and fellow runner make clear the need for me to learn and get this right.

So what risk is there with hydration and running a marathon? While you've certainly heard of dehydration (which is severe and leads to much fatigue and physiological stress) it's unlikely that dehydration will result in a fatal condition for most runners. In the end, you won't likely be able to continue running and will probably stop to drink some water anyway. Heat stress or any overheating-related condition is more likely, but also you are likely to stop running and therefore stop the cause of the problem. (And this isn't something for discussion yet).

But hyponatremia is a different problem. Hyponatremia is drinking too much water, also known as water toxicity. Because your body balances water volume with salt (a rough generalization), reloading your body with water must also take into account how much salt (or electrolyte) must be reintroduced. This happens naturally over the course of days because the food we ingest normally carries sufficient volumes of the various salts we may desire. But during a 5 hour race we can easily deplete our water and salt levels through sweat and only replace one (by drinking water alone) or replace both in an inappropriate manner (by drinking gatorade, which has electrolytes, but may not be exactly what we need).

So, what can we drink? Or what should we drink? Well, there seems to be no exact answer. That is to say that I can't prescribe how you should hydrate, though maybe someone here can. But the answer may indeed be as simple as: drink when you are thirsty. That simple? Well, learn about how to train in a healthy manner, and train in that healthy manner. It is said that in life, you'll likely die how you've lived. It is certainly true that in running a marathon, you'll race how you've trained. You've got plenty of time to try and see what works and doesn't. You've got plenty of time to pay attention, learn from your body, and train it and the rest of yourself to run in a safe and efficient manner. And if you do, you'll conquer many goals and fears, not the least of which are the potential risks of running a marathon. And when you've trained well and are ready for the race. Read again how to race, since many before you have made serious mistakes and not all have been novice runners.

Train well and enjoy running. I expect you'll have a safe and enjoyable race.

Monday, October 22, 2007

my training so far: football

after experiencing 9 years of haunting nightmares of an ill-fated pass, jack-nut finally exhumed the "exceedingly high pass" deamons and the big T curse in the first ever tackle football game in cordoba Argentina. Throwing 16 for 25, 3 TD and O INT helped put the "blanquitos" in front, winning 18 to 12.
Its definitely unconventional marathon training so far.
scott jackson