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Marathon Savvy

Marathon SavvyRunning 26.2 miles is never easy, but the right preparation can make all the difference for marathon runners, say Tufts experts. Boston.

Boston [04.18.03] This Monday, over 20,000 runners - and a half a million spectators - will flock to Boston to take part in the country's oldest marathon. But while many will participate in the celebrated event, keeping healthy for the 26.2 mile run is anything but easy. According to Tufts experts, marathoners need to take special care before, during and after the race.

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"You've got to be smart," Dr. Miriam Nelson - director of the Center for Physical Activity and Nutrition at the Gerald J. and Dorothy R. Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts - told the Boston Herald.

Nelson - a recreational athlete who has competed in several marathons herself - says that preparing for the race requires a multi-faceted approach.

"Keep in mind that preparation involves a balance between nutrition and physical activity," said the Tufts expert. "You have to look at them together."

Nelson recommends marathon runners eat more than usual in the five to seven days before the race, primarily of protein and rich carbohydrates such as potatoes, whole grain pasta, vegetables and fruits.

"It's about getting enough protein and quality carbohydrates," Nelson said.

The Tufts expert also recommends that runners avoid alcohol during the four days before the race, as well as limiting caffeine intake. Instead, Nelson says marathoners should be sure to drink the right amount of water - both before and during the race.

"The most important thing is getting hydration on a regular basis," Nelson told the Herald.

Dr. Christina Economos, assistant professor of nutrition at the Friedman school, agrees that hydration is a key factor in a successful marathon.

"Runners should generally replenish their body with six to eight ounces of fluid every 15-20 minutes," said Economos, a nutritionist for the Tufts marathon team. "Those running long distances should use a combination of water and a sports beverage to replenish fluids and key electrolytes."

After the race, runners need to take special precautions to recover.

"Immediately following the marathon you want to get warm," said Nelson. "Temperature regulation and hydration are both very important.

Runners also need to make sure to eat the proper foods after reaching the finish line.

"As soon as you can you also want to eat a mixture of carbohydrates and protein," said Nelson. "You want to eat within half an hour and that will help your muscles recover as fast as possible and not have as much damage."

The Tufts expert says it all comes down to finding the right balance of healthy nutrition, training, and hydration.

"The bottom line is that there's nothing magical," said Nelson.


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