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The 2012 race year marks the 35th year of the Chicago marathon.

Preparing for Sunday: Racing Advice for the Bank of America Chicago Marathon

by Kelsey McQuade
Oct 04, 2012

2012 Chicago Marathon Route Map

Courtesy of Chicago marathon

Click to enlarge the route map for the 2012 Chicago Marathon. 

Related Links

Chicago Marathon Official SiteCARA Official Site

Northwestern Memorial Hospital Race Preparation Guidelines

Dr. George Chiampas, the Marathon’s medical director for the sixth year in a row and a sports medicine and emergency physician at Northwestern Medicine, offers advice.

In the 48-72 hours before the race, eat meals rich in protein and carbohydrates and avoid alcoholic beverages. For race day breakfast, stick to carbohydrates and protein, but add fat and avoid all sugary foods.

Maintain a regular sleep schedule the week leading up to the race. That will leave you feeling well rested even if pre-race nerves keep you up later than you expect.

According to forecasts, the temperature is going to hover in the mid-30’s come race time. Make sure to dress in layers that you can shed, as it will continue to warm up as the day goes on. Participants should be sure to listen for the Event Alert Systems sent out through the Marathon if weather conditions take a turn and becomes dangerous. For the latest weather information, check The Weather Channel.

Stick with it
Many marathoners change their routines even before they step up to the starting line. Chiampas recommends wearing the same, familiar shoes and clothes worn on long runs. This is not the time to try out new drinks or food.

Nerves and excitement can lead runners to bolt off the line, not a recommended practice. In the end, it can actually hinder performance and cause health issues after the race. Running at a steady pace is best. But be aware of changes in weather, such as wind, that might impact pace or require adjustment.

Dehydration is one issue runners need to be worried about. But over-hydration also can pose a serious threat. Hyponatermia is a condition that occurs when fluid intake exceeds your rate of fluid loss from sweating and results in abnormally low blood-sodium levels. As, the body’s water levels rise, cells begin to swell. Chiampas encourages race participants who experience symptoms of nausea, dizziness or disorientation to seek medical attention immediately.

Assistance at the race
Chiampas and his team of 1,400 medical volunteers will be stationed at three medical stations and 20 aid stations throughout the race course.

The countdown is on for the 45,000 runners in this Sunday’s 2012 Bank of America Chicago Marathon are taken. And whether you are a marathon newcomer or a seasoned veteran, trainers and doctors recommend crucial steps for the final days of preparation.

Megan Sullivan, training program manager for the Chicago Area Runners Association, has runs nine marathons herself and said simple planning can make a difference.

She advises attending the Bank of America Chicago Marathon Expo and Packet Pick-Up on Friday. “It is really important to stay off your feet as much as you can on Saturday to rest up for the race on Sunday,” Sullivan said.

And, she recommends planning for the morning of the race. “Make sure you do things like attaching your bib number and laying out your clothes the night before because it makes the morning of much easier,” Sullivan said.

Sullivan suggested not dressing too warmly. She tells the CARA runners to wear an old sweatshirt or shirt to start, because any that are shed during the race are donated to homeless shelters throughout Chicago.

In light of the death of 35-year-old runner William L. Caviness last year, Sullivan offers advice on hydration. The cause of Caviness' death is in dispute, with one autopsy showing dehydration and his family disputing that could happen.

“I always tell runners to alternate between Gatorade and water, that way you are not overdoing either,” Sullivan said.

She also recommends eating gels (available at the aid stations along the run) every 45 minutes because it is a good way to keep your electrolytes up. It's extremely important to drink only when you are thirsty, but don't go more than two aid stops without drinking anything.

With these dos, Sullivan has two firm don’ts: food and ‘tude.

“Often times, runners think they have to carbo-load the night before a race, but that really isn’t true,” Sullivan said. They should eat what they normally eat and not feel pressure to try something new.

“I know one girl, an Olympic-caliber runner, who has a corndog before every race,” she said. “Do what works for you.”

As far as attitude, Sullivan said she knows a lot of runners who get down on themselves the week leading up to a race.

“Their body just isn’t feeling right from cutting back, but their attitude can actually affect their performance in a really negative way,” she said

More than 2,000 members of the running association's marathon training program began their 18-week session, designed by Runner’s World Contributing Editor Hal Higdon, on June 9. The program is designed for anyone who has a running pace from 7 to 12 minutes per miles.

The Bank of America Chicago Marathon kicks off Sunday at 7:30 a.m. at Grant Park.