Salt and the novice marathoner!

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If you are running SCMM, its a must read for you! I will explain later, why!

Nutrition wise, three things are needed to help you finish a marathon – Water, Carbs and Electrolytes!

What happens when your body starts running out of these things, how easy it is for you to figure this out and what to do when this happens!

Lack of water – The symptom is you will be feeling thirsty. Very common, everyone knows, even a child. If it happens, you simply drink water.

Lack of carbs – Again the symptom is that you will slow down, start to feel hungry. Also common and you know when you get hungry and if you do, you simply eat a banana or whatever is in sight. Another topic, a few things seem to help more than others during a run. Not the topic for this article though.

Lack of Electrolytes – THIS IS THE MAJOR PROBLEM BECAUSE NOT MANY PEOPLE SEEM TO KNOW THE SYMPTOMS FOR THIS AND WHAT TO DO WHEN THIS HAPPENS.

Take this with a pinch of salt (pun intended), considering its coming from a novice marathoner himself, however please pay attention to this because this happens to many and it really hits hard so knowing what to do can keep you out of trouble and can even save someone’s life!

Three examples of runners who did not pay attention and were completely caught unawares!

1. During the satara marathon 2016 – A friend collapsed at the 15-16 km mark, was disoriented and had to be carried to the hospital in an ambulance. Thank god they had an ambulance there! Trust me, most marathons do an eyewash with ambulance support, they will have one or two on stand by but many times it cant get to you because no one knows how to call them or the route is closed. The ambulances will be happily waiting for you at the finish line so make sure you schedule your injury or fainting or whatever ONLY when you are done with the marathon and not during! 🙂

2. During PRBM 2016 – Another friend got severely disoriented and needed immediate help during PRBM today (Oct 16, 2016)!  Apparently when he went to the voluneteers, they gave him more water! which made it worse!

3. During scmm 2014 – My wife got disoriented at the 18 km mark and was unable to move (literally, she fell down) and had no idea what to do! Volunteers dragged her to the side of the road and told her that you sit on a motorcycle and we will carry you to the finish line because thats where all the medical stuff is! And this is scmm i am talking about which is supposed to be one of the best marathons in India! Its another thing that its actually more a circus than a marathon nowdays! But since we clowns dont have much options, we still go there!

As you can see it happens in many major marathons, and still we dont hear about it very often!

Coming back to the topic – Hyponatremia – When the level of sodium in your body is abnormally or dangerously low.

Its possible to get to this state if you are running for more than an hour and only replenishing water and carbs and not paying attention to electrolytes, especially sodium!

Symptom is that you will first start numbing…especially your feet and hands…. you will feel weak, cramps setting in…all sorts of places like calves…you may black out…feel disoriened…and simply unable to move further, even an inch! You can read more symptoms on Google!

The problem is that all the volunteers and the cheering people around you will think that you need water and they will offer you that and by drinking water, you will make it worse! It will further dilute the salt in your body.

Why is it even more important for scmm participants – simply because scmm is in mid january and most of india, like delhi, jaipur even pune – The weather leading upto that race is awesome…as if there is air conditioning outside…and so the body is not used at all to the hot and humid conditions of mumbai. And so you have been practising so hard but unfortunately in nicer weather and that day your sweat rate is probably double than usual for the same pace!

What can you do about it –

1. First be aware about it that salt or electrolytes is an important part of nutrition and its not only water and carbs!
2. Be aware of your sweat rate – Rate increases if you run fast, long and also if the weather gets hot and humid. More sweat rate means you need more salt! Its not possible for you to measure your sweat rate unless you have the resources to spend in this direction which I doubt you will so just be aware that it varies.
3. Salt can come from ORs, Enerzal, Gatorade, Gu Gels or other gels or salt tabs. It can also come naturally from olives, salted almonds, salted oranges or lemons, salted chips (did i call this a natural source just now!!! ) etc.
4. In a race, your sweat rate can be really high, especially in mumbai but as you saw above it has happened in pune and satara also. You cant solely depend on natural stuff to give you enough salt.
5. Carry your own salt source with you especially in all the weekend events that are popping up all over the map. Those idiots dont even know about all this so they will not be able to help you immediately in case something happens.
6. Top up starting the night before on salt/electrolytes like you top up on water and carbs.
7. In the morning, make sure you continue to top up on salt.
8. Right before the run, if you take a little bit of salt tab, it will really help.
9. During the run, every hour or if you feel a tingle. Take one.
10. if you are planning to take salt tabs, you need to get used to them…take some during your practise…sometimes your stomach will burn the first few times you have it so you may want to eat half a banana on top. Your stomach will get used to it so you wont need to eat a banana for long
11. Do elite runners need salt tabs…Absolutely but they will not get in trouble, atleast not as much as you will because they are not trying to run 42 kms with a 50 km weekly mileage! They run a lot more than you and 5 of your friends combined so they are a tad bit more prepared…..and if you were running to and from school, a total of 20 miles a day from age 6, your body is really really prepared for a marathon unlike some of us who are trying to juggle different priorities, with a marathon being one of them!

IF YOU SEE SOMEONE ELSE IN TROUBLE, PLEASE STOP AND HELP. THERE ARENT SIMPLY ANY RULES AND REGULATIONS IN PLACE IN INDIA TO MANDATE ENOUGH MEDICAL FACILITIES FOR A MARATHON SO YOUR HELP IS REALLY REALLY NEEDED.

Have a safe marathon, out there and keep an eye out for your fellow marathoner!

4 comments on “Salt and the novice marathoner!

  1. Nice..It will be helpful to us..
    You have given salts tab to a runner at PRBM and he mentioned you in FB.
    Great job..
    Thank you sir

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