Medical Advice for the Vancouver Marathon 2013

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Medical Information Form

Located on the back of your race number is a “Medical Information” form that must be completed before starting the race. This Information will be crucial for us to provide you with the best possible medical care, should the need arise.


For some time, it was advised that runners should try to stay ahead of their thirst and drink as much fluid as possible to prevent dehydration – this is not accurate! While dehydration is possible, especially in hot and humid conditions, there is also a significant risk of drinking too much fluid. Over-hydration can cause hyponatremia, which can lead to serious and dangerous complications. It is now recommended for athletes in general, and especially for those completing a marathon in four hours or more, to aim to replace 100% of fluids lost due to sweat while running and not more. Runners should be guided by their thirst as the signal to drink, thus preventing dehydration while also lowering the risks associated with over hydration. Runners should begin their races well hydrated – indicated by clear, nearly colorless urine – and then drink a sports drink with sodium and other electrolytes when thirsty, but not more than 400 – 800 ml per hour. Recently marathon medical experts have recommended avoiding excessive caffeine intake and anti-inflammatory medications prior to, and during marathons to reduce potential health risks. It is also important that athletes adjust their pace to race conditions, slowing as heat and humidity rise .


Good nutrition, both during training and before the race, is critical if you hope to excel in any running race. Some recommendations for endurance athletes suggest 15 to 20 percent proteins, 30 percent fat and 50 to 55 percent carbohydrates. It’s complex carbohydrates you should concentrate on like the starch in plant foods, including fruits, vegetables, bread, pasta, and legumes. Carbohydrates are particularly important the night before your race, and also before your long runs leading up to the race. Be sure to drink plenty of fluids the day before and stay away from alcohol or caffeine that have a diuretic effect. You might consider a light carbohydrate snack just before going to bed, or rising early on race day so you can have a light pre-race meal of toast or a bagel washed down with orange juice, 3 hours before race start. During the race, simple carbohydrates in the form of gels, jelly beans or energy bars can be very beneficial. It is important to practice your eating routine before and during your long training runs to make sure it doesn’t upset your stomach. If in doubt, stay with familiar foods and don’t make drastic changes on race day.


It is important to wear comfortable clothing appropriate for the weather. Try out your race day outfit on a long training run and be sure to check the weather forecast before you leave home on race day. On a cold day, dress in layers and shed them during the race. A hat and gloves also prevent heat loss. On a hot day, wear loose clothing, preferably a wicking technical material that enhances evaporation. If the race is on a sunny day, try to run in the shade as much as possible and pay particular attention to your hydration. Skin breakdown is a major concern during the race. Avoid cotton shirts that can cause chafing or nipple irritation. Blisters can be prevented by wearing shoes that are well fitted and well broken in. Use a commercial product like Body Glide or petroleum jelly, which is available on the course, to reduce irritation in sensitive or high friction areas, especially the nipples, inner thighs, underarms and feet.

The Finish Line

Keep walking through the chutes after the finish line! The most common cause of collapse after a long race is due to blood pooling in the legs, resulting from suddenly stopping contraction of the leg muscles. Blankets are provided to keep you warm. Drink fluids slowly and restore your blood sugar with a snack after the race. If you feel unwell or have ANY medical concerns, ask a volunteer to direct and accompany you to one of the medical facilities.

Medical Services

For this year’s race, we have prepared a comprehensive response plan for any and all medical problems that may occur. We work closely with the BC Ambulance Service, local hospitals and many doctors, nurses, first aiders and volunteers to ensure your safety. You will recognize medical team members by their red race volunteer shirts that say “Medical”. Medical Aid Stations are located near the major water stations along the race course. These stations are staffed with trained health care providers who can assist with minor emergencies. The Aid Stations as well as numerous radio operators are in constant communication with the Medical Director and our communications center. Automatic External Defibrillators are located throughout the course. Multiple Advanced Life Support Paramedics and Ambulances are strategically stationed along the course. Just past the finish line is a full service medical tent staffed with doctors, nurses, and therapists. If you are unwell in the days prior to the race, please visit your doctor. The information provided here should supplement any advice given to you by your personal physician.

Good luck and have a safe race!