4 familiar running foes and how to deal with them

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1/ Muscle damage

The best predictor of who will slow down near the end of a 26.2? Whoever has the most muscle damage. Quads and calf muscles experience stressful ‘eccentric’ contractions as you land. Try the ‘repeated bout effect’: inflict temporary damage with long, hilly runs and you’ll suffer less the next time.

READ: Avoiding muscle soreness with the 'repeated bout effect'

2/ Heat

Your body has a ‘critical core temperature’ of about 40C. In the real world, though, you slow down well before you reach that point. You can delay the rise of core temperature by ‘precooling’ your insides – for example, by drinking a crushed-ice slushie before a run in hot conditions.

READ: Running in the heat

3/ Dehydration

Everyone knows that dehydration slows you down. But here are three intriguing facts to keep in mind: legendary marathoner Haile Gebrselassie set a world marathon record in Berlin in 2008 despite losing roughly 10 per cent of his starting weight; when cyclists were rehydrated with an IV drip to eliminate the psychological boost of drinking, losing up to three per cent of their weight didn’t affect their endurance; and periodically sipping less than 28ml of water was enough to prolong study participants’ time to exhaustion by 17 per cent. Bottom line? Drink when you can, but don’t worry if you get a little dehydrated. The effects at this level are milder than previously thought.

READ: Hydration for runners

4/ Hitting the dreaded wall

Your muscles can store enough carbohydrate fuel to last 90-120 minutes, but you’ll start suffering low-fuel effects well before that. One reason is that fully stocked muscle fibres actually contract more efficiently. Another is that your brain is a fundamentally cautious organ, and so it begins holding back when it detects a partly empty tank. You can fool it – temporarily – by rinsing your mouth with a sports drink and then spitting it out, which triggers receptors that tell your brain more fuel is on the way very soon. But for runs and races lasting longer than 90 minutes, you will need to refuel along the way to maintain good form.

READ: How to beat the bonk