Medical advice

Fit to compete

Running is good for the heart and over the past 24 years, more than 95,000 runners have successfully completed the Windsor Half marathon, but there have been eight fatalities from serious heart disease in runners apparently unaware that they had a problem. Their condition could have been detected if they had had medical advice and the relevant heart tests. A ‘fitness test’ is not sufficient to detect these problems. 


If you have a bad family history of heart disease or sudden death, or have a high risk from high cholesterol or high blood pressure but PARTICULARLY if you have symptoms of heart disease i.e. chest pain or discomfort on exertion, sudden shortness of breath or rapid palpitations, see your GP who can arrange for you to have a proper cardiac assessment. Such an assessment may not be instantly available, but continuing to run with these symptoms may shorten your running career catastrophically!


Muscular aches and pains occur most commonly after an increase in training. Training should be increased gradually so that you do not suffer prolonged exhaustion.
Separate days of heavy mileage with one or two days of lighter training, or rest days so that you body can refuel your muscles  with  muscle glycogen. To reduce injury risk, vary your training runs, the running surface, (parkland hills) the pace and distance and do not always use the same pair of shoes. Always face oncoming traffic and BE VISIBLE -at night wear bright or reflective clothing.


If you have ‘flu, a feverish cold or a tummy bug, do not train until you have fully recovered. Then start gently and build up gradually. Do not attempt to catch up on lost mileage after illness or injury — this may cause further damage or illness.

If you have flu it can take as much as a month to recover, consider whether you should run the marathon this time.

Note: if you cannot run 15 miles comfortably one month before the marathon, you will not manage it in safety or enjoy it. Please do not run on this occasion.


Fluid lost in sweat must be replaced otherwise your body becomes dehydrated (short of water) and less efficient. Alcoholic drinks, tea and coffee can be dehydrating. Take plenty of non-alcoholic drinks, especially when training in hot weather.  Drink enough to keep your urine a pale straw colour. Drink plenty of liquids after training, especially long runs, and practice drinking during longer training runs. Try the Lucozade Sport in training to see if you like it. It tastes quite different after 20 miles. Drinking on the run needs practice.

Drink plenty of fluids but preferably no alcohol in the two days before the race.

DO NOT drink excessively just before the race, during the race or gulp water after the race as you may get hyponatraemia. (see ‘Drinking Safely’)


Start the race well hydrated and if you are not already bursting drink half a pint  (250ml) of water or sports drink in the half hour before the start. Do not be greedy and take extra bottles of drinking water to pour over yourself; as you may be depriving slower runners of much needed drinks. If it is hot, additional water will be provided and showers will be set up on the course — use these to cool yourself.


A balancing act

Drinking too little can lead to problems , as you need to replace some of the fluid you lose as sweat. Drinking much too much can be very dangerous and lead to hyponatraemia, (water intoxication) fits and even in some cases death. Drink when you feel the need and DO NOT gulp large volumes of  fluids before, during or after the race.

A rough drinking guide.

Your needs vary with your build, your speed  and above all the weather as these effect how much you sweat.

Faster runners (under 2hrs ) on a warm day may need as much as a litre of fluid per hour (2 pints). Slower runners should need less particularly on a cool day and should not drink more than 500 ml per hour.

There are frequent water stations YOU DO NOT NEED to drink  at each one, just  swallow a mouthful of water occasionally. If you like the Lucozade Sport drink have that as well.

After the finish DO NOT drink large amounts of water. You can only rehydrate (replace lost fluids) gradually over the next 24-48 hours hours. Eat some salty food as well as spacing your drinks – you will not get hyponatraemia and will replace the water salt and glycogen lost in running the marathon.


Eat what suits YOU!

Large doses of supplementary vitamins and minerals (such as iron) are not essential and produce no benefit if you are on a good mixed diet, but additional vitamin C in small doses is reasonable when fresh fruit and vegetables are in short supply.

Training (with adequate rest) helps you to sustain a high level of muscle glycogen if you eat enough carbohydrate. If you can, eat within two hours of your long runs and the marathon. This helps replace the muscle glycogen quickly and speeds recovery.

Do not change your normal diet drastically in the last week before the marathon, but eat less  protein (meat) and eat more carbohydrate (pasta, bread, potatoes, cereals, rice and sweet things), especially for the last three days when you should also be markedly reducing your training. This loads the muscle with glycogen and delays or prevents you “hitting the wall”.  (Unless you reduce your protein intake you will not eat enough carbohydrate.)

(Not all runners are helped by first depleting carbohydrate with a long run and low carbo diet and then loading – this can make your muscles very heavy.)


Do not run if you feel unwell or have just been unwell, even if you are raising money for charity. Most medical emergencies occur in people who have been unwell but do not wish to miss the event. If you feel feverish, have been vomiting, have had severe diarrhoea or any chest pains, or otherwise feel unwell, it is unfair to you, your family, your sponsoring charity and Windsor Half Marathon support staff to risk serious illness and become a medical emergency. You are unlikely to do yourself justice. There are many other Half Marathons.


Wear appropriate clothes for the weather. On a cold, wet day you can become very cold if you reduce your running pace or walk. A hat and gloves will prevent heat loss and are easily carried. If it is hot, wear loose mesh clothing, start slowly and, if possible, run in the shade.

Use shoes you know from experience will not give you blisters.


Do not stand about getting cold. Keep walking, especially if you feel dizzy, and drink to replace lost liquid. Go to the baggage area as soon as you can, get your kit and change into warm, dry clothing. Keep on drinking slowly and have something to eat. Some runners feel faint more than half-an-hour after finishing the race, often because they have taken insufficient fluid and/or not eaten anything. Again DO NOT DRINK EXCESSIVELY.

Train sensibly. Follow this simple advice and you will probably not need medical aid. St John medical aid posts are located at the drink stations and after the finish line. Keep this advice and refer to it nearer the day and on half marathon eve.