SUNDAY, Aug. 15, 2010 (HealthDay News) -- Attempting a marathon is a challenge that can bring a great feeling of accomplishment but runners need to be careful to avoid training injuries and other health problems, experts advise.
Common types of injuries in marathon runners include shin splints, muscle strains, stress fractures, patellofemoral pain syndrome (pain in and around the knee) and iliotibial band syndrome (pain on the outside of the knee and hip).
"These injuries often result from overtraining or increasing mileage too quickly. That is why it is important to build up mileage slowly and take rest days," Dr. Haemi Choi, a sports medicine specialist at Loyola University Health System, said in a university news release.
Other health issues can arise if athletes burn more calories than they consume.
"Energy requirements increase as the amount of distance you run increases, so proper nutrition during marathon training season and the race is essential. Consuming small, balanced meals every three to four hours ensures energy levels support training needs," Dr. Jim Winger, another sports medicine specialist at Loyola, said in the news release.
In general, a marathon training diet should consist of 65 percent carbohydrates, 25 percent protein and 10 percent fat, but this will vary depending on a person's energy requirements. He or she should eat 30 to 45 calories per kilogram of weight daily and adjust this amount based on exertion levels, the experts advise.
"Endurance athletes should consume a small snack or meal at least one to two hours prior to exercising, consisting of carbohydrates with a low to moderate glycemic index. Low glycemic index foods such as bananas and apples are preferable, because they enter the bloodstream slowly and provide sustained energy for longer periods of time," Choi said.
Other important considerations for marathoners include proper hydration, clothes that wick away sweat from the skin, adequate sleep, and stretching after running.
The Women's Sports Foundation offers marathon training tips.