Tips to prepare for your first Cooper River Bridge Run

Runners head across the Ravenel Bridge during last year’s Cooper River Bridge Run. (Grace Beahm/Staff)

The Cooper River Bridge Run is only days away. Thousands of people from all over the country will run the race for the first time. It might even be the first road race many have ever run.

I have seen a number of participants injured in the days leading up to the race or while running the race itself. Here are some ideas that might prevent you from getting sick or hurt, and they might make Saturday’s race a more enjoyable experience.

— Cut back on training the week of the race. The days leading up to the race are not the time to add more miles or make up for missed training runs.

— Get plenty of sleep. Rest is crucial to performing your best. You might be nervous the night before, making it hard to sleep well. Do what you can to sleep well throughout the week leading up to race day.

— Don’t buy new running shoes. Change your running shoes frequently throughout the year, but don’t experiment with new ones or different types of shoes right before the race.

— Stick with foods you know. Just as you shouldn’t try a different model of shoes, don’t change your diet heading into the race. If you don’t normally eat meals full of pasta or vegetables, skip those foods the night before the race. They might give you gastrointestinal distress. Also don’t eat a huge meal the night before the race.

— Try your race clothing before the race. If you plan to wear new clothing or gear, wear them during a training run to make sure they are comfortable and don’t cause itching or chafing.

— Try morning runs. If you normally run in the afternoon or night, try a few morning runs leading up to race day to get your body accustomed to it. Use those runs to test out your morning meal to make sure it works well for you.

— Eat about two hours before the race. On race day, eat something easily digestible to minimize any stomach problems. Make sure to hydrate as well, but don’t overdo your food and drink.

— Don’t overdress. It might be chilly Saturday morning, but your body will warm up quickly once the race starts. Dress as if it’s 10 or 20° warmer than it is. Consider wearing extra layers before the race that keep you warm while standing at the starting line. Then take them off or discard them before the race starts.

— Warm up. Don’t use the first two or three miles to get your muscles warmed up. Jog slowly for five to 10 minutes and add short bursts of faster speeds.

— Pay attention at the start of the race. It will be really crowded for the first mile or two. Watch the people around you closely so you don’t trip and fall if someone stops or steps in front of you.

— Don’t start the race too fast. Once the race starts, adrenaline will push you to run fast. You might not have enough muscle energy for the second half of the race. Go slower than you feel like you should, maybe 10 percent slower than your desired pace. If you are running with a friend, don’t try to keep up if his or her pace is faster than yours.

— Take it easy the rest of the weekend. If this is your first race, you will be pretty sore for the next few days. Don’t work very hard the rest of the day and even the next day. If you do feel like working out, make it a light exercise session that doesn’t involve running.

Hopefully your first Cooper River Bridge Run goes well and you can run in more races here in Charleston.

Dr. David Geier is an orthopaedic surgeon and sports medicine specialist in Charleston. For more information about running injuries and other sports medicine topics, go to drdavidgeier.com.