Did the Chicago marathon inspire you to give it a try?

Dr. Jeff Branta, a family medicine physician with Advocate Medical Group, is a seasoned runner who first stumbled upon running as a hobby. Wanting to fill his free time with a healthy habit, Dr. Branta was so inspired by “running culture” that he decided to push himself into running marathons.

This past weekend, nearly 45,000 runners participated in the Bank of America Chicago Marathon. It stands as one of the most popular marathons in the United States, uniting runners from across the country.

Now, he’s an advanced runner who has flown to London to race, ran through the French Quarter in the New Orleans Marathon and crossed the finish line of the Los Angeles Marathon with the oceanfront in plain view.

This weekend, Dr. Branta ran his sixth marathon, the Chicago Marathon, with the goal of qualifying for the Boston Marathon. For those inspired by the runners this weekend, here’s what you need to know to know if your goal is to cross the finish line one day and participate in your first marathon:

  1. Rain, snow or sunshine – expect the unexpected. Chicago is famously known for its weather changes. How can you prepare for 26.2 miles of potentially wacky weather? Run all year round and in all weather conditions. Dr. Branta says participating in smaller races throughout the year is an excellent way to train both physically and mentally. Take the lessons learned and successes accomplished from these races and adapt them when running in the marathon – sleet or shine.
  1. Do your research and personalize your plan. Get fitted for proper running shoes and read about the right nutrition for your body. Also, create a training schedule that works for you and stick to it. Research different types of training options and practice proper nutrition before, during and after the race to avoid “hitting the wall.” Gel and goo packets are a personal favorite for Dr. Branta.
  1. Speaking of nutrition, the best fuel is food. For dinner the night before, Dr. Branta enjoys eating pasta – light on the sauce – with a protein, a slice of bread and a salad. The morning of, he has a banana with peanut butter, another slice of bread, orange juice, water and some coffee. Try to stick with healthy carbs and avoid eating too many fats before and during the race. Practice your nutrition so you know what your body can easily digest.
  1. Keep your cool. Mental preparation is just as important as physical. Having a support team is great – but having a roaring crowd behind you could make it hard to keep focus. Don’t start too fast to avoid burning out, but channel the energy from the crowd when you need a boost. Dr. Branta also says he listens to music to help keep him in the zone.
  1. Make memories and enjoy the experience. Remember what you’re running for – yourself, charity, your community. Look at the scenery and the landmarks around you. Soak it all in, live in the moment and have fun!

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