While you need to get in fuel, stopping for extended periods could have consequences.
Beth asks: My running partner and I are training for our first marathon. We drop water and sports drink along our route before we run so we don’t have to carry it with us. I’m finding that my partner wants to take 7 to 10 minutes at these stops. The longer the run, the longer he tends to take. I’m worried that this is too long. Am I right to be concerned?
Taking in adequate hydration and nutrition along the way during a long run is obviously very important, but the length of time spent at these support stops is also important. While it is common to take some breaks to get your fuel in, the length of time should be brief.
These breaks allow your body some recovery time (a good thing), but it is important to keep moving. While we are running or walking, the muscle contractions in your legs act as pumps and assist the heart in delivering adequate bloodflow to the body. The heart relies on this assistance from your working muscles, so when you stop running and stand still, the heart loses this assist, which places additional stress on it.
Without this pumping assistance, blood can pool in your lower legs, which can lead to a drop in blood pressure, sometimes precipitously. This drop in BP can make you feel dizzy or nauseous, and sometimes it can even lead to fainting. If you ever wondered why it’s so hard to get going again after a stop, that’s the reason why.
So don’t just stand still on your breaks – keep those legs moving by walking around while ingesting fluids or nutrition. Another thing to be aware of is that you are training your body to expect these breaks, so plan to do the same on race for your first marathon. If you don’t, you may become fatigued early in the race because you did not train this way.
The question really becomes how do you plan to handle support stops during your race? If you plan on walking through the stops on race day, then this is what you need to do during your training runs.
If your running partner is wanting, or perhaps needing, to take a ‘long’ break at the support stops, I would question the training pace of your long runs. It may be that the pace is a bit too fast for him. Try slowing down the run pace and see if that helps shorten the time needed when you break. The overall time saved with shorter support breaks may still give you a faster finish time than you expected.