Seasoned Philadelphia Marathon runner points out rookie mistakes that are easy to avoid

Listen 5:38
 Kareem Lee, left, Jason Reeves and Dave Johnson, right, from Black Men Run were running the  Atlantic City Marathon Race 10k on 10/20/18. 
(Photo courtesy of Dave Johnson)

Kareem Lee, left, Jason Reeves and Dave Johnson, right, from Black Men Run were running the Atlantic City Marathon Race 10k on 10/20/18. (Photo courtesy of Dave Johnson)

There’s a village of white tents set up along the Ben Franklin Parkway, near the Art Museum — a reminder that it’s marathon weekend in Philly, with an 8K and half-marathon on Saturday and the full marathon on Sunday.

Morning Edition host Jennifer Lynn caught up with a local athlete who will run all three events. Dave Johnson is the Philadelphia chapter captain of Black Men Run, a national running organization. This is his 7th time on Philly’s marathon course. He says there are some common mistakes runners make in a race like this.

Going out too fast is the biggest one I would say, running too fast through crowds. So for instance in Philadelphia we have about three miles I believe through Chestnut Street and no crowd support there is amazing. So for that stretch you could really rev up to about 30 seconds faster than go pace or even more, and that’s early in the race. You could feel that later in the race. So just keep that excitement down.

Don’t people have special watches though that can really keep you on pace and there are pace setters in this particular marathon as in some other marathons?

Just think about it when you feel good about a person, let’s say when you’re in love, right? Your family can tell you all these different things about that person, but you don’t see any of that. It’s the same in a race. So my watch can say one thing I could be so far ahead of the pacers, but I feel good. So let me just go. Then you’re soon to crash and burn later on possibly. You know sometimes it works out for some people but more often than not you’ll feel that later on.

So another rookie move would be just not keeping your nutritional energy going during a marathon. I’ve never run a marathon. So you’re supposed to be drinking water, maybe some electrolytes liquids, and then these goo packages with quick energy. Tell us about what you need to do.

You need to know what’s good for you first and foremost. Don’t get out there and do anything for the first time. If you didn’t train with GU’s [energy gels] don’t take a GU in the race. That might not sit well with your stomach. Now you have bathroom breaks coming up that you didn’t train for you know so you have to stop at port-a-potties every few miles or whatever. I know people that actually eat solid food. Me personally I can’t eat solid food and run fast, but I do have to keep a bottle of a fluid that I make that has all the electrolytes, all the proteins, all the potassium, all the iron everything that I need. And I just take water off the course, and I eat before. Eating after is actually a good thing as well getting proper nutrition back in you to aid in recovery so that you don’t feel horrible two days later.

Well you mentioned the unforeseen bathroom breaks. There are bathrooms that line the course.

I personally think a clean port-a-potty is the next best thing to sliced bread. So you know I don’t mind going in there, but it’s easier using a port-a-potty in hot weather. Now, we’re having this race in November. It’s going to be cold. You’re going to have layers on. And once those layers get wet it’s so hard you know to get them down. And then when you put them back up everything don’t land back how it was when you first put it on so it becomes a task and it could take valuable seconds off your time.

You’re a leader of the running group Black Men Run the chapter captain in Philadelphia. It started as a way to bring black men into a more healthful routine. What issues are you aware of pertaining to black men in particular in terms of health issues and trying to transition from some unhealthy habits to better habits?

Heart disease, high blood pressure and basically just getting people in general to understand their diet. What we’re putting into our body. I’m in IT and in the programming world for databases one of the sayings is, ‘garbage in, garbage out.’ If you’re putting garbage in your body you’re going to get the garbage result. You know how you feel and your health. One of the things I’ve done on this journey is went on a 45-day vegan diet. That changed my life. I had to read the ingredients to everything that we were eating at that point for 45-days and it got me to see all of the things that we’re putting into our body. And now I eat totally different. I would have never got to that if I had never started running.

And as leader of a running group I take it you try your best to motivate other runners. What goals work well?

Through trial and error you learn that you can’t set a goal for someone. You have to let them set the goal, and then sometimes you have to adjust the goal because sometimes people set goals that’s just too lofty and we want to set goals that’s right outside your comfort zone but very obtainable. It’s really joyful for me to see people complete any race of any distance but the half marathon and the four marathon are really great challenges you know because they put the body through so much. If I accomplish a goal for myself I come through the finish line, I hit a goal, and my wife was like all baby that is so great that is so great. And maybe for five minutes I’m there. And after that I’m like you know what I could do better. So you know like it is not long lived, but if I help you, you and I could talk about that for months and I will get a high from that every time I see the joy in your face or the joy in your voice that you know. That lives with me much longer than my own personal achievements.

And it makes you want to run again and again?

Again and again and again.

Check out a map of the race routes here.

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