Palo Alto Weekly

- September 13, 2013

Making the the night-race switch

How runners can prepare for the 29th Annual Moonlight Run

by Eric Van Susteren

It may seem obvious that a moonlight run doesn't really work without nighttime, but to many athletes accustomed to running their races early in the morning, it might mean unraveling race-day rituals, throwing schedules out of whack or at the very least making a few organizational adjustments.

As the Palo Alto Weekly-sponsored race celebrates its 29th year on Sept. 20, runners will jaunt around the Palo Alto Baylands by night, just as they have in years past, racing either the 5-kilometer or a 10-kilometer course.

Mina Raczkowski, a personal trainer at Form Fitness in downtown Palo Alto and an avid runner, said that what may most likely throw runners off about a nighttime run is what they eat before the race.

She recommends against the traditional carbo-loading the night or day before the race. And a big, heavy meal with lots of fat consumed during race day may leave runners feeling drowsy — or worse, it could lead to problems during the race like cramping, she said.

To Angie DeGeronimo, founder of NoXcuses Fitness in Midtown Palo Alto, the perfect pre-race meal is something that's easily digestible that also maintains blood sugar over time. She likes to go with whole-grain bread, fruit and a handful of almonds an hour-and-a-half before a race.

Whatever racers eat, Raczkowski recommends not varying one's normal eating schedule too much in preparation for the race.

"See what works for you," she said. "Try out the meal that you want to eat on race-day a few days before to make sure you don't cramp up during the race."

The Moonlight Run will be held Friday, Sept. 20, but DeGeronimo said that racers who are worn out from a grueling week at work or a long day at the office should resist the urge to drink coffee to try to get some pep back in their step. It's best to stick to water.

"Even if you're really tired, the last thing you should do is drink coffee," she said. "You should go the opposite way — overhydrate and boost your Vitamin C and antioxidant intake two days prior to the race, knowing that the end of the week is more tiring. I know people go for a caffeine edge in the race, but then they get on my mat, and I can't move their hamstring."

Though Palo Alto is renowned for its mild climate, sometimes the weather can be fickle. Racers at the 2011 Moonlight Run were greeted with claps of thunder, flashes of lightning and a briefly torrential downpour midway through the race. While racers shouldn't expect any such freak occurrences, it might be smart to plan for the comparative cool of an evening race.

DeGeronimo noted that today's running attire is designed to keep runners cool by wicking away moisture and advised runners to avoid that kind of clothing, if possible. Though many runners will probably overheat in a windbreaker or jacket, light running gear that keeps the athlete warm during the cool night race would be ideal, she said.

Staying warm during the race could help runners avoid a case of the sniffles, but more importantly, both trainers said, approaching a race with warmed-up muscles is the best way to avoid injuries during a run.

Raczkowski likes to do moving, dynamic warm-up stretching exercises — not the traditional static stretch-and-hold variety — before a race to get blood into her muscles and loosen them at the same time. Examples are butt-kickers, high-knees and "Frankenstein kicks," in which runners walk while kicking the outstretched palms of their hands.

At the Moonlight Run, DeGeronimo will lead the pre-race warm-up, incorporating dynamic stretching followed by static stretching, but she said runners should use a foam roller on their muscles at home even before the warm-up session. They can even get their blood flowing with a hot shower.

Just like any race, the Moonlight Run can be as serious as the runner makes it. For most runners (and especially walkers), it represents a great opportunity to have fun bounding along the marshy trails by the light of the moon — with or without dramatic flashes of lightning.

What:The 29th Annual Moonlight Run, sponsored by the Palo Alto Weekly and City of Palo Alto

When:Friday, Sept. 20, 7-10 p.m. under the full Harvest moon. (Race-night registration tables open at 6 p.m. 5k walk starts at 7 p.m., 10k run starts at 8:15 p.m. and 5k run starts at 8:45 p.m.)

Where:Baylands Athletic Center at 1900 Geng Road (at Embarcadero Road), Palo Alto.

Registration and entry fee:

Adult (13+)registration fee is $30 per entrant by Sept. 13. Includes a long-sleeved t-shirt.

Youth (6-12) registration is $20 per entrant by Sept. 13. Includes a long-sleeved T-shirt.

Youth (5 and under) run free with an adult but must be registered through Eventbrite with signed parental guardian waiver, or may bring/fill out a signed waiver to race-night registration.

Late registration fee is $35 for adults, $25 for youth from Sept. 14-18. T-shirts available only while supplies last.

Race-night registration fee is $40 for adult; $30 for youth from 6 to 8 p.m. T-shirts available only while supplies last.

Refunds will not be issued for no-shows, and T-shirts will not be held.

Sports teams/clubs: Please email moonlightrun@paweekly.com for information about group/team registration discounts. Available through Sept. 13 only.

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