I have been running for two years, consistently 30-minute runs, three mornings a week. A friend of mine who's training for a half marathon convinced me to sign up too, and I'm really excited about my first race. It's in the Fall, but I've already started training, and have been increasing my runs to an hour. I feel great while running, but a few hours afterward, I get this pounding headache that lasts at least an hour. Any ideas as to what could be causing this or how to prevent it? I want to cure these headaches before making my runs even longer.
— Pounding Pavement and Pounding Headache
First of all, congrats on signing up for your first half marathon. It's an amazing goal to have, and since you're so excited about it, I can understand your frustration about having headaches. I have a few ideas as to why you're getting these headaches, so read more.
Dehydration can be one cause of headaches. You need to hydrate not only right before you work out, but also a few days before. You'll know your body is well-hydrated when you urinate pale yellow or clear urine at least six times a day. An hour before you head out for your run, drink 16 to 24 ounces of water. You also need food for fuel, so don't run on an empty stomach first thing in the morning. Eat something small that's low in fat, easily digestible, and contains 40 to 100 grams of carbs about 30 minutes before heading out. Yogurt and a banana is a great choice.
Since you're running longer than 30 minutes, you also need to hydrate during your run. A general rule is to take in six to eight ounces every 20 minutes. You also want to fill up on electrolytes. Drinking Smartwater or Gatorade or eating Luna Sport Moons will keep up your performance levels when you're sweating a lot or exercising for long periods.
After your run, drink 20 to 24 ounces of water or a sports drink for every pound of water you've lost. Continue sipping your beverage until your urine is light yellow or clear. Also be sure to eat something that contains 100 to 200 grams of carbs and some protein within 45 minutes of working out.
If you're drinking and eating enough, your headache might be caused by poor running posture. Make sure your shoulders and hands are relaxed and your torso is in line with your hips. Wearing lightweight sunglasses and a hat can keep sun out of your eyes, since squinting can also cause headaches. Or if you have allergies and sinus congestion is causing your headache, allergy medication could prevent your post-run headaches. If none of this helps, I'd see a doctor to make sure it's not a more serious problem.