Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Marathoning- Is It Healthy?

Let me preface this by saying that I am going CRAZY without the long runs. I struggled through 7 miles yesterday. I do mean STRUGGLED. I am getting so frustrated when I'm stressed without my high inducing runs. I find that running is the healthiest thing for me, it grounds me and centers me in a way that no other form of exercise has been able to do. I can not lay in Savasana and meditate my way into a clear mind, but I darn sure can run into one! I have been super stressed with school and I miss running. My body has never been stronger and I have never been stronger as an individual. A huge chunk of me is missing right now without something to train for. I have what can only be called the post marathon blues :/ Ready to sign up for another! At least I have the half at White Rock to look forward to!

I opened up my internet browser to MSN today and this article popped up on the front page. This article angers me on many accounts. It is saying that heart damage is a proven side effect of marathon training, yet I know people who have had heart surgery that run ultra marathons! I think we all know that running can be hard on our bodies no doubt, but I really find it difficult to believe that a heart problem is a rampant problem with marathoners.

This study should not have even been published because in my mind it was not conducted well enough to bring into a general public problem. There were only 20 people looked at into this study set to represent the approximately 468,000 marathoners that Marathon Guide reported in 2009. I don't know about you, but if someone is making generalized health claims I think that I would want more people surveyed to look at the health risk! I would not try a new medication that only 20 people had tried, I don't think I'll take medical advice for it too!

Second, this study said they had various ages surveyed, but they never mention underlying health issues they may have. They also do not say how many of the sample were in their 20s, 30s and so on. This does make a difference because we know as we age that we are more prone to heart disease. If this study was conducted with mainly older marathoners that could drastically skew the results.

Third, this study did not look at other factors. What was the weather like that day hot or cold? We all know temperature extremes can make a difference in how our bodies react to the marathon. What was the elevation like? Going uphill is a big difference from a net downhill course! There are a multitude of extenuating factors that can contribute to physical ailments in a marathon other then the distance itself.

This study is trying to look at why people have been dying of heart attacks in races. I understand that this has been occurring more, but could it be because more people are running marathons now? Could it be related to body fat percentage? We all know that elite runners are some of the leanest athletes out there perhaps that low body fat is putting more stress on their hearts? There is no way to tell why this is occurring, but we need to remember that it get sensationalized in the media. There are almost half a million marathoners and the bulk majority do not die of heart attacks, but finish on a euphoric high knowing that they achieved what they thought was impossible.

Tell me what you think is marathoning dangerous for our health?


  1. I cannot tell you how many times the response I get when I say that I want to train for a full in the next year is one of negativity or "well you know what that will do to your joints/knees/body... I really worry about you.."

    Sure there are risks. But there are risks with all kinds of exercise. And what about the risks of never pushing your body to work hard?

  2. these kind of studies are always badly flawed. Nothing is more dangerous then sitting on the couch and eating cookies all day.
    Risk in the marathon is minimal at best.

  3. I definitely think there is some risk in marathons, but if approached smartly the benefits still outweigh the risks. Like you said, we should be willing to challenge our bodies and do things that suit our physical desires.

    Sorry you are feeling a bit of post marathon blues. I've never done races, but have done fitness competitions. I do hate the feeling of not having fitness goals to work towards.

    Tina (www.faithfitnessfun.com)

  4. I think that anyone can run a marathon, but there are body types more suited for it. If you have lighter bones and a lower BMI, you are naturally going to be better suited for it. More damage is done if people are not smart about it, but I think sitting on a couch is a lot more dangerous then running a marathon.

    I hear you on the post-marathon blues. I am sidelined till the New Year after my ultra marathon and I miss those wonderful long runs!

  5. Congratulations on your marathon! That is an amazing achievement! Just stopping by from Skinnyrunner. Looking forward to reading your blog!

  6. I just found your blog through skinnrunner and I love it!! I have wondered about marathons being healthy for a while but I know mentally that running long distances is what I need, so I do it! Great job on your first marathon. Are you hooked?

  7. I am absolutely hooked! If I could find one I could afford to do soon I would! I LOVE my long runs and REALLY couldn't imagine not doing at least 14 on a weekend. Agree cookies, cake and everything is going to put us into the hospital sooner. Never a good thing! I think I'll take the risk of a heart problem and die happy, fit and able to play with the kiddos at work!