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Sunday, November 15, 2009

Running Marathons......How much is too much???
There was an article in the Irish Times during the week about running Marathons by Professor William Reville of UCC. In it, he argues that people should avoid running Marathons. See the article below...

RUNNING MARATHONS is quite popular – more than 12,500 runners took part in the Dublin City Marathon on October 26th. It is generally thought that popular marathon-running is a healthy development, but I cannot agree. I believe that the growing popularity of the marathon is an unfortunate development for recreational running.

The word “marathon” comes from the Greek legend of Pheidippides, who is said to have run 25 miles in 490 BC from the town of Marathon to Athens to announce the defeat of the Persians in the Battle of Marathon. Pheidippides then collapsed and died, so per- haps he was delivering another message also.
The marathon was not an event in the ancient Greek games – it is a modern invention. The first modern Olympic Games was held in Athens in 1896 and the first marathon race was run at that event.

The marathon is run over an official distance of 42.195km (26 miles, 385 yards). More than 800 marathons are held worldwide annually and tens of thousands can participate in the larger events. More than 400,000 ran marathons in the US in 2008. The marathon is steadily becoming more popular. The Dublin City Marathon was founded in 1980 when 2,100 runners took part, and 12,799 runners entered for the 2009 Dublin event.
The marathon is a severe physical test and if you plan on participating you must train carefully for three to four months beforehand, following a daily running schedule. For example, if you plan to run the marathon in around four hours, your weekly training schedule will build up until you are routinely running 40-50 miles per week. Preparation schedules and advice are widely available, on, for example.
When you train hard your body suffers damage but it repairs itself, becoming stronger and more resistant to damage during further exertion. In this way you gradually build up your resistance until eventually the Big Day arrives. You could do significant harm to yourself if you undertook a marathon without adequate preparation.

Many studies have demonstrated the physiological, biochemical and physical effects of running a marathon. Changes in the immune system and in kidney function have been measured and the muscles, including the heart, are subjected to severe stress. A study published in the American Journal of Cardiology (Vol 88, 2001) found elevated levels of thickening factors in the blood of marathon runners 24 hours after the race. Another study publicised in the journal Circulation ( Vol 114, 2006) tested the hearts (using ultrasound) and bloods of 60 non-elite Boston marathon finishers. The results showed that, after the race, hearts in some runners had difficulty in re-filling chambers and abnormalities were noted in the way blood was pumped from the heart to the lungs. The runners also had elevated blood markers indicating heart damage.

Heart damage such as that reported in the Circulation article is not permanent and within a month after the race all runners showed relatively normal cardiac function again. However, the fact remains that during the marathon itself, and for several hours afterwards, the heart and blood enter a danger zone that increases the risk of a cardiac event, particularly in middle-aged runners with silent coronary-artery disease. Also, regular high-mileage running exerts a heavy toll on leg joints.

Aerobic exercise is very good for physical and mental health. But moderate exercise is sufficient to give you all the health benefits available from running. Increasing the levels of running beyond moderate levels does not produce any additional health benefit. To get the maximum health benefit from running, you do not need to run more than three or four four-mile sessions per week, each session run in 45-50 minutes.
The vast majority of participants in marathons are recreational runners, people who take up running as a pleasurable healthy exercise. In my opinion, the marathon is far too severe for recreational runners. Also, in my experience, a number of people who start running in order to run a marathon drop out of running once the marathon goal is achieved, thereby foregoing the ongoing health benefits that running confers.

I would encourage people to take up running, but unless you plan to become an elite athlete, build up a habit of moderate running that you can easily incorporate into a sensible lifestyle, a healthy habit that you can maintain into your old age........Irish Times

Do you agree? Obviously, there is a point where you can do too much of anything but how much is too much? Is running Marathons any worse than being inactive and overweight? Leave a comment by clicking on the Comment link below.

By the case you are wondering, the picture up top is the start of the New York City Marathon!


Anonymous said...

First off, any form of exercise is a healthy development. What is recreational running? Walkers who want to get their exercise dose in a quicker time? Joggers who get out for a jog a couple of times a week? Or Joe Bloggs who prefers to get out for some fresh air as an alternative to watching Coronation Street? Any form of running is a healthy development.
The origins of the event are irrelevant, who ever questions why we have a 100 metres, 3000 metre steeple chase or a 50K walking race??
As they say in the scouts…”be ready”…If any one is going to run a marathon un-prepared is foolish. Preparation for any endurance event is paramount. You cannot fault the organisers of the Dublin City Marathon, as they hold a series of road races throughout the summer in the Phoenix Park, ranging from distances from 5miles, 10 miles and 13.1 miles to allow participants recognise the effort required before an assault on the 26.2 miles.
Most marathon entry forms nowadays suggest that the applicant undergoes a medical assessment by their GP before considering such an event. Ignoring such advice can be perilous as deaths have been recorded during marathon events.
I wonder if the professor has run a marathon. For several hours afterwards of course the body is going to be stressed, but I’m sure the sense of achievement and increase in endorphins counter balances this. Most participants in a marathon will go again...questioning “what if?”, if I prepared better, if I went easier in the first half, if I put plasters on my nipples to avoid “joggers nipple”....The human desire to drive oneself on will ensure the continued popularity of marathon running. If the marathon was confined to “elite athletes”, then the amount of finishers in Dublin would be about 10, New York about 30 and Belfast, Cork, Longford and Dingle would not take place.

"Running is a mental sport...and we're all insane!"


Anonymous said...

I think people missed the point of this article. He isn't anti running he is basically pointing out that people "running" marathons slowly when unprepared is dangerous and that these people would be better off running shorter races. I agree completely. It is absurd that someones first running race should be 26.2 miles. It is not healthy to complete a five hour marathon. What it is taking risks with your health. There should be qualifying times in shorter races to ensure that the Jordans and Peter Andres of this world are kept away. It would be healthier and safer and would ensure that people have to train and not just roll off the sofa.

John said...

Some very good points were made in that article. It would no doubt be healthier for a lot of recreational runners to spread their running over a longer period of time while covering more reasonable distances. They could experience more pleasure and receive more long lasting benefits than they would from completing marathons and the short lived glory of completing them.

Anonymous said...

Unless we are elite running and earning our living from running, are we not all recreational runners???

Anonymous said...

I think the main important point that was being made it that a lot of people put a huge effprt into training and getting ready for a marathon, but once that goal is acheived a lot of people tend to ease off and even stop running altogether. If people concentrated on running the shorter distances mor frequently, they would continue to participate. Once the effort of the marathon is over, a lot of people do tend to give up running altogether. I know plenty of people who have done this.

Marie Griffin said...

Not an expert, medically or athletically, but I certainly subscribe to the notion that exercise in all forms is good for a healthy lifestyle and for good mental health too.