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Running a marathon is a lifetime goal for many runners. Marathons are also trending in recent years, with more than 500,000 Americans running a marathon each year. Running is an excellent form of exercise for most of us. However, distance running can stress muscles, bones, tendons, ligaments, and organs. It’s essential to make sure you’re training safely and promptly addressing any issues that arise. Many of our patients are athletes, and our practitioners are committed to helping folks do what they love. Overall, the benefits of training for a marathon are greater than the risks if you train and prepare correctly and devote time to recovery.
What Are The Pros of Running a Marathon?
Training for a marathon has numerous health benefits if you do it safely and gradually. Distance running can:
- Promote weight loss.
- Reduce the risk of diabetes.
- Improve cardiovascular health. A 2019 study in the “Journal of the American College of Cardiology” showed that training for a marathon reduced stiffness in the blood vessels, which can lead to high blood pressure.
- Improve bone density.
- Help you get in the habit of regular exercise.
- Provide mental health benefits. The experience of the runner’s high is well-known as intense physical activity releases endorphins. Training for a marathon is goal-oriented and gives runners something to look forward to and a sense of accomplishment.
What Are The Cons of Running a Marathon?
Even if you train safely, running a marathon is a huge endeavor and can lead to injury and other health issues. Marathon runners can experience:
- Muscle strains.
- Pressure on the joints.
- Injuries, including shin splints and stress fractures.
- Heart attacks and death during or after marathons (usually in people with undiagnosed medical conditions).
- Kidney damage. A 2019 Yale study showed short-term kidney damage in marathon runners, attributed to water and salt loss through sweating.
How Can I Prevent Injury When Training for a Marathon?
- Give yourself plenty of time to train–ideally at least six months. If you’re new to running, consider running shorter races first.
- Check with your primary care provider to ensure your overall health allows you to complete the run. If you are overweight or not fit, consider building up to a distance run.
- Check with your orthopaedist if you have a history of injury.
- Stay hydrated while training and on race day.
- Focus on nutrition and consume adequate carbohydrates for fuel.
- Make sure you have proper footwear for training and race day.
How Can I Recover After a Marathon?
Most experts recommend taking a week off after a marathon, then gradually returning to activity with light jogging, cross-training, and walking. Listen to your body and be aware of potential injuries as you move forward. Common injuries include shin splints, sprains, stress fractures, Achilles injuries, and joint pain. A 2019 study showed that while sprinters tend to experience thigh injuries, marathon runners are more likely to experience lower leg injuries. Pay extra attention to your shins, calves, and ankles. If you have pain, make an appointment with your orthopaedist. Many joint and muscle issues can be addressed with physical therapy instead of surgery, speeding your path to recovery. At Countryside Orthopaedics, many of our providers are athletes too. We’ve helped countless runners before and after big races, with a focus on recovery, healing, and getting you back in top form for the next big race.