If you are reading this article it is because you have ever thought or dreamed of doing a marathon. The distance of Philippi is one of the great adventures of any athlete and, for many, a way of life.
But it is essential to understand that running a marathon involves taking certain risks to our health. We have to start from this premise.
The stress to which our body is exposed during a test of 42 kilometers of running, or between three and five hours of continuous effort, is very high.
For athletes in optimal shape, with a suitable trajectory and training for a test of this level, the damages caused are generally assumed by the body and, in addition, temporary. Traditionally, running a marathon demanded a great physical form, but it is true that the running boom is sometimes ending this paradigm.
Running a marathon implies taking certain risks to our health
On the other hand, the danger is especially considerable for those untrained or with diseases or disorders prior to the test itself.
The kidneys and the heart are the organs most affected by extreme effort and, in these circumstances, any pathology or weakness can be maximized and generate serious episodes for health.
The fact that the small damages that the organism is suffering during the odyssey of 42 kilometers of race are temporary does not imply that there are no risks during the course of the test.
Unfortunately, collapses due to hyponatremia, dehydration, heat stroke or hypothermia, among others, are well known. In many cases, these situations are an obvious signal that the organism sends when it cannot continue making the demanding effort to which it has been subjected. In the most serious cases, we find episodes of sudden death.
The effect of the marathon on the kidneys
The sustained increase in body temperature, dehydration or decreased blood flow to the kidneys that occur during a marathon are potential causes of kidney damage in these types of races.
The study called Kidney Injury and Repair Biomarkers in Marathon Runners deepened the physiological effect of overexertion coupled to these races.
In 82% of the 22 subjects analyzed in this investigation, an increase was observed in factors that were assimilated to renal lesions of varying intensity (LRA or acute renal injury, a disease in which the kidneys have difficulty filtering blood residues ). –Read more about this study–
One of the participants in this work, the nephrologist at Yale Chirag Parikh University, warned about the consequences of marathons: “We have shown that there is the same amount of injury and inflammation after running a marathon as we see in patients who leave cardiac surgery or the ICU ”.
The nephrologist himself refers to the convenience or not of running marathons as “the million dollar question.” Since the investigation revealed that the values returned after two days to normal, the danger is focused on people with kidney disease, diabetes, hypertension or elderly.
Researchers have certified subsequent changes in biomarkers after performing a marathon, which could be associated with symptoms of lesions in different vital organs such as those mentioned in the kidney (study), and also in the heart. In normal clinical studies, the increase of these biomarkers are signs of problems in the organism, although these investigations insist on the capacity of recovery of the organism between two and fourteen days after the effort
The effect of the marathon on the heart
The heart is the main muscle of the human being, responsible for the circulation of blood.
Also one of those who suffer the most during prolonged effort: the more effort, the greater the cardiac demand. And the greater the cardiac requirement, the greater the likelihood of previous cardiac pathologies.
In addition, aerobic training of high intensity and with a high dynamic component for a long time can cause cardiac adaptations such as, for example, the dilation of the atrial cardiac cavities with which the appearance of arrhythmias is associated.
The Spanish Heart Foundation recalls that a frequent finding in the case of habitual runners (whether professional or amateur) is left ventricular hypertrophy, which means that the heart muscle increases in size causing an increase in the heart.
For this reason it is recommended to regulars of athletic competitions to control the left ventricle.
People with previous illnesses are the most vulnerable
The risks to a person’s organism associated with an enormous physical effort are greater when the person suffers from diseases or disorders prior to the competition (see study). It is not that people with diseases cannot run marathons, but that the damages that these tests bring with them affect their body more. For this sector of the population, running the 42 kilometers (or any other super effort) requires maximum control and maximum care.
The effect of the marathon on the joints
There are other issues that relate marathon and health, more obvious, but that should not be underestimated.
Runners, especially long-distance runners, are permanently exposed to muscle and joint injuries resulting from the millions of impacts they accumulate on the ground.
Some may be punctual; others can be chronified and end up in abandoning the objectives set or in a premature withdrawal. The adaptation to the effort is key to avoid them.
Issues to consider when preparing a marathon
The common sense of the athlete when facing a marathon is the differential factor.
It is essential to undergo a specialized medical examination and a maximum stress test in order to know where the limits of our body are in the face of high intensity effort.
It is also essential to prepare a planned and supervised preparation before facing this great test.
It must be started around six months before the marathon (depending on the experience of each athlete), combining it with muscle-based work in a gym or swimming pool, technical and psychological training.