Some interesting articles:
Is Marathon Running Bad for the Heart?
Running marathons ‘could permanently damage the heart’
Every now and then we hear about people dropping dead during marathons, and our unfit friends and family point this out to show us how “dangerous” running is. It seems in most cases these people had a heart defect. In my non-expert opinion, it certainly is possible that marathon running or over-training can cause at least a little heart damage even in healthy people, but this damage is usually temporary.
In the articles above, they examined only a small number of marathoners. We need studies that examine larger numbers of marathon runners so we can see what is really going on here.
Still, it is important to know that contrary to what many people would have us believe, completing a marathon doesn’t necessarily represent the pinnacle of fitness. Indeed, in the days and weeks following a marathon, for many runners, it is more like the opposite of fitness due to the damage caused by the running and the long recovery period. Some may even suffer from permanent injuries that can lead to being less fit and healthy in the long run. There are diminishing returns when you exercise beyond what is necessary for being fit and healthy, especially if you’re focusing almost exclusively on cardio which is what marathon-training is. As a person who has run and joggled half-marathon distances many times over the years, I can attest to this.
I’m not saying you shouldn’t run marathons. I’m simply saying, and I realize I may sound like a heretic to some, you don’t have to run or joggle marathons to be truly fit. You don’t even have to run every day to be fit, so long as you run or exercise most days of the week. Fitness shouldn’t be a form of punishment. If you run on a regular basis, don’t feel bad if you are not capable of running a marathon – it’s not the only game in town or the sole measure for determining how fit you are.
If you have a heart defect or suspect you may have one, be extra careful. See your doctor before attempting even half-marathons if you think you may have something. Also see your doctor if you decide you just want to be a total couch potato, which we know is much worse for the body than running.
Running a very long distance is overrated as a measure of fitness; marathons aren’t for everyone, but if you have the right physique, no heart defect, train properly and recover quickly, then running marathons may not be a bad idea. We at Wild Juggling want you to be creative with your fitness program, we want you to challenge yourself. But this doesn’t necessarily mean punishing yourself or pushing yourself to extremes that have more drawbacks than rewards.