Good Question: Is Running A Marathon Healthy?

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The Twin Cities Marathon is this weekend and thousands of runners will test their physical limits. It’s something nearly half a million Americans do every year.

But, is running a marathon healthy?

Even Dr. Bill Roberts, medical director for the Twin Cities Marathon, acknowledges it can be a bit excessive.

“I’ve started many a talk by saying, ‘We’re going to talk marathon medicine, but I need to remind you that the first runner died,” said Roberts, referring to the tale of Pheidippides.

So the ancient Greek story goes, Pheidippides ran 25 miles to announce victory in the Battle of Marathon only to collapse and die on the spot.

“A marathon is probably beyond what you need for health,” said Roberts.

On top of general soreness, marathon running could pose a threat to the body’s most important muscle.

“There are some studies suggesting that there may be some changes to the body and the hearts that aren’t perfect,” said Roberts.

A 2006 study in the American Heart Association’s journal, Circulation, found some runners’ hearts trouble getting blood where it needed to be when it needed to be there after a marathon.

But still, they run.

“I think it’s kind of the Everest of running,” said Roberts.

And, like climbing Everest, if you’re going to do it safely, that shouldn’t be the first mountain you scale.

“I wouldn’t recommend that people who are starting out running start with the goal of a marathon, but start with the goal of completing 5Ks & 10Ks over a two- to four-year period,” said Roberts.

But with the proper training, Roberts said, a marathon can be a perfectly healthy experience.

“Ultimately, I would say people who run marathons benefit with improved health over time.”

More from Matt Brickman
  • Nels

    I loved my first marathon last year and it was outrageously awesome. Do it every other year, or once in a while and you should be fine, as long as you’re healthy. Bad for the joints and muscles? Maybe, but your body is a machine–it heals within a week!

    Good luck TC marathoners on this weekend’s run!

  • interesting but

    What amazes me is some really out of shape people run marathons. I know several and the fact they can actually complete one takes a lot of the wow factor out of it for those that don’t run then.

  • KIller Teeth

    Not for me I hate running and I am not fat. Just other kinds of exercise. If you enjoy it do it. There are so many fun ways to get fit running is not one of them for me.

  • Doug T

    “But, is running a marathon healthy?”

    Neither is hitting yourself on the head with a board …. but it feels sooo good when you stop :)

    (old runners joke)


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