Marathon = death? Call me a sceptic

All my time running I’ve loved the way that it’s made me feel, made my body look (well except for when a little too undernourished!) and the good that I know it is doing for my health.

I’ve also had to deal with the comments from friends and family on how it’s bad for my knees, will wear out my heart and the tales of people who die whilst running. The recent example is two people who died last week in the Guangzhou Marathon in China, one of which was running a 5 kilometre event, while there was major international coverage after the death of 30 year old Claire Squires in this year’s London Marathon.

Well that debate looks like not disappearing any time with the publication of a report and subsequent article in the British newspaper The Daily Telegraph about the health risks of marathoning.

The article, titled ‘Too many marathons can kill, warn doctors’ essentially claims that too much sustained exercise can lead to “overstretching of the organ’s chambers, thickening of its walls, changes to electrical signalling, accelerated aging in the heart, diastolic ventricular dysfunction and large-artery wall stiffening”.

30yo Claire Squires died in the 2012 London Marathon. It was later revealed she had an irregular heartbeat.

To me this is ridiculous. The claim is essentially that there is more damage to the heart by running than there is listed by the Heart Foundation on how smoking damages the heart. There is also more damage done to the heart by running than by being obese. This really, really scares me as I reckon people will use this as an excuse to not exercise.

I’m not saying that the science is fraudulent. I do reckon though that the sample they are looking at is miniscule and similarly the number of people who die each year running a marathon as a percentage of entrants is tiny.  I could just easily scan the entrants list of an Ironman or marathon race and find people racing well into their 80’s.

Just like everything in life, training for marathons and running needs to be done in moderation, but there needs to be caution in over exaggerating the risks to the masses of something that is relevant to a very small number.

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1 Comment

Filed under Analysis, Opinion, Training

One response to “Marathon = death? Call me a sceptic

  1. Ah, yes, running will wear out your knees. How many times have a heard this from older friends and family members? I have also been warned that the “constant pounding” will damage my kidneys — this from a friend who is a nurse and whom I suspect believes that we are allocated a specific number of heartbeats that we use up at our peril. There are certainly a lot of potential blog entries discussing how runners have to deal with the bizarre common wisdom of non-runners.

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