The Pain of the Long Distance Runner

I was a runner in high school. I was a sprinter and I never had that gift (or desire) for going long distances. I was opposed to my coaches who required the sprinters to run miles of laps to "build endurance." If you want me to run faster for 100 meters or anything less than a half mile, let me run lots of sprints.

But running is very popular and distance running, including that 26.2-mile marathon, certainly has its advocates.

My knees are not able to handle running any more, so I am a big advocate of walking - at any speed and distance.

I recall two friends who ran their first marathons and then looked horrible for days after. They were mentally great, but physically lousy. Why would you do that to yourself?

Yes, our earliest ancestors certainly walked and ran longer distances than we do today. They had no choice. They would have prefered to have a vehicle I am sure.

So, I did get a bit of pleasure in seeing that researchers are looking more closely at the many ways running a marathon destroys your body. Even with the proper training, marathoners end up with ravaged joints, shredded muscles and more.

Acute kidney injuries occur because of the flood of chemicals during the run that can overload internal organs. Dangerously low sodium levels, bloody urine and compromised immune systems are some of the side effects of a lengthy run.

They did find that runners seem to bounce back to normal levels within a few days, but nearly half of the marathoners studied experienced kidney damage.

Our immune systems are compromised as the body diverts resources to the running, so colds and fevers following a race are fairly common.

But, as the article I read concludes, "tens of thousands of people run marathons every year, with no long-term ill effects." And there are health benefits. It has been shown to decrease the risk of diabetes mellitus, cardiovascular disease, and depression while improving bone density and supporting weight control.

When done with proper training, nutrition, rest, attention to form and pre-screening for heart conditions, biomechanical issues or other risk factors, long distance running show benefits.

I will be there on the track and trails walking briskly as the runners shoot past me. I will limit my marathon activities to books and movies like Marathon Man and The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner.

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