I’m sure that a lot of us are inspired every year when we see runners with great physiques pushing themselves to the limit to finish the marathon and win for their country.  But should you really follow that inspired feeling into actually trying it yourself?  Well, I guess it depends on a few different variables.

1.  Age

2.  Gender

3.  How much you are going to train

The Massachusetts General Hospital has recently collected data on marathon runners and the effects it can have on one’s heart.  Doctors and researchers from Mass General Hospital stand at the finish line at the Boston Marathon and collect blood samples from volunteer runners.  They’ve found that for the average runner who runs a four plus hour marathon has definitive signs of cardiac stress after completion of their race. 

First - Cardiac troponin a chemical that shows in blood tests when heart muscles is damaged, rises 60% in runners.  In some it rises so high that if a cardiologist just looked at these scores the runner would be admitted into a hospital as having a heart attack.

Second – BNP, brain natriuretic peptide, another red flag for cardiac dysfunction goes up after a marathon in 60% of runners. 

Platelets also become activated and more likely to form clots that can trigger heart attacks, according to a paper published in 2006 by Alexander Kratz, director of hematology lab at Mass. General. 

Echo cardiograms have also shown that the heart’s ability to relax after each beat is impaired for several weeks in most marathoners. 

Findings by Dr. Malissa Wood a cardiologist at Mass General Women’s Cardiovascular center show that runners who trained for 3-4 months with at least 45 miles per week ” we’re golden.”  They didn’t get into any trouble as far as excessively high blood tests.  Runners who trained with less than 35 miles per week we’re in big trouble. 

45 miles per week for 3-4 months is a fairly heavy amount of training.  Only someone more than moderately fit would be able to perform this kind of a training phase.  This brings to light the question should you be fit to run?  According to the information I see in the research found here I would answer yes.  You have to be fit to maintain that volume of training for that period of time.  The one piece of information I would like to see is whether or not cross training can be substituted for some of the weekly mileage run.


The Boston Globe 4/17/2006.  ” Runners who don’t train well can have marathon of miseries.”  By Judy Foreman.

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