Is Running Marathons Healthy?

Completing a marathon is a supreme achievement, but at the end of the day, is running marathons healthy? Find out the answer to this question and much more.

There is a great feeling of accomplishment and pride when you can tell others that you’ve completed a marathon. Running 26.2 miles non-stop is a supreme feat of physical endurance and strength, but there is debate about whether marathons are healthy. Overall, there are some health benefits to running a marathon, including living longer.

So yes, running marathons are healthy. However, it’s not that simple.

The Health Benefits Of Running Marathons

There are numerous health benefits to running marathons. However, most of your benefits will come from the preparation rather than the actual marathon. A marathon is a singular event, a test of endurance; it’s during the preparation stage that your body grows stronger.

You’ll develop improved muscular endurance and cardiovascular fitness. The preparation phase also helps burn fat which often results in weight loss while building muscle. Other benefits include improved mental focus, sleep, and reduced anxiety.

For those who struggle with staying disciplined, marathon training can help. Training for a marathon is a great way to stick to a new diet or just become used to sticking with uncomfortable routines. This is an invaluable skill that can lead to success in every area of your life. You might be wondering how long do marathons take.

is running marathons healthy
Training for a marathon is a great way to stick to a new diet

You might also be interested in our explainer on is running good for abs.

The Health Risks Of Running Marathons

While, for the most part, running marathons is a healthy activity, there are some risks and drawbacks. For those who’ve not prepared properly for a marathon, it can even potentially be life-threatening – although this is rare.

If you just began running three weeks ago and can barely run three miles, the act of trying to run a marathon could endanger your health. People with certain health conditions or a history of specific injuries are in more danger while running marathons.

For example, someone with a heart condition or history of leg injuries such as torn ACL or shin splints may want to avoid running in marathons as the risk of injury could be greater than running or walking at shorter distances.

Training for a marathon can also lead to conditions such as tendonitis, muscle strains, chronic fatigue, and iliotibial band syndrome due to training that’s too intense for your body to handle.

Marathon runners can also experience conditions such as hernias. If a runner develops a hernia during a marathon, it might be possible to finish the race with no danger. However, should the hernia begin to cause compromised blood flow to bowel tissue, it can quickly become a medical emergency.

For some runners, who’ve developed the mentality of “pushing through pain,” this can cause them not to take painful symptoms of serious conditions as seriously as they should. This “no pain, no gain” mentality can sometimes backfire, leading to bad outcomes.

It’s always wiser to stop an activity when experiencing a sharp or deliberating pain rather than push through; recognizing the normal discomforts of running versus the alarming symptoms of more serious conditions is another benefit one can only get through proper training.

Check out our explainer on why do runners get side cramps.

How To Minimize Risks

You can do a few things to minimize your chances of becoming injured while running a marathon.

The first thing is to ensure you’ve given yourself enough time to train. Rushing into a marathon after only a few days or weeks of training can be a recipe for disaster. Just how much time a person needs to train can vary based on their individual physical conditioning.

It’s also very important to wear well-fitted footwear that’s not too worn down. Worn footwear during a marathon can lead to injuries and accidents.

It would help if you also built up mileage at a steady pace that’s not too fast or too slow.

While they can be expensive, a personal trainer with the right credentials and experience can better gauge where you are physically and how much more you need to train before running a marathon. A trained professional can also analyze your running form and help you make corrections where needed.

runners team warming up and stretching before morning training
Trained professional can also analyze your running form and help you make corrections

Your trainer will likely recommend crosstraining activities to help you build endurance. Exercises such as swimming are fantastic for runners as they build muscle, endurance, and lung strength, without impacting your knees and joints. You might find our guide on how to tape a knee for running helpful.

Finally, warming up and cooling down after a run is vital. Stretching and light exercise before a run can activate your muscles, helping them function better during a marathon. Also, following a marathon, cool-down exercises and stretches can help reduce soreness and stiffness, which can be debilitating the day after.