In an age where we have a thorough understanding of our bodies and knowing that exercise is a crucial part to leading a healthy lifestyle, there are those who take it to the extreme. Running for pleasure has risen in popularity, and is now one of the most practiced and most popular sports in the world, with over 60 million people engaging themselves in the sport regularly across the world.
I’m sure you will have already heard a lot of the amazing things that running can do for your body and mind, such as strengthening the heart, boosting energy levels, better sleep and the benefit of burning serious calories.
When you run, your heart beat faster and harder, pumping blood around your body faster; running consistently means your body can do this naturally more efficient. Another thing your body would learn to do better is burning calories, as running boosts your metabolism, which means you burn calories at a higher rate when you consistently exercise.
Another benefit to running is the endorphin high many people call a ‘runners high’ which is a boost in serotonin levels which is an instant mood booster. This healthier brain improves your memory, which leads to protection against dementia.
All in all it sounds like a super-drug, but with all these benefits, surely there has to be things that go wrong?
Those who enjoy running might aim higher than your average 5km, and try to tackle the beast of the running world. Marathons.
The first marathon race was created in 1896 to honour the legendary run of the Greek messenger Pheidippides from Marathon to Athens. There is no way of knowing if this was myth or fact, but Marathons have become more and more popular, with only around 500,000 completing one in the US in 2014.
Marathons are 26.2 miles long (42km), with the average time being around four and a half hours. What sort of pressure does it have on your body? And does extreme running actually cause any harm to your system?
Marathon runners have spoken before on feeling sore, achey and run down for days after they’ve completed it. Your body would be experiencing inflammation and swelling around your knees, as they take most of the impact, and a lower immune system means you have a higher chance of getting a cold afterwards.
This doesn’t stop people from going out and completing these marathons every year. “Before I took up running I had real problems with my knees. Not any more, a couple years of running and i am leaner, stronger, my resting heart rate is massively reduced and my knees don’t hurt anymore” says Steven James from Manchester.
There has been a new trend forming within the running community of ‘ultra-marathons’ which is considered as anything over the 42 kilometres of a marathon, with the average being around 50km. For an average person, these miles could seem crazy, as this is around the distance between London and Bedford.
“I have run an ultra and felt it at mile 25, however the cross training (swimming and biking) really made a difference, I felt good!” Says Linda Ross from Stevenage.
This increase in milage can take months to train for, however if not done safely or consistently, could lead to fatal injuries. Across last decade, 42 people died whilst running due to cardiac events, with your chance of a heart attack heightened 24 hours after intense exercise.
Marathons can literally destroy your body, with many runners experiencing acute kidney injuries, a compromised immune system, temporary loss of fluid in the spine and a huge break down in muscles.
However, overall, there are no long term effects of harm to the body when running long distance, with many people preferring it to shorter distances. However, with regular training, extensive build ups and cross training, your body will benefit more from your mission to beat 26.2 miles than cause injury.