Marathon health hazards

Published Aug 10, 2015, 4:11 am IST
Updated Mar 28, 2019, 6:26 am IST
Marathon running is no picnic, so don’t risk your health, say experts
Runners need to understand the electrolyte balance in the body
 Runners need to understand the electrolyte balance in the body

With increasingly number of people participating in marathons, one must keep in mind that the human body adapts to running slowly. The best way to increase speed and distance is to train for a minimum of six weeks, so that the body can adapt to the stress placed on cardiovascular and musculoskeletal systems. Also pay attention to nutrition, hydration and rest.

If these parameters are well understood then casualties faced during the marathon in terms of injury, exhaustion, pain and also dehydration can be avoided.

Beginners have to train for 26 weeks
A specific training plan and cross training programme allows runners to perform well. For beginners, a schedule of 26 weeks of training is ideal. They must follow 10 weeks of running for 30 minutes before beginning marathon training. The intense training work-outs of running, brisk walking, strength training exercises are carried out for 16 weeks and it is very important to stick to one programme.

Dr Paripati Sharat Kumar, consultant, orthopedic and sports medicine, Apollo Health City explains, “A positive mindset is the key to enjoying training and crossing the finish line. Opt for shorter distances of running for three times in a week and do light cross training for two days in a week. Also do yoga or stretching exercise for a day which will ensure that the muscles are flexible. Rest is also an important part of training and the body must be allowed to relax for a day. Too hard and too fast is dangerous, hence, it is important to know your limits.”

1. Daily recommended calorie intake in men and women is 2500 and 2000 calories, respectively. Fifteen minute run burns 1500 calories.
2. Eat whole grains as they take longer time to digest so it will fuel you for a longer period time during the run. Also eat small meals throughout the day.
3. Sleep for at least seven to nine hours.
4. Eat nuts as they are rich in protein and fiber. Avoid caffeine.

Ensure proper electrolyte balance
Runners need to understand the electrolyte balance in the body. There are some runners who drink too much fluid but their body is not able to sweat it out. This is especially seen in slow runners. If the intake of fluids is too much, it leads to a potentially fatal condition called hyponatremia. Dr Praveen Rao, consultant orthopedic surgeon, Yashoda Hospitals, explains, “The best way to avoid dehydration is to drink enough fluid to minimise loss of body weight during the race.”

The major important signs of electrolyte disturbances are headache, giddiness, nausea, muscle cramps, weakness, thick saliva, irritability and fatigue. The best way for runners to check their hydration status is by “sweat test”. Dr Rao says, “If you weigh 63kg before the run, but after the run, you weigh 62.6 kg, then you lost 0.4kg (400g), equal to 400 ml fluid. So in an hour you would have lost 800 ml. You should try to drink close to 800 ml.”

Monitoring the urine colour is also a reliable way to screen for low electrolyte levels. It should normally be a light yellow color, but if your urine is clear, it means you are over hydrated.

Seek medical assistance for cramps
Dr Sanjay Tapadia, consultant orthopedic and joint replacement surgeon, Krishna Institute of Medical Sciences Hospital, explains, “Most of the runners exert their body at the start of the race. By doing this they deplete the body of energy it needs for the entire distance. Dehydration is believed to be a common cause of leg cramps. Excessive sweating can lead to the loss of sodium and potassium, which in turn can lead to cramps in legs, arms, stomach etc. Drinking optimal amount of water or other fluids before, during and after a run can prevent dehydration and leg cramps. Drink water, slowly, every 15 to 20 minutes.”

Also, stretch your muscles before and after a run. And the best choice for post-workout drink is one that contains enough amount of sugars, electrolytes and possibly protein.

Dr Murali Nannapaneni, Race Director, Airtel Hyderabad Marathon says, “Runners who have already been running and have attempted a marathon before will have to undergo 12-16 weeks of training. The schedule includes understanding how much water and rest the body needs to cope up.”

Common injuries while running and training
1 Runners knee: The pain is around the knee cap and is experienced when going up or downstairs, squatting and sitting with knee bent for long time.
2) Stress fracture: Training too hard puts stress on the bones which may cause small cracks or stress fracture. Pain is worse with activity and improves with rest.
3) Muscle tear: Over stretching of muscles leads to muscle tear.
4) Shin splints: People with flat feet who increase the number of days of running too quickly experience pain in the front or inside of lower leg.
5) Achilles Tendinitis: Running too long a distance as a routine can cause Achilles tendinitis. This causes pain and stiffness in the area of tendon especially in the morning and with activity.
6) Patellar Tendinitis: It is common among distance runners. It leads to tiny tears in patellar tendon.
7) Ankle sprain: Ankles roll in or outward, stretching the ligament are some of the common problems. Rest, ankle brace or air cast are the treatments.
8) Blisters: Rubbing of heel against the shoe causes blisters. Wear proper shoes and a synthetic pair of socks. If blister still appears, cover it with band aids, mole skins or gels.