To Run or Not to Run
Contributed by Dr. Darrin Bright. Medical Director for MIT & OhioHealth Max Sports Endurance Academy
- Is it safe to run a marathon? As the medical director for the Columbus Marathon and Capital City Half Marathon this is a question that I frequently encounter from runners and more recently the media. Monday mornings have not been kind to the marathon world this fall. With so many large marathons being held on Sundays there have been several reports regarding runners who collapsed and died during recent events. As runners, race organizers, or concerned family members you can't help but ask the question; is it safe to run a marathon?
Fortunately the running medical community has grown in both size and organization. Historically it was anecdotal stories and medical opinion regarding the safety of running. I believe there has been a strong negative bias in the medical community that dates back thousands of years. Running used to be a spectator sport enjoyed by the upper classes; however, they dared not participant as it was believed to shorten life. This bias has continued today despite the lack of evidence to the contrary.
The New England Journal of Medicine recently published an article that provides very good evidence regarding the safety of running marathons and half marathons. The link below provides a nice summary of the article:
The take home point: marathon running is safe and appears to be well tolerated. However, running an endurance event is not without risk. The increased participation in marathons and half marathons has resulted in many newcomers to the sport, some with higher risk for cardiovascular disease. Therefore, the author does suggest "a good discussion with a doctor who understands the physiology of running and knows the patient's medical family history is key."