Marathon Season Has Begun: The Risks of Running a Marathon

As the weather gets warmer, all of us runners are ready to shed those pounds packed on from Winter in the best way we know how: by training our bodies to run a half (or an entire) marathon. Spring time is called Marathon Season for a reason! However, before you prepare yourself for the brutal race, it’s important to know the health risks of running that comes along with such a time and endurance tasking sport.

Now I’m not trying to be a debby downer here, but there was a tragic death of a 16 year-old from Virginia who died from exhaustion at the finish line of Virginia Beach’s Shamrock Half Marathon on Sunday, March 23rd. With the help of WedMD, I would just like enlighten you on the risks and potential dangers that could arise.

Heart Risks

risks of running heart health

Although you would think that most participants that train for these monstrous events are in the most superb shape, there is growing evidence that endurance running can hurt your heart in the long run. A report from the Canadian Journal of Cardiology earlier this year found that half of runners studied suffered decreased right and left ventricle function (which work together to pump blood to the body) in the 48 hours after completing the Quebec City Marathon. Researchers also found general swelling in the heart, which caused reduced blood flow. Good thing is that the changes didn’t last.

Based on a study done with London Marathoners published in 2007 in Sports Medicine found that cardiac arrests occur even in the most experienced runners. WedMD states that “Coronary artery disease was the most common cause of sudden cardiac arrest in five deaths and six resuscitations.”

The cardiac arrests were at the finish line in less than one-third of cases and the remainder of the arrests occurred between 6 and 26 miles on the course. Scary enough, WebMD continues to explain that only one of the eight runners who died had reported symptoms to his family or doctor which suggested cardiac arrest.

It was also proven that the amateur runners (aged over 50) experienced temporary heart changes, but no lasting damage. Older runners can breathe sigh of relief.


risks of running drinking water

Experts say that it is extremely important to stay hydrated during the race, but that there are dangers of drinking too much water. Officials say dehydration is the biggest problem that marathon runners have to overcome, but are also advised not to over hydrate. The key is to sip water at every drink station, but never in excess, no matter how much you wish you could gulp down a whole bottle.

Fun fact: Around 700,000 330ml bottles of water are provided for the London Marathon in addition to runners’ own drinks.

Also, if runners don’t usually take glucose drinks or supplements when training, they shouldn’t start using them on race days as their bodies won’t be used to them.


Swelling and inflammation are common after intense exercise, but research seems to indicate that the body will eventually adjust to the increased level of exercise following regular intense training to help reduce systematic inflammation. During training, if you find that your body is constantly feeling inflamed or swelled, it needs to be addressed before significantly increasing mileage.  Visiting a physiotherapy clinic such as CBR Clinics is a great way to seek advice and receive treatment for inflammation and other injuries


Secondary osteoarthritis is directly associated with a history of joint injuries. Regularly [over]loading injured joints creates trauma which over time, may “deplete the joint of the lubricating glycoproteins, disrupt the collagen network, slowly wear away the cartilage and cause numerous micro fractures in the underlying bones”. All runners must focus on good form. Women and flat footed runners must especially focus on good form since they are more likely to develop chondromalacia patella. As fatigue and length of running time increases, it becomes more and more difficult to hold good form. This must be something that is constantly being paid attention to.

Weight Changes 

weight loss running marathon tips

It’s no secret that running is a guaranteed way to lose weight. However, long distance runners must increase caloric intake to maintain their rigorous running schedule. While training, a runner becomes accustomed to eating significantly more carbohydrates, so don’t worry about “gaining weight” ! As long as you eat the right foods and stay on your training schedule, your body will thank you.

For more on fitness & tips, check out our articles here.

How do you take care of your body during running season?


All images via Thinkstock



  1. Hi Charlotte,
    Points well taken. Running can hurt a person as well as help a person. I’m over 50 and have been an active runner. I know my limits though. I take it easy and pace myself. Hydration is key and also stretching. I just enjoy jogging along and enjoying the moment. Thanks for an excellent article. Best wishes!


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