Dehydration, adverse fatigue and renal complications – the aforementioned kidney damage – are the ways this is most likely to present itself. It seems like literally everyone is into marathon running at the moment. Okay, obviously not literally everyone, but if you’re not training for one yourself you probably know someone who’s taken it up as a hobby-slash-fitness challenge.
As satisfying and brag-worthy as running a half or full marathon is, it’s an activity that takes quite a toll on your body. Not only is there the damaging impact it has on your joints, but a recent study found it’s quite bad for your kidneys too.
“Running sends one-and-a-half to three times an individual’s body weight through their body,” Beth Sheehan, an accredited exercise physiologist and professional practice advisor at Exercise & Sports Science Australia (ESSA) tells Coach.
“This repetitive impact over a longer distance and time [as when running a marathon] will potentially have long-term effects if an athlete is not adequately prepared.”
The joints in your knees, hips and feet are the body parts most likely to be impacted by overuse, leading to painful strains and injuries. Marathon running is also extremely taxing on the metabolic system.
“The extended energy demands on the cardio-respiratory, endocrine, and neuromuscular systems also affect the metabolic demands on the body,” Sheehan explains.
Dehydration, adverse fatigue and renal complications – the aforementioned kidney damage – are the ways this is most likely to present itself.
Unfortunately, marathon running-induced injury can’t always be prevented, but there are precautions you can take to avoid it as much as possible. It’s all about prep.
“A solid preparation and training program needs to be implemented prior to a marathon,” Sheehan advises. “This involves a combination of cross training to ensure adequate strength and cardiovascular fitness, appropriate dietary requirements, as well as management of joints and muscle length.”
According to Sheehan, on top of your actual running training, you should do separate sessions to work on strength, particularly leg strength (focusing on the glutes, legs and core), and stretching sessions to assist with flexibility – yoga is perfect.
During a run, whether it’s training or the actual marathon day, it’s important not to forget the golden rules: Warm up, starting your running slowly and building up, and cool down by foam rolling or stretching, ideally when your body is still warm, or in the shower.
Gear is crucial, too – get expert-fitted footwear suited to your feet and gait, and wear breathable clothing to reduce your body temperature, and therefore your chances of overheating and dehydration.
Speaking of hydration, adequate fueling is imperative. Drink water during long runs and take an energy gel pack, especially if you experience fluctuating sugar levels. Re-hydrating afterwards with an electrolyte drink or solution is also important.
While there’s nothing wrong with drinking in moderation after exercise, in this instance it’s best to steer clear of dehydrating drinks, like alcohol and caffeine post-run. Sorry.
“Your body and health are at stake, so consult an accredited exercise professional as well as a sports dietitian to ensure you are adequately prepared for your event,” Sheehan says. “Also, listen to your body. If you are experiencing increasing pain or a urinary issue, seek professional advice.”