Marathon Collapse: Be Aware!

How many of you are all ready for it? How many of you are thinking to jump from 10K to Half Marathon, just like that, to see if you can really make it? If you are one of these people who want take part of runs or marathons just to experience it (or) just to strike one item off your bucket list, then go ahead and keep reading, as this article might actually save your life!

In 490 BC, a man called Pheidippides, ran from a Greek town called Marathon to the Capital Athens to deliver a message about the Greek Army. The distance between these two towns is 26.2 miles and this is the origin of the Marathon which is trending today. Though some of you might as well know this part of the story, it is often not known to many that Pheidippides died after running those 26.2 miles!! There might be many not-so-shocking reasons for this.

A Marathon is approximately 40,000 steps, that too pounding your full body weight with acceleration. So, it is a highly impactful event with a very high impact on your joints and muscles. In Running, you need not produce your maximum force, but you need to produce force for long periods of time. It is basically an endurance activity. So, you need to be strong but also fatigue resistant and a lean body weight is more useful than strong powerful muscles for a runner.

Now, we hear lots of news regarding people collapsing while running Marathons, Half Marathons, or even 5K and 10K runs. The point is not how long you are running, rather it is whether your body has been “trained” properly for however short or long the run is. Yes, progressive training is really important in this scenario, because sudden increases in physical activity can be dangerous for your entire body and especially your heart!

Let’s look at certain physiological aspects to be kept in mind before aiming for long distance running. Of course, along with these you need to be an economical runner, in first place. That is, you should be a good runner with a good technique, else any of the below aspects might not save you.

1) You should have a high VO2 Max value. This is the amount of oxygen that can be taken in, transported to the muscles and utilized. First you need to improve this value of yours by progressively training to improve your aerobic capacity by some percentage every week.

2) You need high carbs for the process, so keep the carbohydrate store ready. You can’t rely on fat as a fuel for this, as fat -> energy conversion is a very slow process and you cannot use it for running. People call it hitting the wall when all the carbohydrate stores are used up, even after loading on more and more carbs from couple of days before the Marathon. That is, they are literally starving and they are fatigue. Also, if your cells don’t have enough salts, the nerves lack enough Sodium, Potassium, Magnesium and other salts required to pass electrical signals.

3) Hydration is another important factor in running. Dehydration leads to decrease in the blood volume which makes the heart to pump harder to satisfy the demand. This directly increases strain in the heart.
Every individual sweats differently. On average, a runner loses 1 liter of hydration in 1 hour. So, it’s very hard to replenish the same amount completely during the race. Hence, athletes often end up 2-3% dehydrated after a Marathon and it’s okay as there is no other way. This is okay for well trained people, as they keep themselves hydrated from long before the Marathon and also they are aware and ready for the dehydrated state of body. Especially in hot summers, more dehydration happens and it puts a lot of strain on the cardiac system.

4) When running, your muscles contract and they produce around 10 times more heat than when walking. You should be able to dissipate heat while doing the Marathon as cooling down is really important. When the body tries to restore your body temperature, most of the blood flow is diverted to the skin from your working muscles and hence the energy and the oxygen resources are taken away from the muscles. Hence, you need to find out methods to make your body cool from outside with techniques like drinking cold water, splashing cold water onto face, etc.,

5) Now, Marathon is a very long race and it comparatively takes long time to recover too. The muscles become overused and damaged and they should be getting at least 1-2 weeks of rest before exposed to another high intensity physical activity and this rest period is highly important for the muscles and the whole body too! Please do not overlook this precious Recovery Time!

6) Be aware of your health status. Know your family history and check for any known history of heart attacks. If so, think twice before taking the step, or else I am sure you must be very well trained for it. Build program very gradually. Eating healthy, though it matters a lot for any runner, it is the most important when you are running with a family history.

7) Try and run with a buddy. Because, he can do a CPR in case of an emergency, in case he’s trained to do that in first place. The first step which is often believed to help the most is CPR. CPR (Cardio-Pulmonary Resuscitation) is defined as “An emergency procedure that combines chest compression often with artificial ventilation in an effort to manually preserve intact brain function until further measures are taken to restore spontaneous blood circulation and breathing in a person who is in cardiac arrest”.

Also, keep your buddy prepared to go check for a defibrillator and seek help if it is available.
Defibrillators are devices that restore a normal heartbeat by sending an electric pulse or shock to the heart. They are used to prevent or correct an arrhythmia, a heartbeat that is uneven or that is too slow or too fast. Defibrillators can also restore the heart’s beating if the heart suddenly stops.

So friends, please be aware of all these things before heading to a Marathon (or) any run which is the first to you. Do not ignore any of them!

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