MAY 24, 2016 12:23 PM PDT

The Unglamorous Health Risks of Running a Marathon

WRITTEN BY: Xuan Pham

In the animal kingdom, few species actually run for fun. Humans are the exception - we push our bodies to the extreme by willingly running long-distance in races, like marathons. A marathon is a whopping 26.2-mile test of endurance. But how does the body respond during and in the aftermath of a marathon?

Along with the glorious sense of accomplishment, marathon runners can expect pain - and lots of it. The body uses every single type of muscle fiber during long-distance running, leaving runners desperately sore for weeks afterwards. But perhaps the muscle that takes the worst beating is the heart. During a marathon, the heart beats much faster than usual. It also releases an increased amount of metabolites into the bloodstream. One of these metabolites is known as the cardiac troponin enzyme, which at high levels, can signal the onset of a heart attack.

Simple hydration needs can also turn complicated during a marathon. Drinking too little fluid can lead to thickened blood, which stresses vital organs like the kidneys, and impairs the body's ability to regulate temperature. Conversely, when runners overcompensate with too much fluid, their sodium levels get thrown out of whack, which could lead to serious brain injuries.

As with any major physical endeavors, training is key. And though the pain may be unavoidable, some say the memory of pain is ephemeral while the high of finishing a marathon lasts forever.
About the Author
  • I am a human geneticist, passionate about telling stories to make science more engaging and approachable. Find more of my writing at the Hopkins BioMedical Odyssey blog and at TheGeneTwist.com.
You May Also Like
DEC 24, 2020
Chemistry & Physics
Novel Two-phased Particles are the Ultimate Authenticity Tag
DEC 24, 2020
Novel Two-phased Particles are the Ultimate Authenticity Tag
Counterfeit goods producers are flooding the global market with low-quality, sometimes dangerous merchandise and ripping ...
MAR 26, 2021
Plants & Animals
A Massive 17-Year Cicada Swarm will Emerge Soon
MAR 26, 2021
A Massive 17-Year Cicada Swarm will Emerge Soon
The east coast is preparing for one of nature’s greatest spectacles. A gigantic swarm of periodical cicadas is due ...
JUN 28, 2021
Earth & The Environment
Yeast Engineered to Produce Biofuel from Previously Unusable Biomass
JUN 28, 2021
Yeast Engineered to Produce Biofuel from Previously Unusable Biomass
Researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have found a way to expand biofuel production with geneticall ...
JUL 08, 2021
Space & Astronomy
Giant Plumes on Saturn's Moon May Hold Signs of Life
JUL 08, 2021
Giant Plumes on Saturn's Moon May Hold Signs of Life
Saturn’s moon, Enceladus, has giant erupting plumes of water that, scientists say, can not be explained by known g ...
JUL 13, 2021
Earth & The Environment
Artificial Lighting Disrupts Pollinating Insects' Vision
JUL 13, 2021
Artificial Lighting Disrupts Pollinating Insects' Vision
Artificial lighting can affect the eyesight of moths that rely on night-time vision, such as the elephant hawkmoth. The ...
JUL 22, 2021
Space & Astronomy
Telescope Riding a Balloon Could Replace Hubble
JUL 22, 2021
Telescope Riding a Balloon Could Replace Hubble
The Earth's atmosphere often muffles views from ground-based telescopes when observing space. Now, a research c ...
Loading Comments...