Marathon Health Risks

So you’ve decided to start training for a marathon, huh?  Well before you lace up your shoes and hit the trails be sure you consider and understand all of the health risks involved.  The better you understand the risks, the better you will be able to prepare for them.  Before we begin discussing the injuries that may occur while running it is important that I encourage you to see your doctor before you begin training.  You are preparing to put your body though a very intense and stressful process.  Before you begin you should be sure that there are no undiagnosed conditions that may be exacerbated by training.  A simple physical should be enough to diagnose any serious unknown ailments.  Ok, so now what could go wrong?

Minor Injuries

Thankfully the overwhelming majority of injuries that occur while training for and running a marathon are relatively minor.  A very common injury that affects almost every runner at one point or another is a shin splint.  A shin splint is a pain that occurs in the lower leg along the shin bone.  Shin splints commonly occur after prolonged activity or after a change in activity, such as an increase in distances.  If you have flat feet you are more likely to develop shin splints.  To prevent shin splints be sure you have good shoes and rest properly.  To Treat shin splints, get plenty of rest, ice the sore area, and take several weeks off from training.

Achilles tendonitis is another minor injury that affects a large amount of runners.  It is an inflammation of the large tendon that is attached to the back calf muscle at the back of the heel.  Achilles tendonitis causes pain and stiffness in the area above the tendon.  It is caused by repetitive stress to the tendon often caused by increasing mileage too quickly.  People with tight calf muscles are at an increased risk to suffer from Achilles tendonitis.  The treatment includes rest, icing the area and calf stretching exercises.

Ankle sprains are a common injury many runners experience while training for a marathon.  Many people train on local trains which may not be perfectly flat and smooth and roll their ankle on a tree root or stump.  An ankle sprain is the stretching or tearing of ligaments that surround the ankle.  Sprains usually heal with rest, ice, compression and elevating the foot.  a sprained ankle can keep you out of training for some time.  It is important to let your ankle fully heal before you get back out on the trails.

Serious Injuries and Conditions

Serious injuries as a result of running are generally the result of undiagnosed conditions, usually affecting the heart.  Marathoners who die while training or competing in the race usually die as the after their preexisting conditions are exacerbated by the stress of long distance running.  These deaths are extremely rare.  So rare that the amount of times they have occurred can be counted using your digits.  There is some evidence suggesting that years of long distance running can lead to an enlarged heart and a heart arrhythmia.  These conditions can be serious and difficult to diagnose.  Again, however, they are very rare and it has not been conclusively proven that running has anything to do with these conditions.

 

Running is a great sport but is not without its hidden dangers.  Throughout my running career I have suffer from almost all of the minor ailments listed above.  If you run long distance and are putting in a lot of miles, you are going to suffer some kind of injury.  The best advice I can give you is that when you get hurt take the proper steps to ensure you are fully healed.  During my high school cross country years I suffered a pretty severe ankle sprain.  Instead of taking the time to let it fully heal, I tried to push through the pain and continue to run.  Bad idea.  I ended up tearing several ligaments in my ankle and it has never been the same.  It is now permanently swollen and gets sore after eves short runs on hard surfaces.  Were I a little bit older and less impulsive I would have realized that ruining my ankle was not worth rushing my comeback.  So if you are preparing for a marathon remember to rest properly and if you suffer an injury, let it heal properly.

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How to Train for a Marathon

Running a marathon presents one of the most challenging physical feats that an individual can endure.  It takes months of long, hard, exhausting, work and training to prepare your body for the brutal beating it is going to take on the 26.2 mile course.  Many people who set out to run a marathon fail.  My father began running late in life and ran his first marathon at the age of 53.  He is short, stocky, and generally not the person you would picture running (and running it very well I might add) a marathon.  He found a training regiment and stuck to it.  He trained everyday for six months and was completely prepared on race day.  i f my father can complete a marathon I am willing to bet that with some hard work and perseverance just about anyone can complete this grueling race.

Where to Begin

Motivation is the pace where all beginning marathoners should begin their training.  Why do you want to do this? What is driving you?  Marathons are both physically and mentally trying experiences.  You will want to quit.  I can tell you that from experience.  When that little voice in the back of your head starts telling you to stop how are you going to answer it?  You need to begin your training by building some mental toughness.  You need to work had at maintaining your motivation.  It is one thing to begin training but it is much tougher to keep going every day.

Once you have worked out a strategy to stay focused and motivated,  the next thing you need to do to prepare for marathon training is invest in the right running gear.  You will need to invest in several pairs of good running shoes.  Depending on where you live there is probably a local running store near your.  Go there and have one of the employees recommend several pairs of shoes for you.  You will likely wear these shoes out due to the amount of miles you will put on them.  You should also look to buy proper running shorts and shirts for your training regimen.

While training it is important to focus on your health.  From a nutrition standpoint, it is imperative that you increase you caloric intake and attempt to make 65% of the calories your eat are carbohydrates.  Roughly ten percent of your calories should come from protein and twenty to twenty-five percent from unsaturated fats.  It is important to continues to eat well and feed your body the proper fuel for your training.

during your training regimen, recovery time is just as important as putting in miles.  You should not be running everyday.  You do not want to train more, you want to train smart.  With the long runs you will be doing, you must take days off to give your legs a break from pounding the pavement.  Take your recovery days seriously.  Eat well.  Also, be active.  Just be cause it is a rest day does not mean you should spend it on the couch eating Cheetos.  Swimming can be a great way to get a cardiovascular workout in while not putting and wear and tear on your body.

Pre-Training

For new runners, before you begin training be sure that you can run for at least thirty minuets without stopping.  The distance you run is not important now, you just need to get your body used to running.  Combinations of runs and walks are great during pre-training because they ease your body into the exercise and minimizes the chance of experiencing a running injury.

Training

You mileage should gradually increase with your longest training run being eighteen to twenty miles.  You should then taper off during the last couple weeks of your training to allow your body to recover as the marathon approaches.  You will gain a great psychological advantage by getting a twenty mile run under your belt.  Here is a link to a good beginning runners schedule.

 

Your first marathon will be an experience you will never forget.  It takes weeks of hard work to prepare your body to endure the extreme distance and exhaustion it will face on race day.  Do not worry though.  If you put in the work during training you will have no problem finishing.  My dad was worried going into his first marathon that he would not be able to finish and he ended up not only finishing but placing with a great time.  Distance running is a competitive activity that people of all ages can compete in.  It is a great way to stay in shape and to push yourself mentally and physically.

Zombie Race

Run for your lives! With the recent events in Florida, there has be an increase in the belief that some sort of zombie apocalypse is upon us.  People are preparing for the end of the world as flesh eating undead prowl the streets in search of living human victims.  In the wake of this hideous attack it is imperative you take every precaution to ensure that you are prepared to survive the rising of the undead.  Luckily there is a race in existence where you will be able to hone your zombie evading skills and build the physical endurance needed to escape creature that cannot feel pain and who do not need sleep.  The race I am talking about is know as the Zombie Race.  The race is held in several different states including Colorado, Missouri, Maryland, Texas, Washington, Pennsylvania, California, Florida and in Canada.  If you think you have what it takes to elude undead creatures yearning to feast on human flesh or if you want to prepare yourself for the impending zombie apocalypse these races off your the perfect proving ground.  So prepare and sign up if you dare!

How the Race Works

The zombie race is a simulation of a zombie apocalypse scenario where participants must run for their lives to escape from masterfully trained zombie imposters.  Prior to the race each contestant is awarded a life belt, similar to a belt worn for flag football, which contain flags representing your life force.  The zombies will be out to take your life force, spreading the zombie virus.  If you lose all your health flags you are dead and the zombies have won.  There are health bonuses hidden throughout the course to help you reach the finish alive.

Participants will face an unholy force of infected undead along a five kilometer course scattered with obstacles much the same as what you will see after the zombie apocalypse occurs.  Runners may skip the obstacles but I do not recommend this.  Skipping the obstacles will not help prepare you to elude real zombies and any runner who decided to skip the obstacles will not be eligible for the prizes awarded after the race.  The zombies will attack you, but do not worry they are trained to focus on your life belt where your health is stored.  The best way to complete the course is to use a combination of speed, strategy, and intact brains to avoid your zombie attackers and reach the finish line.  After the race there is an Apocalypse party that features a live band and adult beverages.

How to Sign Up

To sign up simply visit the website.  If you are interested in honing your zombie escape skills by playing the part if a zombie well your in luck.  The Zombie Race offers positions as zombies at all of its runs.  You will be trained how to act as a certain species of zombie.  Also you will be given the chance to compete in one of their other runs, just to ensure that your zombie escaping skills completely perfected.  To compensate your for participating as a part of the undead zombie hoard you will receive free, parking, a tee shirt, a free beverage, and admittance to the apocalypse party.

 

A world overrun by zombies does not sound like a very appealing place to be.  If you believe the CDC there is nothing to worry about.  They are not aware of any disease that would cause humans to suddenly become undead creature, craving the taste of human flesh.  If, however, you are skeptical, or just want to have a good time, the Zombie Race offers an excellent way to hone your zombie eluding skills.  The runs are really a lot of fun.  The trail is scenic and involves a lot of natural obstacles which adds to the physical challenge of these runs.  You do not have to be in top physical condition to complete the race.  If you have trained for, or feel you could complete, a zombie free 5k you should have no problem finishing this race.  The zombies add an extra hint of excitement to the competition.  I would advise you to organize a group of friends.  The zombie apocalypse is easier to survive of you work as a team.  Once you finish you can kick back, enjoy a beer, and rest easy knowing that when the real zombie apocalypse comes you will be prepared.

Tough Mudder

If you think your a true bad arse, its time to test your strength, endurance, and toughness by attempting to tackle a Tough Mudder obstacle course.  Tough Mudder is an adventure sports company that specializes in building unique ten to twelve mile long obstacle courses.  The courses are designed to British Special Forces specifications and the events have been billed as being the the toughest event on the planet.  The obstacle courses are designed to test the competitors’ overall strength, stamina, mental grit, and to build camaraderie.  The events regularly attract 15-20,000 participants over a two day weekend.  The events feature friendlier and more upbeat atmosphere then the typical marathon or triathlon but still offer an intensely grueling physical challenge.  Participants are not timed, and the event organizers encourage the participants to use teamwork and to help other participants finish the course.  If you are tough enough to finish your triumph is awarded with an official orange headband and one free beer.  The perfect prize for a tough mudder.

Founding and Mission

Tough Mudder was founded by Will Dean and Guy Livingstone.  Dean envisioned and developed the concept while attending Harvard business school.  He submitted his idea as a business proposal and it was a finalist in the annual business plan contest.  Tough Mudder’s inaugural event was held at Bear Creek Ski Resort just outside of Allentown, Pennsylvania.  The capacity of 4,500 tickets old out in just over a month and the event managed to raise more than $200,000 for the Wounded Warrior Project.  Additional events in 2010 were held in Northern California and New Jersey.  In 2011 events were held in Texas, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Vermont, California, Colorado, Wisconsin, Virginia, New Jersey, Indiana and Florida.  Thirty to forty events are scheduled to take place in 2012 throughout the country and internationally in the United Kingdom and Australia.

The mission of Tough Mudder is to move the goal of endurance sports from individual performance and repetitive exercise to varied challenges, teamwork, camaraderie, and enjoyment.  The events have been rated by an overwhelming majority of participants as extremely satisfying.  The mission of Tough Mudder is exemplified by the pledge that all participants are asked to take before they compete in the events.  The pledge goes as follows:

  • I understand that Tough Mudder is not a race but a challenge.
  • I put teamwork and camaraderie before my course time.
  • I do not whine – kids whine.
  • I help my fellow Mudders complete the course.
  • I overcome all fears.

Since its inception, Tough Mudder has partnered with the Wounded Warrior Project, whose goal is to empower wounded service men and women.  Participants are given a discount at Tough Mudder events if they raise over $150 for the Wounded Warriors Project.  To date, Tough Mudder participants have raised over three million dollars for the project.

Event Details

The Tough Mudder events consist of obstacle courses that are typically ten to twelve miles long and feature twenty to thirty physically challenging obstacles.  The majority of participants work in self-formed teams of friends.  Typically fifteen to twenty percent of participants are unable to complete the course.  The events are followed by a party that feature a live band and beer provided by a sponsor.  Various awards are given out after the race that include “Most Respect”, “Best Mullet”, and ‘Best Costume”.

At the end of the year a “World’s Toughest Mudder” event is held including the top five percent of participants from previous Tough Mudder events.  Unlike previous events, the World’s Toughest Mudder is a timed twenty-four hour event on an eight and a half mile course that features over forty military style obstacles.  Only ten percent of the participants who competed were able to finish.

 

I enjoy the Tough Mudder events because, unlike other endurance sports, they focus on team building and camaraderie instead of individual achievement.  They offer all of the thrills of competition while at the same time providing a unique team building experience.  I have never had such a physically exhausting and trying experience that at the same time offered so much in the way of team building.  Being able to raise money for an organization like the Wounded Warrior Project is bonus.  For anyone out there who things that they are tough I challenge you to come test yourself against the Tough Mudder course.  It is unlike anything I have experience and I guarantee it will push you to your limits.  If you finish you have definitely earned the right to be called a tough mudder.

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1908 Summer Olympic Marathon

In 1908 marathons had yet to become the common Olympic sport they are today.  The 1908 marathon took place in London, and the event that has come to symbolize the greatest achievement of endurance athletics.  This distance was the now standard twenty-six miles and 385 yards.  The competition featured fifty-five runners from sixteen different nations.  Out of the fifty-five runners who began the race a mere twenty-seven finished.  Thank the heavens that unlike Pheidippides everyone survived.  The most exciting moment of the event came towards the end.  The finish created an amazing story and a  fallen hero.

The 1908 games were the first of their kind.  The previous two events acted merely as side shows to the World’s Fairs that they accompanied.  The marathon was still a fledgling sport.  It had only been created in 1894 as a long distance event for the 1894 games.  The 1894 event  took place at Marathon, outside of Athens, as a way to commemorate the storied moment in Greek history.  The original race was twenty-five miles long.  There were no athletes at the time who had ever trained or prepared for a race of this length.  It was called by one contemporary writer “the most audacious or races”.  In 1908 the course was lengthened to the standard twenty-six miles and 385 yards.  The final 385 yards was finished in the stadium.

The day of the 1908 marathon the heat was sweltering.  The favorite was a runner from Canada named Tom Longboat.  The United Stated entered seven runners including a slight Irishman by  the name of Johnny Hayes.  Italy’s Dorando Pietri was so unheralded that many of the writers at the time thought that Pietri was his first name.  By the end of the day, however, his story would be well known and come to represent the 1908 games.

As the race began tens of thousands of spectators lined the street to watch the race.  Tom Longboat had the lead through seventeen miles when he suddenly dropped out.  There were reports that he has ingested strychnine, which was the performance enhancer of choice during his time.  Pietri, wearing red pantaloons and a white kerchief around his head to shield his face from dust, took the lead at the twenty-five mile mark.  Soon, however, he reached the limits of human exertion.  Exhausted to the brink of death, Pietri collapsed with only 385 yards remaining.  He returned to his feet only to collapse again.  The crowd was growing wary.  He was finally helped to his feet and across the finish line.  Once across he was promptly disqualified.  Being helped across the finish line was a clear violation the rules.  The second man to cross the finish line was the American Johnny Hayes.  Because of Pietri’s disqualification Hayes was awarded the gold medal.  It would be the last gold medal won by an American marathoner until Frank Shorter won in 1972.

Although Hayes won the gold medal Pietri was considered the hero.  He was released from the hospital the next day.  Upon his release he was presented with a silver cup by Queen Alexandra in recognition of his achievement.  Photographs of the finish were printed and distributed in newspapers around the world.  The media frenzy turned Pietri into an international star.  One year later, he, Hayes, and Longboat turned pro and began crossing the country competing in a series of highly publicized and lucrative races.  These races created the first marathon craze in this country.

The 1908 games planted the seed for the future of the marathon as an Olympic event.  Pietri courageous finish and its documentation in some of the first sports photos captivated the entire world.  The marathon evolved from a marginal sport to a worldwide obsession.  The 1908 games changed the way that sports were perceived.  No longer would sports be merely a game for the wealthy and entitled.  It was becoming closer to the monster it has grown into today.  Athletes were becoming stars, money and advertising were just around the corner.  The 1908 games were at the center of this change and the marquee event was the marathon.  The finish was human drama played out live in front of thousands of spectators and chronicled by newspapers from around the world.  Dorando Pietri needs to be remembered as the spectacular athlete he was.

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