Tomorrow I’ll be running my first-ever (and possibly my last) half-marathon. I’ve been an amateur runner since high school, but the longest race I’d run in previously was a 10K race, less than half this distance, nearly 20 years ago. I haven’t run competitively since college, but I have consistently run around three miles a day for nearly that entire span. It was just this summer that I decided to go for the half-marathon, and I’ve upped my training regimen to include runs as long as 12 miles. But tomorrow’s 13.1 mile race will be the longest I’ve ever run. What can I look forward to?
How about the Runner’s High? WebMD’s article on the subject describes it this way:
“Psychologically, runners may experience euphoria, a feeling of being invincible, a reduced state of discomfort or pain, and even a loss in sense of time while running,” says Jesse Pittsley, PhD, president of the American Society for Exercise Physiologists.
Wow! That sounds great! Unfortunately, I’ve never felt it, even in my 12-mile run. My running partner did, though — she was singing the theme from Rocky for the last mile of our longest training run, driving me absolutely bonkers. Is the runner’s high a real, physical phenomenon, or is it all in your head? The WebMD article waffles on the subject, and obviously the fact that not everyone gets the sensation suggest that it’s at the very least a complex phenomenon.
But how about the negative aspects of marathoning? The New York Times points out that this year has brought more heart-attack deaths during marathons — 6 — than in several recent years combined. The same article discusses a study where runners in the Boston Marathon were given a heart exam and echocardiogram before and after the race.
The runners (41 men, 19 women) had normal cardiac function before the marathon, with no signs of troponin in their blood. Twenty minutes after finishing, 60 percent of the group had elevated troponin levels, and 40 percent had levels high enough to indicate the destruction of heart muscle cells. Most also had noticeable changes in heart rhythms. Those who had run less than 35 miles a week leading up to the race had the highest troponin levels and the most pronounced changes in heart rhythm.
Is marathon racing too much of a strain on the human body? The experts in the New York Times article are divided on the subject. One doctor advises patients with heart problems to “train for the race,” then watch the actual event on TV.
I have to say, so far the health effects on me have been all good. I’ve lost about 20 pounds, and where before I could barely manage a 5-mile jog, now that feels like a short distance. Will I run another one? I’ll have to wait until after the race to make that decision.
In other news: