Marathon running - Pros and Cons

By Refadoc, Posted on : Thursday, 24 December 2015 - 4:39 pm IST

Running is one of the few activities that work all the major muscles of the body, as well the heart and lungs. It is to be precise, a complete body workout in a true sense. Not only does running keep our joints supple and our peripheral circulation active, it also increases our lung capacity and strengthens our heart. It’s no wonder then that more and more people are taking to running as part of their fitness routine. However beneficial it sounds, marathon running has its own set of associated risks as well.

Running for long distances is no child’s play. It is after all, a strenuous activity and hence requires the fulfilment of certain pre-requisites in order to participate.Your heart and lung capacity must be adequate, your bones should not be brittle (osteoporotic) and you must not suffer from any knee problems. In fact, it is very much advisable to 

consult your health care provider

 before endeavouring into marathon running.


The concept of marathon running is rooted in ancient Greek history, during the battle of Marathon that Greece fought with Persia. A Greek messenger Pheidippides ran all the way from the town of Marathon to Athens (the capital of Greece) in order to announce the victory of Greece. Even though he dropped dead at the end of the announcement, his legacy stays on. Once Greece incorporated marathon running in the official Olympic Games, they have been a rage all over the world. Since the distance Pheidippides ran was 26.2 miles, the official marathon is run for the same distance. However, depending upon experience and fitness levels, many half-marathons, mini-marathons and mega marathons have now emerged.

Now that you’ve made up your mind on running, and have been certified fit enough to do so, here is a list of the pros and cons of taking up marathon running.






Endorphin Rush:

Most people who run a marathon experience an emotional high on crossing the finish line. It tends to give them a feeling of accomplishment and hence improves their general well-being. It acts as a protection against feelings of depression. 

Improved Fitness Levels:

Running 26.2 miles at a stretch is a long term commitment. One has to first begin with regular running for short distances, before gearing up for a marathon. The process of training and getting fit to run at a stretch ends up improving the individual’s fitness levels immensely. Since it is a calorie-intense activity, many individuals end up shedding their excess weight during the training process. 

Improves muscle mass and bone density:

The human body works on 1 basic principle – use it or lose it. Since running involves a lot of major muscle groups, it results in improved overall muscle mass. All weight bearing exercises including running, help to build your bone density. However if you run too much, this effect can actually be the opposite. 

Improves heart and lung function:

Regular running helps in enhancing your lung function capacity, improves the working of your heart and hence ensures smooth circulation of blood throughout the body. Running also helps to control blood pressure and the blood cholesterol levels. 

Reduced risk of developing lifestyle disorders:

As a result of increased muscle mass, improved bone density, better cardiac function and enhanced lung capacity, the risk of developing lifestyle disorders such as type 2 diabetes or hypertension is lower in regular marathon runners as compared to the general population.





Mechanical wear and tear:

Running for long distances puts a lot of strain on your knees and leg muscles in general, leading to their wear and tear. Adequate rest and nutrition are necessary in order to heal them; in absence of which, one can end up causing a lot of damage to their muscles, ligaments and joints. 


Due to the sheer intensity of the activity, marathon runners often fall prey to major or minor injuries. These injuries if not addressed properly, can lead to loss of function or mobility. 


You lose a lot of water and electrolytes from the body while running long distances. If these are not replenished at frequent intervals, you may suffer from dehydration or even pass out during the run. 

Reduced immunity:

Since marathons are extremely taxing on your body, running one can deplete your immunity for the next few days. Until the time your immune system recovers completely, you are at a higher risk of suffering from respiratory infections. 

Cardiac arrest:

Our heart is designed to absorb a certain degree of strain. If one suddenly opts for a severe physical activity without prior acclimatization, he may land into a sudden cardiac arrest and die on the spot. In case you suffer from a known heart ailment, please consult your cardiologist to determine whether you’re fit for running.

So next time the thought of running a marathon crosses your mind, do take note of all the associated benefits and risks before taking a final call. After all, your health is your most important asset.


Written and verified by a registered medical practitioner.

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