Is Long Distance Running Dangerous?

A few weeks ago, I came across the story of a teenage girl who trained for a marathon, only to collapse and die after successfully finishing it.

Some time ago, I read of a man named Jim Fixx  who gets credit for popularizing running in America.  He died at the age of 52 after completing a daily run.

These are two of many stories I have heard over the years regarding people actually collapsing and dying after running long distances.  So naturally, I have wondered, is it dangerous to run long distances?

Now, I have been somewhat of a runner for much of my life.  When I was 9 or 10, I would go running for a mile or so with my dad and brothers, and then we would return home and bust out 50 situps.  I ran track in high school for 3 years, and most of that was training for the longer distance runs (800m, 1600m, 3200m).  I have also run approximately 2 5Ks a year for the past 3-4 years.  However, I get nervous when I hear about people collapsing and dying after long runs.

I mean, how can a perfectly healthy teenager collapse and die following a marathon?  How can a man who has run for years die after a routine morning run?  Surely there is an explanation…

Well, I do not claim to have all of the answers, and neither do I claim to be a medical professional (see my disclaimer on my About Me page), but from what I have heard and read, there are a few reasons for these happenings (this is by no means meant to be an exhaustive list):

  1. Congenital Heart Defects – Sometimes, people are born with abnormalities in heart structure that go unnoticed until a health event happens, sometimes during strenuous exercise.
  2. Unhealthy Cardiovascular System – According to Wikipedia, when Jim Fixx died, he was found to have relatively extensive atherosclerosis (fatty deposits in blood vessels) in his coronary arteries, which supply blood to the heart.
  3. Cumulative Heart Damage from Long Runs – According to the Canadian Journal of Cardiology, exercising for long periods of time can injure the heart, and this can cumulatively add up without adequate rest.

I personally still run because I believe that it provides good general conditioning, but I limit the duration to no longer than 30 minutes.  Again, I do not claim to be a doctor or anything of the sort, but I have decided to do this to provide protection for my heart.

Also, I recover between sets!  High Intensity with little rest does get you in shape fast and burns fat, but recovery is paramount so that you do not tear your body up.  Do not be scared to rest, because you need it!

Finally, I try to eat healthy overall to provide my body with good rebuilding fuel.  That is the FOUNDATION, man.  How are you going to break your body down with exercise without getting in good rebuilding supplies in the form of healthy food?  Our Creator in His infinite wisdom (AND love) created us, and also created healthy growing food for us.  If you fill your body with that predominantly, you cannot go wrong.

Be careful out there with long distance running, or any strenuous exercise.  Know your limits.

What do you think?  Comment below!


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