They Must Be Crazy!! Marathon Running For The Insane?

“They must be CRAZY!!”

Today is London Marathon day.  What this signifies for me is that the roads around London are chaotic due to traffic disruptions, the BBC plays endlessly dull video of people running for hours on end, and thousands of certifiable lunatics batter their joints and their hormonal systems into the ground all for the thrill of completing 26 miles 385 yards in one single run!

You will never catch me running a marathon because I am far too heavy, my ankle is way too dodgy, and to be frank I do not get a buzz out of endurance training in any way shape or form.  I’m also aware that long distance running is arguably very bad in a number of ways:

1)   it makes you slower – this isn’t conjecture, it is fact.  It may make you quicker over longer distances, but all speed will be sapped from your limbs as your muscles and your CNS shift into “slow twitch” mode.   Numerous tests have proven that vertical leap (the benchmark for testing explosiveness) is inversely related to VO2 max.  The lesson here is that you must avoid anything with the word “marathon” in it if you ever want to go on to develop larger stronger muscles.  You can’t have everything you want in life, and slow twitch muscle fibres that are responsible for endurance type activities will develop to the detriment of the fast twitch fibres responsible for muscle growth and power.

2)   Long bouts of cardiovascular activity massively ramp up cortisol levels by overstressing the adrenal glands.  I have very rarely encountered a busy adult who doesn’t encounter too much stress in their lives, so marathon running could have long term implications on how its participants cope with stress.

3)   Long distance running causes oxidative stress which can lead to heart disease and Alzheimer’s disease to name but two awful things we need to avoid.

4)   Endurance training can lead to persistent systemic inflammation – this will age your body from the inside out like nothing else.

5)   In animals at least, endurance training will reduce reproductive size and function.  At least this means less chafing for the poor guys pounding the street of London today…

6)   Marathon running tends to make you a little bit “skinny fat”.  Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but to me personally this isn’t a good look.

After reading all this you will probably be thinking that I am a true hater of marathon running.  But no, this isn’t the case at all.  You wouldn’t catch me doing it, in part for all of the reasons I list above, but I choose to batter myself 4 times a week in the gym, sometimes to the point of being sick and almost always so that my body is a constantly sore and painful knot of adhesions and tight muscles (hence my twice weekly massage / therapy treatments).  It is an individual’s choice, and those people who criticise endurance athletes need to take a step back and appreciate the effort, the heart, and the commitment it takes to actually complete a marathon.

I for one am full of respect for these athletes (and mark my words, they are athletes all, whether they are elite competitors or big hearted guys wearing crazy outfits who do a slow jog / shuffle for 7 hours straight), and can appreciate the wonderful achievement of crossing the finish line, especially at huge event such as the London Marathon, and particularly for all the amazing feats undertaken for charities.  In the world of fitness we have lots of different camps, with much sniping at one another, and this should stop.  Despite the potential drawbacks of distance running (and I do believe that it is NOT for everyone, and that too many people run who do not have sufficient muscular and structural balance to do so safely) we are all on the same side and should come together more often.  I like to lift weights and charge around my gym without resting for an hour, someone else likes to lift heavy weights slowly for 2 hours, and then there is the crazy person likes to run over a quarter of 100 miles (!!).  We are all on the same side and should reserve our scorn for computer gamers, couch potatoes, and armchair critics.


There you go, my quick Sunday morning views on marathon running.   I wonder if this surprised any of you?