Marathon: Health Benefits, Injuries & Diet Tips

By Nupur Jha

We often find health enthusiasts running in marathons and covering long distances. Doing so is a great way to burn a lot of calories, but it's not a cakewalk to be a marathon runner. One requires intense training to be able to run for so long and also a proper diet needs to be followed by the marathon runners. It's equally important to drink water in abundance to keep the body hydrated.

The three factors - training, diet, and hydration play a very important role and should be followed strictly.

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There are different kinds of marathon:

Half marathon (21.09 km)
Full marathon (42.195 km)
Ultrarun/ultramarathon (anything over 42 km)

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Health Benefits Of Running In A Marathon

As we know running is one of the best ways to burn a lot of calories. Apart from helping you in maintaining weight, running in a marathon benefits your health in these amazing ways:

Improves heart health: If you are getting trained for running in marathons, you need to be extremely disciplined and dedicated. Your running will eventually get prolonged, your speed and mileage will gradually increase too. The training will help in boosting your overall cardiovascular health and strengthen your heart.

Lowers blood pressure naturally: The workout involved in the marathon training aids in lowering high blood pressure naturally. It also helps in making all your body parts function better.

Boosts immunity: The workout regime helps in boosting your immunity by making your body function more efficiently. This increases the ability of your body to fight diseases and ailments better.

Improves your mental health: Did you know running in marathon actually helps in improving your mental health? The training process helps you in focusing better, winning races definitely brings joy to you, it keeps you mentally happy and increases your confidence. It also acts as a stress reliever.

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Commonly Faced Injuries During A Marathon

Some injuries are common during a marathon. Faizi Khan, a marathon runner and founder of Khayaalon Ki Udaan, a web portal where stories of people struggling with internal compromises are published, told Boldsky exclusively about the common injuries that marathon runners face.

Foot blisters: These are very common in a marathon. Avoiding moisture and friction is one of the ways in which you can prevent it from worsening. Using bandage, applying aloe vera gel, consuming vitamin E are some more ways to treat and repair it.

Muscle pulls: Muscle pulls, muscle strain and muscle tear are also faced by the marathon runners very commonly. The best ways to deal with these are using ice packs, compressions, resting, having medicines like ibuprofen and naproxen to lower the pain and relax the affected muscle.

Iliotibial band syndrome (IT band): It refers to a condition in which the connective tissues rub against the thigh bone. This injury occurs due to overuse of the connective tissues which are present on the knee and outer thigh. It's also one of the causes of runner's knee which is quite common amongst runners. Its treatment includes resting, using ice pack, using compressions, and elevation (RICE). Elevation means resting your affected body part on pillows when you lie down or sit. Doing so will also prevent swelling.

Shin splint: This refers to pain caused amongst the inner edge of the shin bone. It's caused because of running longer distances or increasing the number of days you run, too quickly. Some ways to treat this condition are by wearing comfortable shoes, reducing running for some time, consulting a medic, etc.

Achilles tendinopathy: It refers to the injury caused in the Achilles tendon which connects the calf muscle to the heel bone. This condition can be identified with the help of symptoms like stiffness in the area of the tendon, swelling or tenderness. It's usually repaired with the help of a surgery. Some tips to prevent this condition are by strengthening your calf muscles, stretching daily, wearing good shoes with proper cushioning, cross training, etc.

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Diet To Follow Before, During & After A Marathon

During training:

The diet followed by a marathon runner during training includes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, legumes, nuts and seeds, plenty of water and nitrates.

During the marathon:

It depends on the body of the runner, sports drinks, gels, chews and bars are usually consumed depending on one's personal preference. Make sure you don't overdrink or drink less water. Also make sure you are consuming sufficient protein.

After the marathon:

Post marathon a runner should have a lot of water, coconut water and foods that are slow to digest - like bananas, granola bars, pita bread, chicken breast, olives, salad, avocado, etc.

"Just understand your body and follow what it says. You should practice as per your stamina. While practising, focus more on the distance you cover instead of time, it's okay to slow down. And remember that taking proper rest is of utmost importance," Faizi told Boldsky.

"If you are a beginner, start running for a span of 20-30 minutes initially and make sure your diet includes good nutrition," she added.

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    Story first published: Saturday, September 8, 2018, 17:00 [IST]
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