I know I’m going to piss a few people off by criticizing something people ‘love’ or is associated with a ‘good cause’…so, let’s get to it, shall we? Here is the dark side of marathons hardly anyone’s talking about…

The Marathon. An event which captures the world’s imagination…and it’s checkbook. This ancient Greek story may have a few different versions. So here’s the nutshell:

In the 5th Century BC, a messenger (professional runner) named Pheidippides was sent 145 miles to Sparta to round up troops up when the Persians landed at Marathon, Greece. The political leaders were too busy with a religious ceremony to support the troops, so he ran back empty handed. Nevertheless, the Greeks kicked ass. Pheidippides might have ran back again to his commanders only to collapse and die while sharing the news of their victory, or something to that effect.

Now, in this article, I’m not necessarily talking about elite, pro or semipro athletes, (maybe in some cases I am), or other highly skilled / experienced athletes. I am discussing the American people overall and show why chronic cardio & running marathons, is not a good idea.  Sure there are great things that come about from these events, but overall risks outweigh benefits.

My point is not to discourage exercise or accomplishing physical feats, rather I’m encouraging better ways of getting it done…or maybe better paradigm for understanding human health & fitness.

America, in Context


  • There’s about 310 million Americans
  • Almost 70% are overweight & obese
  • More than 60% of adults are not regularly active, 25% are not active at all
  • 44% of Americans have at least one chronic medical condition (diabetes, high blood pressure,  high cholesterol levels, cancer, arthritis, heart failure, other).
  • 1 in 3 Americans (36.9%) have some form of heart disease
  • More than 20 million Americans have diabetes
  • Over 50 million have pre-diabetes
  • 13 -  25 million Americans with thyroid disease (more than half are unaware)
  • 1/2 of Americans take at least one prescription drug; 1 in 6 take three or more meds
  • 23.5 million Americans dealing with an autoimmune diseases
  • 70 million Americans have digestive disorders
  • 1 out of 4 have musculo-skeletal injury
  • 80% have low back pain

What to speak of all the other people who don’t fit the above, but have a history of dieting & excessive exercise, chronic stress, inflammation, hormonal problems, metabolic damage (weight loss resistance), or strange symptoms that doctor’s don’t have an answer for. And let’s not forget the basic fact that many people have zero movement skill. Oh, and let’s not forget how neurotic people are with dieting, detoxing, body image & self worth issues.

See what I’m saying? These people should not be running marathons or doing chronic steady state aerobics. It’s a bad idea. In fact, in tragically ironic fashion, it may damage the heart and put some at risk for heart disease.

Side note – 90% of those issues listed above are preventable and much of it correctable (true story)

Runnin’ with the Devil


  • 36-43 million Americans are running
  • 40% – 80% of runners are injured every year with at least one running injury
  • 45% of runner’s get GI/digestive problems during the run

This tells me a lot of runner’s are not training properly or they simply can’t tolerate the stress of this type of conditioning/training being placed on top of their total body stress. Of course there are some random injuries that happen whenever we play outdoors (angry dogs, tripping, falling, etc).

Maybe popular running training programs (similar to the personal training industry) in that they do not understand total stress load on the person & their lack of resilience? Very few running coaches emphasize correcting structural imbalances and injury prevention before beginning a running program. I’d say most of these running programs are still using principles & methods they’ve used since the 70’s. Many of them may be suckers to over-hyped technologies that are incongruent with the human body (running shoes).

These shoes go to 11!


The British Journal of Sports Medicine paper brilliantly titled ‘Hazard of deceptive advertising of athletic footwear’ found ‘expensive athletic shoes are deceptively advertised to safeguard well through “cushioning impact”, yet account for 123% greater injury frequency than the cheapest ones’ LINK

Running shoes increase risk of injuries, including plantar fascitis, other injuries and the most common runner’s injury: ankle sprains. LINK

These are pretty serious issues. But not nearly as important as the stress placed on the cardiovascular system.

Cardiac Damage & Heart Disease Risk

Here’s a recent study showing ‘Intense endurance exercise — such as running a marathon — may induce cardiac damage confined to the right ventricle … ‘and possible myocardial fibrosis’  Exercise-induced right ventricular dysfunction and structural remodelling in endurance athletes.’ European Heart Journal 2011

Dr. Kurt Harris details reviews a few studies showing cardiac damage and heat disease in marathon runners ‘Cardio’ Causes Heart Disease’.

In ‘Still not born to run’, Dr. Harris breaks it down further and shows associations with atherosclerosis and proposes hypothesis for what may be happening.

This paper shows runners had more calcified plaque in their heart arteries.

A 2010 study in Athens found the arteries of male marathoners losing elasticity and thickening in response to their training.The director of the study used a nice car analogy “the cardiovascular system is like a sports car engine. If you do not use it, it will decay, but if you run it too fast for too long, you might burn it out.”

Art De Vany, PhD, author of The New Evolution Diet, lists ten more ways chronic cardio & endurance training damages the body. From spine degeneration, organ damage (liver, kidney) to elevated markers of cancer. Click Here

On Death & Dying

Brian Leigh Maxwell, founder of PowerBar was an athlete, track coach, entrepreneur and philanthropist. He died of a heart attack at 51.

Jim Fixx, author of The Complete Book of Running, popularized running, died at the age of 52 of a heart attack, after his daily run.

Dr. Kenneth Cooper, who coined the term ‘aerobics’ apparently sings a different tune these days. He ‘recanted his assertions regarding aerobic exercise’ and now advocates weight training. link

Jack Kelly, brother of Grace Kelly, was an Olympian, president US Olympic Committee and died of a heart attack while jogging (or immediately after) in 1985.

No one talks about it much, but there are deaths happening in marathons & endurance events all over the world. Art De Vany’s archiving most (not all) here Death by Exercise.

Evolution and Running

For those that have been led to believe that humans evolved as distance runners (persistence hunting), we didn’t. Want to know more about your heritage of evolutionary athleticism? Here is the greatest article on the topic. Warning! this article is Rated R, NSFW and freakin’ hilarious…

Run and You’ll Only Die Tired

Hidden Motives
I know these events do good things:
running can be inexpensive/free, can be done anywhere at anytime, no gym membership required, can be done alone, can be done outdoors, and we know exercise generally helps blood sugar control & insulin sensitivity and some elite athletes live longer than the general population. Clearly there are benefits, but again, consider context.

Most people doing these charity events would be better off walking and enjoying quality time outdoors with friends or building relationships with colleagues. Simply go out to the park on any given day and observe the many unhappy faces. I’ve yet to find the ‘honor’ of suffering through an event just to say you ‘finished it’. Also, throwing up is not a sign of a good workout. Any trainer that says that is an asshole.

You will hear this often if you listen: ‘oh I need you to beat me up, I was bad last night’. ‘I need to work off this delicious desert I thoroughly enjoyed..it must be bad to enjoy, so I’m gonna hit the gym extra hard tomorrow’ There are better & healthier ways of demonstrating courage, honor and accomplishment. This belief that you must suffer in order to benefit is sadomasochism.

‘...deriving pleasure and gratification from inflicting physical pain and humiliation (sadism); and from suffering pain and humiliation upon the self (masochism); such pleasure often is sexual, but not exclusively so.’ Wikipedia

S & M in fitness? Surely, you can’t be serious? I am serious, and don’t call me Shirley.

Hidden motives are something we see not only in endurance sports/marathons, but in all areas of fitness. One reason I despise the Biggest Loser, Bootcamps and have been critical of Crossfit is because that angry, abusive & dysfunctional relationship (characterized by anger, humiliation, guilt, shame) is being confused with ‘fitness’. Not only is this unnecessary, it’s unhealthy. Granted, not everyone who runs a marathon or does Crossfit has these issues, but in my experience, this type of self-abusive is pervasive with fitness enthusiasts, dieters, the unfit general population and personal trainers as well.

Now I don’t care what people do in their bedrooms, but when it comes to fitness – this sh*t needs to stop. And those people need some kind of therapy. Beating yourself up (or your client) to get fit or motivated is not ‘health’ or ‘fitness’ – it’s a hidden motive from the dark side.

Bloody nipples? WTF?


Yeah, I never heard about this either. Want to see more?

Click the link, I dare you… Top 20 reasons Why You Should Never Run a Marathon

Like I said, there are some good things and benefits for a tiny percentage of athletes & other issues worth discussing (article coming soon), but overall the risks far outweigh the benefits for chronic steady state cardio, marathons or other ultra-endurance events for most people.

That’s it for now. Stay thirsty my friends.

References

Most are linked in the article & I lost a couple when editing but you can google any of it. http://www.runnersworld.com/article/1,7124,s6-238-267–13625-0,00.html

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