Are you fit to run a Marathon or Half-Marathon

Completing a marathon race is a benchmark for every athlete in the world. Those who run it, they run it several times in a lifetime, while for others it remains as an unachievable dream. We called it unachievable as the health of a person is the ultimate factor that decides if one can run it or not. You can't just buy a pair of sports shoes and complete a marathon. It needs years of practice and dedication to achieve this feet.

Why do we call it "Marathon" ?

We know that modern Olympic games were started in Greece in 1896 to glorify the nation and also to remember the heros who fought for this historic country. There was an old popular story about a greek soldier who ran 26 miles continuously, from Marathon to Athens. In 490 BC, Persian army tried to invade Greece but defeated by citizens of Athens. This battle took place in Marathon city. A greek soldier ran from the scene (i.e the battle of Marathon) to Athens to announce the defeat of Persian forces. He ran this 26 mile run and then died after completing his duty. Prior to performing this hectic duty, he had also run 150 miles from Sparta to Marathon just the day before. Some historians claim that this story is partly true. But still organizers of modern Olympics in 1896 decided to organize a 26 mile race named "Marathon Race" from Marathon to Athens. This race became hugely popular and today it is organized in all major cities of the world and considered a health and fitness event.

Marathon race started in 1896 Olympics, but the very first women marathon race happened in 1984 Los Angeles Games. 

How much distance is covered in Marathon and Half-marathon ?

The very first marathon race in 1896 was measured approximately 40 km. In year 1921, marathon race distance was standardized to 26 miles 385 yards (42.195 km). 2:01:39 is the world-record time set by Eliud Kipchoge of Kenya on 16 September 2018 in Berlin Marathon.

Half-marathon race measures 21.0975 kilometres (13 miles 192.5 yards). More people participate in such races as they a shorter (exactly half of a marathon) and can be completed with lesser training. The world record of half-marathon is 57:31, set by Jacob Kiplimo of Uganda in November 2021.  Apart from a race, half-marathons are celebrated as a fitness event around the world. 

  • Fauja Singh is the oldest marathon runner as he finished 2011 Toronto Waterfront Marathon in 8:25:16 at an age of 100 years.
  • Budhia Singh aged 4 years ran 65 kilometres (40 mi) from Puri to Bhubaneswar in 2006. He is the youngest person to complete a marathon. He took seven hours and two minutes to cover the 65 km distance.

Are you fit to run a Marathon ?

It is a tough question to answer for a common man. But we will try to find an answer for it. Most of the people think that only physically well built people can run a marathon, which is true in mostly, but the will power also holds the key. Sometimes a person that looks OK can't complete a marathon, but a 194 kg hulk do it in very first attempt. Yes ! In year 2013, Charles Bungert, a 193.96 kg person, participated in Los Angles marathon and completed it in 8:23:40. However the time taken was way more than an athelete, but he completed it officially as the heaviest person. Most of the people know about this record, but they don't know that he participated in that race to raise money for his mom’s treatment, who was a stage-4 cancer patient. This case certainly tell us one thing that physical challenges can be overcome with strong will power and strong emotions.

Everyone can't have such strong will and emotions, so they also need a better body and proper training. When you practice for long runs, you should know some scientific facts.

  • Bodies of larger people are usually less efficient at delivering oxygen to the farthest parts of body, i.e legs. On the other shorter athletes have shorter legs, so they need to take more steps to cover the same distance. So an athlete with a medium height is best for long runs.
  • Out bodies get heated during running. Body of a leaner athlete have higher surface-area-to-body-weight ratio, which helps them in radiating the heat efficiently and cooling down easily. It keeps the body temperature at an optimum level for running. Fat on the body acts as an insulation and acts as a barrier when our body tries to radiate heat. So a fatty person can't make long runs. On the other hand we also need some fat/carbohydrate in our body to act as an emergency fuel that can be used to provide energy required for long runs. It means that an optimum amount of fat is necessary in our body to run a marathon.
  • When we look at the body weight of athletes before and after the marathon event, it is found that 3.1% weight loss occurs among those who reach the finishing line within 3 hours, 2.5% weight loss in 3-4 hours, and 1.8% weight loss in those who finish it in more that 4 hours.
  • A healthy person can't run at his maximum speed for more than 200 to 400 meters. When you run a long run then you need to run a little faster than your walking speed, so that you can control your breath, heartbeat and body temperature. A healthy person can cover a distance of 5 km in 36 minutes. It means 7 minutes for every kilometre. At this pace an athlete will take around 5 hours to complete the marathon, which is 2.5 more than the world record. Even achieving this time is not as easy as it seems, so you need months of practice to participate in a marathon. 

Physical challenges can be overcome with practice, but medical conditions should not be ignored. Deaths during marathon are very rare, but those which occur are mostly due to heart attack or electrolyte imbalance. So proper knowledge of your heart condition and taking care of salt in your body during running is extremely necessary.

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