Marathon: the latest fad

A number of people told me, "I just ran a marathon," and, "I'm training to run a marathon."

As for me, I proudly tell them, "I will never run a marathon."

The marathon is the latest fitness fad. Everybody wants to run a marathon. For avoidance of doubt, a marathon is 42km. A half marathon is 21km. 10km is not a marathon.

Those of you who have run a marathon would know that not everybody there actually runs the marathon. In Singapore, there is no time limit for completing it so even if you reach the finishing line by running half the distance and walking the rest of the way, you still are deemed worthy of being awarded a finisher's medal and an "I completed the marathon" t-shirt which you can wear around Orchard Road or to the pub so that you have something to talk about when you chat up someone of the opposite sex.

It seems impossible to avoid hearing or reading the word "marathon". Many of my friends want to or have run a marathon - some might ask their friends to accompany them. The Singapore army encourages men to run a marathon. In some magazines including teen magazines, people are encouraged to run a marathon too.

What friends and articles in magazines fail to advise are the dangers of running a marathon, how to prevent or minimise injuries and what to eat, e.g. supplements like glucosamine and how to carbo-load properly. The human body is not naturally able to withstand the stress of running long distances. Think about it: the cheetah, the fastest animal on land, is physically able to run at top speed of 112kmph but it can maintain it only for about 180-275m at a time, while Siberian huskies can run for up to 6 hours a day, more than 10 days in a row. Human being have not (yet?) evolved to being naturally able to run marathons. Even if a person trains for it and is able to do it, running a marathon is harmful - not good - for the body.

Many people think that being able to run a marathon is a matter of mind over body. True that will power is essential to complete a marathon. However, when people feel extreme discomfort or pain, they think that if their body is strong enough they would still continue. I have friends who say they have unhealed injuries but would still go ahead to run marathons. That's why I'm never surprised to hear of people dying while running or after a marathon. I think people should listen to their bodies and know their limits. The mind-over-body attitude can kill. If people don't listen to their bodies, they can't blame their bodies for dying on them.

Some people might think I have no right to write about marathons because I've never run one. (Just like they say people should not criticise beauty contest representatives because they've not participated in one). It's not like I am discouraging people from running marathons because I'm a lousy runner - if it counts for anything my best timings this year for 2.4km run and 6km moderate-difficult grade trail run are 13:24 and 42:00 respectively. What's the use of running a marathon if people are going to be injured or dead after that? Besides, have you seen the bodies of (professional) female marathon runners?

Related post:
[Mind over body?]


David said...


One does not need run marathons to be fit. You are proof of that.

This past summer three marathon runners died in a local marathon. Two were older men and one younger man with an undiagnosed heart problem.

Any endurance event like marathons can be very dangerous.

I am a walker, and when time permits can hike for many miles. In all my walks and bicycle rides I have yet to see a runner or jogger smiling.

Good post with wise precautions.

BTWm Happy Christmas season to you!


Yu-Kym said...

Happy thanksgiving David! Keep walking :D

David said...


An update on marathon deaths from Detroits marathon.

Two runners, 26 & 36 were found to have had a history of irregular heart rythms.

Both men should not have run the race.

I trust you had a fun weekend!
Good to have you posting again.


Barefoot Pua said...

I wonder if you have ever read the book "Born To Run"? It is an interesting book and I have learnt alot about the Tarahumara tribe and more about running.

I am not going saying it is good or bad to do marathons because I am and will be doing many more marathons till old age. It is all about having a personal aim and challenge. In fact I will be doing it very differently this year on 6 Dec 09.

Happy Christmas season and enjoy.

Yu-Kym said...

David, that's sad to hear :(

Barefoot Pua, no I haven't read that book but will pick it up if I see it in the library. I think each person is physiologically different so nobody can say for sure what a person can or cannot handle. Saw your blog. By "different" did you mean barefooted?