THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: While the Tata Mumbai Marathon on January 19 saw the hard work of several bear fruit, it also witnessed more than 1,350 runners requiring medical attention after the event. One suffered a stroke and one died of cardiac arrest. While long-distance running is deemed to keep you fit, it also happens to be a misconception, according to experts. Lack of appropriate and sufficient training along with undiagnosed heart diseases can prove to be fatal, especially for those above the age of 40. With an increase of marathons in the country over the past decade, it is high time the participants took account of several factors before joining competitive races.
As per Dr Vinod Thomas, lead consultant cardiologist at Renai Medicity, Kochi, one must be aware of the science behind marathon running. “There are two kinds. The first involves running at a comfortable and constant speed, wherein your heart rate does not go beyond a certain limit. This falls under the category of aerobic exercise which is good for the heart. It reduces the formation of cholesterol deposits, reduces workload and delivers more oxygen to the heart. The other is racing which involves stressing your heart as the pulse rate increases,” he explains.
The latter requires adequate training. “Ideally, a three-month training with six to seven hours of sleep and diet that comprises more protein prior to the marathon is required. The meal plan must include more carbohydrates in the week preceding the marathon,” he says. Several participants arrive for the marathon with undiagnosed diseases. “When pre-existing heart blocks are undiagnosed in a participant, unaccustomed exercise can be dangerous. Simultaneously, during a marathon, there exists a tendency to outrun the other participants. For the unfamiliar, attempting a significant running distance and pace can also turn out to be critical,” says Dr Vinod.
Pre-requisites for a marathon also involves a checkup. “After the age of 40, it is wise to do a basic cardiac checkup and a treadmill exercise testing before the marathon. Cardiac arrests which result in the person collapsing mid-race occur mostly in people above 40,” he says.
The youth too should take precautions. “If the competitor has an undiagnosed problem, age does not play a factor; they can be affected in their 30s too,” he says. In Western countries, athletes have to compulsorily undergo a check and an echocardiogram before such competitions. “We are yet to have such preliminary requirements,” he added.