Sweat pours down his face and each step is harder than the last. He wearily looks up to see the home stretch ahead and digs deeper to cross the finish line with his head held high. Jeff Goins, a senior at Aurora University, has run two half-marathons in the past two years. He ran the races with his brothers, but has thrown in the towel regarding any future marathons.
“The actual running was rough on my body, and that was only 13 miles, so I wouldn’t even consider running 26. But crossing the finish line felt like a great accomplishment,” said Goins.
Spring marks the beginning of marathon season so runners must make a decision. To run or not to run? Running 26.2 miles takes a toll on the body, but runners at who choose to run this lengthy race never quit even though they are at risk for injury during every race.
Each year, runners in marathons, half-marathons and other races collapse and never recover. Some runners in picturesque health never make it to the finish line. In some cases, these runners have pre-existing conditions, but in other cases, their situation begs the questions: is it safe to run such extreme distances in such a short amount of time? Can the body handle it? Is running such lengths in such short time worth the risks?
Sara Merker, a senior English major at Aurora University, ran the 2011 Chicago Marathon and says the reward of spreading awareness of a cause outweighs the bodily risk.
“Most run to make a statement, and they will go through the pain of a marathon if it gets a point across. I imagine that they pray their pain throughout the race will somehow relieve the pain that others are facing,” said Merker.
The risk of running 26.2 miles in less than 6 hours does pose possible problems to the body but thousands of people still sign up for marathons. Last year, The Chicago Marathon began at 7:30 a.m. on Oct. 9 with 35,628 runners completing the 26.2-mile course according to the Bank of America Chicago Marathon’s press release after the race. For many, the reward of overcoming physical or mental obstacles and crossing the finish line is much higher than the risks.
Ben Pape, an Exercise Physiology student at Concordia University Wisconsin, says that beginning runners often injure themselves because they do too much, too fast.
“The risk is mostly from people who aren’t aware of the proper way to exercise,” said Pape, “If you warm up, cool down, stretch and eat smart, plus get a good pair of running shoes and a legitimate training plan (for the average individual, there’s a good list from the American College of Sports Medicine), you decrease the risk a lot,”
To prevent problems, aid stations and medical support are located along the course one to two miles apart providing restrooms, fluids, energy gel sand bananas. Medical support staff is at each aid station and at an additional tent in the final mile, according to the marathon website course and amenities information.
While Goins has satiated his running thirst, Merker has been hooked. “Touring Chicago by foot was an unforgettable experience. I would like to tour another city that way and then spend more time visiting the main attractions the city has to offer. I definitely want to attempt another marathon in the not-too-distant future,” said Merker.