Ever thought about running a marathon?

Pondered it for months but then thought better of it so not to make your existing ailments worse?

This is common thought process of would be marathoners, and majority fall into the last category where they consider it but then decide that in the best interests of their body, they should opt not to.

Well this recent study carried out by Horga et al (2022) investigated one issue which many believe will worsen if they train for a marathon. Lets be honest, it’s not necessarily the one off event of the marathon that poses the biggest challenge, it’s the consistent dedication and relentless training mileage that one has to endure in order to reach the start line with any degree of confidence. And it’s the cumulative effect of the incremental mileage which many believe has a negative effect on the body.

The authors of this study looked at the lumbar spine, and the impact a marathon training programme had on the structures within it. The findings were positive to say the least!!

Many would assume that training for and running a marathon would cause damage to the various structures, and potentially accelerate any degeneration you potentially already have in the area….this piece of research found otherwise.

The authors tracked 28 asymptomatic runners taking on the London marathon for the first time. To do this they carried out an MRI of their spine at the start of their training plan 16 weeks before the marathon, and then another MRI 2 weeks after the marathon. They then compared the changes they saw on MRI between the two timepoints, giving us a good snapshot of the effect the training plan and running mileage had on the spine.

In short, the study found that running 500 miles over 4 months plus a marathon for the first time had no adverse effects on the lumbar spine, even when early degenerative changes were present.

Additionally, there was evidence of regression of sacroiliac joint abnormalities* so in fact the running plan actually had a positive impact.

If you’d like to view this study then click here

So, in terms of take home messages –

  1. Don’t limit yourself based on theories you have picked up along your journey without critiquing it’s validity
  2. Quite often with many issues, doing something is better than doing nothing, fair enough, running a marathon may be an extreme analogy to support this, however, if we apply the findings of this study to perceived less traumatic/damaging activities then surely we feel more able to get out and get moving.

As always thanks for reading guys!

  • Sacroiliac dysfunction refers to pain or discomfort in the sacroiliac joint, which is the joint that connects the sacrum (the triangular bone at the bottom of the spine) to the ilium (the uppermost part of the hip bone). The sacroiliac joint is responsible for transferring weight and force between the upper body and the legs. When there is a problem with this joint, such as inflammation, injury, or wear and tear, it can result in pain, stiffness, or difficulty with certain movements. Sacroiliac dysfunction is a common condition that can be caused by a variety of factors, including trauma, arthritis, pregnancy, or even poor posture. Treatment options typically involve a combination of physical therapy, pain management, and lifestyle changes to help manage symptoms and improve overall function.

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