Road warriors need to know their limits

With growing interest in marathons, runners have to ask themselves if they have what it takes

It takes more than just heart and soul to run a marathon. Millions of people participate every year in marathons around the world – but how many are able to make it to the finishing point?

Alan Brookes of the Scotia Bank Toronto Waterfront Marathon describes a marathon as a lifelong achievement.

“A marathon is something that’s very goal oriented,” Brookes said.Brookes is the race director for the Scotia bank Toronto Waterfront Marathon, and has been organizing runs in the Toronto area for nearly 23 years.

As the obsession for marathons grows, participants vary from lean, tall and athletic to short and obese. People from different backgrounds and ethnicity, stamina and endurance, physical shape and medical conditions anxiously await hearing the starter’s pistol.Some succeed in trying to achieve their goal while others don’t.

Proper training is the key

Annette McClelland, certified athletic therapist and pedorthist, believes the key to succeed in a marathon is through a proper training program. She believes a minimum of eight to 10 months for a new runner and almost four to six months for an experienced runner is required to make it to the finishing line.

“I think if you’re going to do something like that, you need to train properly for it,” McClelland said. “Most people who never got to a marathon in my opinion, haven’t got their body used to that kind of pounding (training), for such period of time.”

She believes a consistent training exercise helps runners to built their stamina and increase their running habit, which would put their body in a better form and condition before participating in a marathon.

“The key for me is putting enough mileage in but giving your body enough time to recover, before you go out and do the next run.”

As a pedorthist, McClelland believes footwear is the most important aspect while training for a marathon.

“If a person has extremely poor foot mechanics and they don’t go into the right shoe, then over a period of training, they’re going to end up with some injuries.”

A pedorthist is someone who is trained in the assessment, design, manufacture, fit and modification of shoes, to alleviate painful or debilitating conditions.

McClelland says an individual’s feet are shaped in a certain way for a certain task. If they don’t have proper mechanics to obtain that task, than over a period of time, those improper mechanics will cause injuries.

Determination and dedication

John Sage, a certified athletic therapist at Apple Creek Sports Medicine Centre believes determination and dedication during the training program are two vital elements required to succeed in a marathon.

Sage, a marathoner himself, believes that a participant is not expected to be an expert runner to succeed in a marathon race; instead, a gradual increase in a runner’s mileage while training can do the trick. For instance, in 15-20 weeks of training program, an individual would be required to run an approximate distance of 15-20 kilometres per week, and gradually increase the distance to 5-10 per cent every week.

As for the cardio-vascular fitness, Sage believes it gradually comes along with increased training and stamina, as every individual’s heart rate and endurance is different from another’s.

Jay Glassman, race director for the Toronto Marathon believes, running a distance of 42 kilometres is not an easy task, and therefore suggests that every individual must seek their physician’s advice before participating in a marathon or any other running activity or program.

As a matter of fact, the Toronto Marathon’s waver states that participants must consult with their physicians regarding their physical condition and get a proper medical check up before participating in the race.

After getting an approval from the physician, the next most important step is to start a training program, Glassman said.

“The runners literally come in all shapes and sizes, but it’s their training and endurance that gets them initially to the start line and then hopefully to the finish line.”

No physical required

Glassman says there’re no physical assessments to conclude if a participant is physically fit to run a marathon or not. He said every individual can run a marathon but they have to decide if they are physically fit and properly trained to participate in a 42-km race without having injury or risk.

“There comes a time where you have to rely on the individual to make a cautious decision,” Glassman said. “If they want to participate in the marathon and they’re reading the waver, they’ve got to know about the sport and perhaps certain risks as well.”

Glassman believes it’s not practical for the race organizers to arrange for a physical assessment for the participants, before the race.

“It’s not reasonable or feasible to expect that each of those participants when they sign the waver would submit with their entry forms, their medical records,” Glassman said.

“When you consider that some of these events sell out months in advance, than what do you do? For example, there’s this event in October and you registered for it in April, well a lot can happen to a person between April and October. And so, if you submitted your medical records in, then you need someone on the other hand in a marathon office that can read all the records for 20-30,000 people.”

He said getting to have a doctor to read all those medical records in a minimum time span is not possible.

Glassman believes no race director ever expects to have fatalities or injuries at their race; a race director always assumes that every individual participating in the race did go through a proper training program before participating as training.

“Just physically, what a marathon takes out of you and the kind of physical shape that you need to be in; an aerobic shape that you need to be in; therefore, it would not be recommended by anyone to just go out and run a marathon without properly training for it.”

Filed from The Centre for Creative Communications