What Happens inside the Body of a Marathon Runner

advice for marathon runnersOn the 24th April, tens of thousands of runners will hammer the capital’s pavements as their bodies are put to the ultimate test in the London Marathon. Nationally recognised as the biggest fitness event of the year, the endurance-testing feat brings a sense of great achievement by all who take part.

But what about the physical implications of running around 26 miles for hours on end?  Some side effects are quite surprising, as our chiropractor in Stoke on Trent has discovered:

1: The Body Shrinks

Believe it or not, most marathon runners will cross the finishing line around two centimeters shorter than when they started! This is caused by fluid loss between the spine’s intervertebral discs. However, this reduction in height is only temporary with measurements soon returning to normal once the fluid levels are replaced (usually at least 24 hours after finishing the race).

 2: Hearing Becomes Sharper

Circulation to the ears is improved during marathon training which provides more nutrients to help preserve hearing.

3: Body Weight Temporarily Decreases

Marathon runners will typically shed between 2-5 kg in weight during the race.  This weight is lost through fluid and can be replaced by drinking 500ml of fluid per hour during after the event. Drinking too much during and after a marathon can be dangerous. If body salts are diluted to a dangerous level, a fatal condition known as “water toxicity” or “hyponatremia” can develop.

4: Blood Vessels Are at Risk of Damage

During a marathon, excess pressure on the tiny blood vessels in the feet causes a large reduction in haemoglobin (oxygen carrying blood cells). To help levels restore to normal and to reduce the risk of anemia, marathon runners must rest in the days following the race and eat iron-rich foods.

5:Toenails are Lost!

The average runner takes around 32,000 strides during the London marathon – that’s pretty heavy going on the feet! Months of training prior to the race can also cause toenail trauma.

6: Not That Many Calories Are Actually Burnt During a Marathon!

Around 2800 calories are used to run a marathon – that’s a lot less than most people think! Glycogen (the body’s source of fuel for activity) becomes drained following a marathon and runners need to replace this by consuming around 0.5g of carbohydrates for every pound of their body weight.

7: A Runny Nose is Common

Many people find themselves suddenly developing the “the sniffles” while running for long periods outdoors. This is actually a common condition that affects around 56% of runners.*

Known as “runner’s hay fever” or “exercise-induced rhinitis”, the condition is believed to be caused by the increased air that runners inhale as their breathing rate quickens. It is thought that very cool or dry air can amplify these symptoms.

So now you know – 7 surprising facts that affect marathon runners.

Our team of chiropractors wish everyone taking part in the London marathon all the best.

* Journal Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology

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