Completing a marathon seems to be on everyone’s bucket list. It’s a huge feat to run 42 consecutive kilometres, which is a true testament to a runner’s physical and mental endurance.
But if you’re a serial marathon runner or training for your first one this year, recent research from the American Journal of Kidney Disease could have you rethinking your next race. Because, as it turns out, running such a far distance may have a negative impact on your internal organs.
Researchers at Yale tested a group of 22 runners (made up of 41 per cent men and 59 per cent women) after finishing the 2015 Hartford marathon in Connecticut, and found that 82 per cent of runners had injured their kidneys during the marathon. Urine samples were taken before and after the marathon, and the majority of samples taken following the run showed signs of Stage 1 Acute Kidney Injury (AKI). Crossing that finish line, with arms thrown up in the air as a sign of victory, feels sweet, but the internal damage the body has to deal with might not be worth the emotional high.
“The kidney responds to the physical stress of marathon running as if it’s injured, in a way that’s similar to what happens in hospitalized patients when the kidney is affected by medical and surgical complications,” doctor Chirag Parikh, a lead researcher on the study, told Yale News.
While the damage does heal, these findings shouldn’t be taken lightly. Marathons are stressful on the body, and not just on the body parts that meet the road, like you knees and feet.
“We need to investigate this further,” said Parikh. “Research has shown there are also changes in heart function associated with marathon running. Our study adds to the story — even the kidney responds to marathon-related stress.”
You don’t necessarily need to stop running or exercising — just remember that your body does have its limits, so be sure to listen to its warning signs.