Running the distance – Want to run further?

Long distance running, and marathons in particular, are a sport that requires significant training time, especially to be able to run the full 42km.

A periodic exercise program designed by an Accredited Exercise Professional is the best way to ensure you’re gradually building up your long distance running and marathon fitness, safely, and minimise the risk of injury.

As a long distance runner the human body is required to utilize all muscles, joints, heart and lungs over what could be up to several hours, to complete the required distance. Marathons are usually performed at a slower pace and is therefore classified as an aerobic sport requiring the body to exert energy over a longer period.

Accredited Exercise Physiologist, Beth Sheehan, explains that from a joint perspective, running sends 1.5-3.0x an individual’s body weight through their body. This repetitive impact over a longer distance and time will potentially have long term affects if an athlete is not adequately prepared.

The extended energy demands on the cardiorespiratory, endocrine, and neuromuscular systems also affect the metabolic demands on the body.  It is therefore important to be mindful of the runner’s energy input and energy expenditure and impact this can have on gut health and hydration whilst running for extended periods.


Health concerns for marathon runners


Health concerns will vary for each individual, depending on a variety of factors such as; medical  history, prior physical activity, marathon experience and training history.


Overuse injuries

  • Knee injuries (e.g. Runner’s knee, patellofemoral issues, meniscal injuries)
  • Hip injuries (eg. bursitis, anterior hip tendinopathy, ITB syndrome)
  • Foot injuries (e.g. Plantarfascitis, stress fractures, peroneal tendinopathy)


Metabolic concerns

  • Dehydration
  • Adverse fatigue
  • Renal complications


What can you do to properly prepare for a marathon?


A good training program to assist in the prevention of injuries and serious health concerns will involve:

  • Use technology – movement trackers can help you assess your efforts or download a free app, such as the free Nike Running Club, that can provide you with guided, mentored runs
  • Strength – Separate sessions to work on strength particularly leg strength (focusing on glutes and legs and core)
  • Stretching sessions – such as yoga to assist with flexibility
  • Warm up – start your running slowly and build up
  • Cool down – prevent stiffness by foam rolling, stretching – try this straight after when you body is warm or in the shower
  • Footwear – ensure that you are wearing the most appropriate shoes for your feet
  • Clothing – breathable is best
  • Hydration and adequate fueling – ensure you are able to drink water during long runs and take a gel with you especially if you are the type of person that has fluctuating sugar levels


Signs that something isn’t quite right


Constant pain.

Listen to your body, if you are experiencing increasing pain or it doesn’t go away with rest, seek professional advice.


Ever gone for a run after taking a break and woken up as stiff a board the next day? This typically means you either a) are not conditioned to run that far or hard and/or b) you did not undertake a significant warm up or cool down. This can be easily prevented with periodised training and an adequate warm down.  Spacing your training runs will also assist with appropriate recovery required to ensure your body is working at its optimised level.  Consult an appropriate marathon training program alongside an accredited exercise professional for best results.

Excessive fatigue.

You will naturally be tired from longer runs but if training and eating appropriately for a marathon you should still be able to function during your daily household and work related tasks.  If loosing ability to focus, stay awake etc consult an appropriate health professional to ensure you are not over training.

Urinary issues or complications.

If experiencing such issues during and post marathon training consult your doctor.


It may be worth purchasing a fitness watch, app or a monitor such as a HeartBit which provides an interesting solution for a chest strap. This will allow you to track figures such as heart rate to ensure you are always safe, when running.

Always consult an exercise professional, such as an Accredited Exercise Physiologist prior to starting a training program, or if you are experiencing any pains whilst exercising.