Forming conjectures is a basic human nature. These conjectures breed from fear of exiting from one’s comfort zone. And the running community is no exception. Certain naysayers uphold numerous running myths about marathon runners which deter the spirits of many individuals who are pro-running. But let us tell you that these are just misconceptions in the truest sense of the word.
So, let’s begin busting all the misconceptions about marathon runners and take you to the other side of the smoke.
Debunking Misconception About Marathon Runners
Running is as easy as walking and can be done by almost everyone. You don’t need a specific body type or to be below 30 years of age to be a marathon runner. And when done in the correct way, taking care of all the marathon running do’s and don’ts, running isn’t injurious to your joints and muscles at all.
Before you lace up your running shoes, find out the common fallacies about running and marathon runners.
Here are the biggest misconceptions about marathon runners debunked!
1. A marathon runner must be VERY fit
Not really! If you witness a marathon event from the sideline, you shall see a lot of marathon runners’ physical fitness is still a work in progress. Take your time with marathon training. Participate to finish the race because often a race is a milestone in that journey. Keep training and keep participating because every marathon experience is a tip for the next one.
2. Marathon running requires special body type
Wrong! Anybody and everybody can run a marathon. Running is the easiest exercise of all. You do not need to have a certain body type to run. Of course, regular running will provide you with a toned figure but to start the habit some flab or an out-of-shape physique doesn’t render many obstructions.
3. Marathon runners have to be VERY fast
Again, a false belief! Speed is not a requisite for running a marathon. It’s the endurance and stamina that you need to complete long-distance races. Understand that 5k and 10k races work on speed but not long distances and ultra-marathons. Begin slowly for faster recovery and crank up the pace towards the end. Focus on building your endurance instead of speed.
4. Daily running for greater improvement
Depends on what you run. Long distance races like a marathon, 10k, or 5k races calls for everyday running practice to improve your stamina and performance. However, if you run for overall health benefits than you can manipulate your running frequency according to your feasibility. Skipping a few days of the run will not result in loss of fitness.
5. Stretching is a run pre-requisite
Yes and no too. Most runners tend to begin their run with static stretching sessions like toe touching with fingertips, etc to dodge injuries. But what you fail to understand is that static stretching will not warm up your muscles or help you run faster. Warm up your muscles and limber them with dynamic stretching instead. A simple walk or an easy jog is the best way to stretch your muscles and avoid running injuries.
6. Runners suffer knee damage
Widely believed but is false at the core. According to researchers, frequent running strengthens and lubricates the knee joint and the surrounding muscles, making them less vulnerable to strains and sprains. Habitual running decreases the risk of developing osteoarthritis and other types of knee pain. But in case of previous knee injuries, running on softer trails will be forgiving on your knees. Also, in most cases, the strain put by excess body weight is the cause of knee problems, not running!
7. Marathon runners endure long-term injuries
Not completely true! Yes, marathon runners and other long-distance runners do encounter plantar fasciitis, shin splints, and a few other injuries but they also know how to treat these common running injuries. Engaging in cross training for running and strength training will not only help healing sores and injuries but also break the monotony.
8. Run barefoot for no injuries
Minimalist running or barefoot running took the running society by storm but it has been misunderstood in terms of its practicality. The idea of running as naturally as possible sounds impressive but it’s not injury-free. In addition, many of amateur runners do not run properly and hence, need the support of running shoes for a comfortable run. Barefoot running is beneficial when running on the right surfaces, such as grass or sand. Running without shoes on hard tracks or trails like only create injury favorable situations.
9. Runners don’t need strength training
Not quite the truth! A habitual runner may not require strength training but a marathon runner most certainly does. Strength training builds muscles and strengthens joints that are otherwise not used in the running activity. Furthermore, it helps to enhance performance and reduce injury likelihood. Marathon runners need complete fitness to scale long distances.
10. Runners don’t need special diet
False! All athletes should follow a proper diet. Just because you are running and burning calories doesn’t mean you can gobble up calories without a blink. A well-balanced diet should include all essential vitamins and minerals in the form of whole grains, fresh fruits, and vegetables to improve immune systems and reduce infections and injuries. One of the top foods for runners is banana as it is rich in potassium which helps to prevent muscle cramps.
Another runner diet misconception is loading on carb the night before the big race. You can cheat as much as 100 extra grams of carbohydrate, not more than that! Instead of piling on the heavy carb, like pasta, the night before a race, choose to snack on bites with extra carbohydrates coupled with protein and a dash of healthy fat.
Learn what to eat the night before a race.
11. Marathon runners should be below 30
Total misconception! The marathon community is a diverse family. People of all the age bracket can participate and experience the joys of touching the finish line. While the young blood can run at their own risk, old souls should follow basic marathon tips like walk breaks, intermittent hydration, etc. to minimise potential hazards. Aside from medical conditions or severe injuries, nothing should stop you from running – age is the least of them!
12. Marathon runners should only practice on pavements
Not necessarily! Running on the pavement and running on the treadmill will produce no different results. In terms of visuals and stimulation, some runners may prefer outdoor running but if you speak about running mechanics, studies show that pounding the road and pounding the deck produces similar running conditions.
13. Mileage is everything for marathon runners
Taking a notch up with the distance will not prepare your body better for the race. Running too much for longer distances can cause more harm than good. Train smarter, not harder. Pick quality over quantity and avoid cumulative fatigue that results from running long distances without proper recovery. This negates the popular myth that you have to build up to 25 miles before you go run 26 miles.
14. Marathon runners hit the wall at Mile 20
Not all of them! Usually running 20 miles will get you tired and muscle sore due to loss of glycogen. However, proper hydration and calorie consumption at regular intervals along the course and during training runs can provide the muscles with extra glycogen despite fatigue. Also, start slow and gradually work up the speed to save glycogen for the later stage of the race.
Learn all about Nutrition - Your Way Past The Marathon Wall
15. Marathon runners have no family time
Incorrecto! We understand that to run big races like marathons and ultra-marathons, you need to prepare with a certain degree of dedication but it is not that you will have to give up on your personal life. There’s no definite time for training. In fact, you can train as and when you can- early in the morning, between lunch breaks, with your baby strollers, etc. You can even plan a weekend run with your family members besides your regular training! If you have an unconventionally busy schedule then a 30-minute run twice a week and a long, group run on the weekend should do the trick.
Whew! And those were some of the widely notorious misconceptions about marathon runners and running itself. Like we mentioned, running is the easiest exercise or an activity that requires no athletic abilities. With the help of some basic training and a balanced diet, it can do miracles to your body and uplift your mind and spirit. Marathon running isn’t only for the young and fit. On a second thought, you run to feel young and fit.
That being said, participating and completing a marathon race is an incredibly rewarding experience. The inner satisfaction and the self-confidence that you achieve on the other side of the finish line restores self-faith. Do not let any of these misconceptions to dampen the Usain Bolt spirit in you!