Marathon – what runners should keep in mind

Just a few weeks ago, the 43rd BMW Berlin Marathon once again fascinated over a million visitors around the course and for the runners, preparations for the 2017 race are already beginning. The skaters’ race was overshadowed by a death. What marathon runners should look out for in their heart health.

The bon mot “Sport is murder” is attributed to the former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill. He paid for his “hostile” attitude to sporting activity with high blood pressure, a heart attack and two strokes. Nevertheless, Churchill lived to be 91 years old. Churchill’s statement does not stand up to scientific studies. On the contrary: sporting activities such as running are healthy. Regular sport considerably reduces the risk of cardiovascular diseases. Sport also has positive effects on high blood pressure, lipometabolic disorders, obesity and diabetes and the resulting secondary diseases such as heart attacks and strokes.

Nevertheless, sudden cardiac death occurs from time to time during extreme exertion such as a marathon, but also during other sporting events, even among younger athletes. However, the cause is not sport as such but, for example, a genetically determined thickening of the cardiac septum. Such hypertrophic cardiomyopathy is a heart defect that can be detected with an ultrasound examination.

Sports fitness examinations recommended

“A marathon is very demanding on the musculoskeletal system as well as the cardiovascular system. That’s why sports fitness tests are particularly recommended in such cases,” explains Dr. Rainer Ruf, cardiologist at the Ambulantes Centrum Berlin in Berlin-Friedrichshain. “A stress ECG and a ultrasound examination of the heart reveal possible acquired or congenital heart diseases.” These can pose a risk to the athlete’s heart health.

But sports medicine examinations do even more. They provide a good assessment of the current state of health and can also be used to derive statements about the most favourable individual load intensities. This should be the starting point of the individual training plan. The recommendations regarding the heart rate to aim for during training can vary greatly from athlete to athlete.