Marathon injuries - the risks facing first time marathon runners
Injury risks for marathon 'virgins'
Men and women embarking on marathon training programmes are at significant risk of injury because of their lack of experience, according to a major study carried out in Texas – the first to describe the baseline characteristics of a large representative group of non-élite athletes and their relationship to injury risk factors.
A four-page questionnaire was completed by 1,548 of 2,314 people registering for the 1998-99 Houston Fit Marathon Training Programme, a 25-week running or walking programme designed to help individuals achieve their fitness goals while training for the Houston Marathon.
Key data revealed on analysis of the questionnaires was as follows:
- most (63%) of the sample were female and most runners of both sexes were concentrated in the 20-50 age range;
- 3.5% (mostly women) were underweight and 35.6% (mostly men) were overweight or obese;
- the mean number of years of running experience was 6.2 and only 10.2% had competitive running team experience, in most cases dating back to school days;
- the majority (52.3%) had not previously trained for a marathon and, of those who had, 28% had not completed a marathon;
- about a quarter of the sample had either done no prior running or had been running for one year or less;
- just over 16% (more women than men) had been physically inactive in the three months prior to starting the programme;
- 38.1% reported having had an injury during the previous three years and 35% of all injuries were still causing symptoms.
‘The most significant finding in this study,’ note the researchers, ‘is that the majority of those in a training programme to complete a marathon are not élite, well-trained, experienced runners.
‘Training techniques that may be associated with injury are more prevalent in those with relatively little running and marathon experience. … Thus we suggest that training programmes should take measures to establish baseline fitness, educate on injury prevention training techniques and set appropriate fitness goals to accommodate for the training needs of its participants and increase the chance for successful outcomes.’
Clin J Sports Med 2002;12:18-23
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