Baltimore - To finish a marathon is quite a feat. But are you killing your feet, your ankles and your joints to cross the finish line? 26.2 miles is a long hike but when you get that medal you feel as sense of accomplishment. But as ABC2 News Joce Sterman explains, you might be feeling the pain once that runner’s high wears off.
They push their bodies to the extreme, pushing through pain to cross a finish line that comes after 26.2 miles of pure determination. Baltimore Marathon organizer Lee Corrigan explains, "They talk about the runners high. They talk about getting over the hump. Once they get over that hump then running becomes almost effortless to them."
But while the runner's high fades, the impact on your body may last a lifetime. Still record numbers are hitting the streets. The 2010 Under Armor Baltimore Marathon had 5000 runners, up from just under 4,000 in 2009.
It seems we all know someone in training. But should average Joes go the distance? Anne Arundel County’s Caleb Kinney is one of them. On a day with snow and ice falling, we found him on the trail in Severna Park, logging some of the 50 miles he runs every week. He says "It doesn't matter if its rainy or snowy, a beautiful day. I'm still going to be out here no matter what. My ultimate goal is to qualify for the Boston Marathon which means I have to run a marathon, 26.2 miles at a 7:15 pace for a total of 3 hours and 10 minutes."
Four marathons are on Kinney’s radar this year. It's a daring goal, even for an elite runner. But Caleb is just a beginner. In fact, less than a year ago, he didn't even run - he couldn't. Kinney explains, "I ate fast food every day in the drive thru in my car every day and I smoked about two packs of cigarettes a day."
Now 90 pounds lighter, Kinney is breathing easier. But he's traded the pain of overall poor health for the medical mishaps that come with marathon training. In just the last few months he's had knee problems, joint pain and stress fractures. They’re common injuries if you're making your way toward the marathon goal.
Dr. Scott Woodburn is a podiatrist with GBMC. He says, "It's a goal. It's a great goal. But so is climbing Mount Everest." That’s why Woodburn believes marathons don't make sense for most people. It's not that you can't do it, but that you shouldn't. Woodburn says over the course of a marathon your feet strike the ground between 35,000-40,000 times, with each strike carrying about three to four times your body weight. He says, "That is tough for your body to take. All that pounding for two and a half to five hours without stopping is just tough on the body."
Dr. Woodburn sees plenty of patients who've gone through the paces. While he believes running is great exercise and doesn’t discourage distance running altogether, Woodburn says you should consider less mileage than a marathon. Otherwise he says many patients start suffering with pain that goes farther north than just your foot. Woodburn explains, "Just like a car has shock absorbers, that is your shock absorber, your initial shock absorption. Then of course it goes to the ankle, knee and the hip."
And it’s a runner’s ability to speed through the pain that scares him. Many marathoners see their run date approaching and don't want to step off their training. Woodburn tells ABC2, "If you have an injury and you think you can run through it or think no matter what you're going to do this marathon even if it kills you, you can have some long term harm done to your body."
Dr. Neal Friedlander, a GBMC internist, knows all about the potential for harm. He’s got medals from more than a half-dozen marathons and actually broke his ankle training for another. But that's not slowing his chase. Friedlander says you shouldn't slow yours either as long as you train properly and rule out any risk factors before you race. He says, "It's an incredible experience that first time when you're in sight of that finish line and you've accomplished this wonderful feat. By the way, 26.2 miles is a long way."
Caleb Kinney is slowly realizing that. His shift from fast food junkie to marathon man has been tough. But he's quick to quiet critics who say it might be risky to run himself so hard. He says, "You should have seen me before, then decide what's better for my health."
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