I’m sure you’ve all heard or read about the *alarming* news that recently surfaced. The initial news was put out to the U.S. as “running might cause future strokes or heart attacks”. Then, after carefully reading the stories, we learned that the science behind the claims meant extreme running or fitness. Emphasis on extreeeeeeme.
I first told my husband (who has been running for 25+ years) in annoyance, how can “they” tell a nation facing an obesity epidemic that running is bad? Preposterous. Ridiculous! I could just feel Bob Harper’s seething frustration from over on the other side of the country. When news like this surfaces, many of our fellow runners are able to smartly put things into perspective, calming everyone back down again.
Running will most likely not kill you any more or less than driving your car every day. Heart disease, cancer, stroke, and then car crashes are the top most causes of death in the United States. The argument is that extreme running causes problems for the heart that can then cause a stroke or heart attack. I think we all can assume the majority of stroke and heart disease high death rates in the national data are not from runners but from the sedentary and unfit sectors of the population as well as just those with bad luck genetics. In fact, looking at that stroke maps from the CDC, we can see that there are higher occurrences in certain sectors of the country. Obviously, those sectors do not have more extreme runners than other sectors (in fact, those sectors probably have less runners compared to the western sectors since those same sectors appear to have less physically active people).
Stroke data 2000-2006
2009 Age-Adjusted Estimates of the Percentage of Adults Who Are Physically Inactive
I am not an extreme runner and don’t believe I ever will be. I will hopefully one day feel confident and physically capable of tackling a full marathon as a runner, but I am still a ways off from being physically ready. That would be the most “extreme” running I would ever do and might decide to go for it next year.
Running is my first love for fitness and I really enjoy the endurance, however I see myself as an athlete minus the word “extreme”. Feeling strong and notching off another mile on a run is so motivating to me. But, what is the main personal goal I have for myself? What is the main goal for most of us Mother Runners? When I really dig into my core feelings, I know my MAIN motivation is health and fitness – not champion. I understand I will never go to the Olympics and I also understand I will most likely never actually win a half or full marathon. Therefore, I realize that the most I will gain from any of this besides a sense of accomplishment is healthy fitness. I also want to do other fitness activities along with running, such as yoga and weight training. Runner’s World columnist Alex Hutchinson recently wrote a very good article discussing ultra marathoner Micah True’s death and how extreme running is different than what most of us do:
“I’ve certainly never met anyone who went on a six-hour run purely for the health benefits. Even once you get up to the marathon distance, people’s motivations usually transcend health.”
How do I view the information regarding running and the heart and our health? I don’t believe running will kill the majority of people – the statistics are not in that favor. In fact, running will more than likely reverse many health problems caused by being disastrously unfit for most people and then decrease the chance for heart disease, which is actually the #1 killer. Science really needs to get a better grasp not only on what extreme sports may do, but on what healthy running can do. I do want to train smartly and have actually been trying to slow down some of my runs, aiming for keeping that “conversational pace” we are often advised on. I’m looking into the idea of heart rate training, but I don’t like the idea of being tied to so many devices. I want running to always be enjoyable, not a project.
Do you run with a heart rate monitor? Are you concerned at all about this latest news that has come out on the proposed dangers of extreme running?