Adding Fuel To The Fire

I’m home sick today with what is hopefully my last bad cold before summer. I’ve mentioned that I recently started a new job, so I most likely picked it up there (I usually get sick when I work in a new environment). This isn’t just any old cold. Nope it’s a doosey: extreme fatigue and conjestion.

So my mind has been thinking about health-related topics lately. And by now you might have heard that an autopsy has indicated that Micah True, the well known ultra runner known as “Cabello Blanco” (made famous by Born To Run), died of heart disease, more specifically cardiomyopathy, which results in an enlarged heart.

(source)

There are so many naysayers out there that are quick to tell us how bad running is for us. How many of us have had a friend, family member, or even doctor tell us that running will ruin our knees, feet, joints, etc. (if they do, kindly refer them to this article)

(source)

And now I am sure there will be plenty more out there eager to say that running will damage our hearts.

(source)

But even rational semi-intelligent people can understand that there are many factors that lead to heart disease and lifestyle is only one of them, right? Micah True led an extremely healthy lifestyle, didn’t smoke, ate healthy food and still died of heart disease. His DNA was most likely the culprit…most likely.

I went off in search of any research on whether too much exercise can actually harm your health just to be sure (and also to be armed with information when the next naysayer told me I should stop running…). I’ll save you the academic jargon and summarize of peer-reviewed articles I found on the UVa journal database: yes, there is evidence–albeit it’s not the most rigorous–that extreme endurance training over a lifetime could perhaps lead to fibrosis or “diffuse scarring” in the heart. 

A recent New York Times article, When Exercise is Too Much of a Good Thing, sums up the consequences of distance running, based on what we know, nicely:

“How many people are going to join the 100 Marathon club” or undertake a comparable amount of training? he asked. “Not many. Too much exercise has not been a big problem in America. Most people just run to stay in shape, and for them, the evidence is quite strong that endurance exercise is good” for the heart, he said.

Dr. Nattel agrees. “There is no doubt that exercise in general is very good for heart health,” he said. But the emerging science does suggest that there may be a threshold of distance, intensity or duration beyond which exercise can have undesirable effects.”

So I think it’s still safe for us “amateurs” who run for fun and run a few long distance races (marathons or farther) per year. For those that run 100+ miles a week for years and years? I think the jury is still out. Unfortunately, I think news of Micah True’s cause of death is going to add fuel to the fire and we’re just going to hear more now about how running is bad for us.

Have you come across the “naysayers” that tell you to stop running because it is bad for you?

-my parents actually don’t support my running, which has been really tough for me. They tell me that it is bad for me 😦

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16 Responses to Adding Fuel To The Fire

  1. Great post, I hate when people see me running they say ‘your joints are going to hate you, running isn’t good for you’. I am not a 100 mile week person nor will I ever be. I just love to get outside and run!

  2. Oh yeah, I hear it all the time. It’s bad for my knees, my feet, my asthma, yada, yada. But those are also the same people that are dealing with high cholesterol, diabetes, high blood pressure, or weight issues. Only you can be the judge of whether the running is bad for your body. If it makes you feel good, i say, run strong!

  3. RunningFarce says:

    I can honestly say I do have some concern that my knees and ankles and maybe even hips will deteriorate quicker than what I would like them to. I am also in the school that believes you only have one life so you might as well do what you want. I really like a lot of the things running has to offer, so I do it, and I’ll cross my arthritis bridge when it gets here I guess

    • Nice philosophy!!! I’m already crossing the arthritis bridge (osteoarthritis caused by a soccer injury not running) and after working with some of the top people in the field and still being able to run I’m more confident that any moderate running (60 miles or less per week) doesn’t cause or exacerbate arthritis…in fact it can greatly help it! (so goes against what would seem logical). I think the takeaway may just be: everything in moderation. What else is new 😉

  4. Carina says:

    RW had an article at one point that was interesting. Basically said as you age, your risk of heart attack DURING a race (so anywhere from .5 to 5 hours per week of 168 hrs, assuming 1 race per week, which is high) is elevated compared to a sedentary person, but your risk of heart attack all 160+ other hours of the week (including during training runs) is much, much lower than a sedentary person. My theory — I’d rather die doing something I enjoy, than laying on a couch or sitting at my desk!

  5. Idlehide says:

    I find the people that say it’s bad for you are the lazy ones stuck in front of a t.v all day. Tell me how is that good for your health…
    Great post!

  6. I actually didn’t know about Caballo Blanco until I read your post!

    I agree with you- running has many benefis and being healthier is one of them. Of course extremes of anything are bad, but like you said, the majority of us won’t fall into the over-running extreme.

    My dad doesn’t really support my running, he thinks I need to learn how to play golf or tennis so I can play them my entire life, because apparently “you can’t run forever”. Whenever he tells me that I just smile, I hope he makes it to one of my races later on in life!

    • It’s hard not having that support from our family, right? I mean I have it from my twin sis who also runs (obviously) but my dad is a physician and still poo poos the whole running thing. He came to one of my marathons and one triathlon and then told me he wouldn’t come to anymore. Tough not being supported for your passion, especially when that passion is a healthy one. Glad you have a good response to your dad!

  7. kaitwatts says:

    I read somewhere (can’t find it at the moment) about Micah True’s autopsy that his heart condition was a result of extreme endurance exercising. Of course you make the excellent point that the average and even above average runner doesn’t run enough mileage to make a difference of having a heart attack. But, you are right, it adds fuel to the fire of the less fitness oriented who believe we are “doing too much.”

  8. This reminds me of all the dumb comments I read from non-runners on articles about all the hospitalizations after the Boston Marathon. I saw several variations of the claim that “anyone who would want to run 26.2 miles, even in favorable weather, is crazy!” I’ve had numerous people tell me running is “bad for my knees,” but they’re almost always overweight or even obese people. NEWSFLASH- carrying that much extra weight isn’t good for your knees either!

    As for the arthritis issue- my grandma and my mom both have a form of inflammatory arthritis, and I have a gene that makes me more likely that I’ll face the same problems later in life. I’ve read several articles about how running and staying active can help keep the onset and symptoms of arthritis at bay, so I’ll keep running for as long as my body allows me! 🙂

  9. i actually did not know that micah died from heart disease! there are so many people out there that would have something bad to say but it’s all about balance. if you like running, run!

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