Nothing pushes the limits of a person than a marathon. It takes months of training just to prepare for such an event, and conditions during the race can be brutal. Some people run marathons for the thrill, while others seek to accomplish what very few are able to do so. Among the many marathons held every year, there are those who are insanely difficult. Here are some of the hardest marathons in the world.
Considered to be the toughest footrace on earth, Badwater is a grueling 135 stretch that passes through Death Valley and is held in the summer. It covers three mountain ranges, which total 14,600 feet of cumulative ascent and 6,100 feet of collective descent. To enter this ultramarathon, runners need to complete the Badwater Salton Sea race, an 81-mile non-stop running that begins below sea level and ends at the top of the Palomar Mountain.
Not everyone can run 142.6 miles on the road. And even less can do so in the Peruvian jungle. The race features some of the harshest racing conditions such as 100 percent humidity, elevation changes of up to 9,000 feet, and about 70 river crossings altogether. However, the race does preview rare sights like indigenous villages, incredible scenery, and wildlife.
Marathon de Sables
Certain elements make specific ultramarathons difficult. For the Marathon des Sables, it’s all about running 156 miles through the Sahara desert. Racers claim that the event was the equivalent of running five and a half marathons in five to six days, all done in 100-degree heat.
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Recently, there has been an increase in interest in half marathons, particularly from recreational runners. Back in 2000, a little less than 500,000 Americans participated in half-marathon races. By 2014, that number had risen by more than four times as over two million Americans ran the 13.1-mile endurance race.
Choosing a half marathon over a full can actually benefit a runner in various ways; examples are the following:
Less stress on the body: A 2017 study by Spanish researchers compared pairs of half-marathoners and full-marathoners who were of similar age and anthropometric data. After their respective races, the researchers were able to determine that the subjects who did half were less dehydrated and had less muscle damage.
More free time: Because there is less distance to cover in half marathons, the training schedule is also shorter. Most marathon training programs last at least 18 or 20 weeks, but for the half version, complete training can be achieved in 10 or 12 weeks. Runners will not have to sacrifice as much time to be in good condition for the marathon. Also, this means that there is less likelihood of injuries or illnesses impeding the training.
The full-marathon becomes a longer, larger goal: Those who have just started or at the beginning phases of their marathon journey can opt for a 13.1-mile race first, with the full marathon serving as a long-term goal.
There are people who “go for a run” when things aren’t going very well.The feeling of freedom while breaking a sweat is an activity that never fails to soothe the mind. Especially in stressful situations, physical activity has been proven to release endorphins that boost mental capacities. Aside from giving the brain a jolt, these endorphins are also known for being the body’s natural antidepressant.
The Anxiety and Depression Association of America says that managing stress can be learned. Individuals can resort to different activities that can help them cope with anxiety and depression resulting from stressful situations. One of the most effective ways is by engaging in regular physical activities such as running.
As an exercise, running is effective not just in conditioning the person’s physique but also in increasing awareness, focus, and overall function. A body that is in a state of fatigue experiences interrupted interaction between the systems. This is why people who are stressed or are dealing with mental health issues are also suffering from slow metabolism, breathing problems, and heart ailments. Doing a physical activity that follows a rhythm such as running can restore the seamless interaction among the different parts of the body. When the rhythm is restored, a person can sleep well, eat properly, perform cognitive and physical tasks faster, and interact with others better.
Running is a proactive solution that helps alleviate the symptoms of depression and stress. It also restores physical functions that have been disturbed by stress-inducing situations. When the blues come, it’s better to face it head-on by going for a run instead of sulking.
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When it comes to running gear, the focus, most of the time, is on choosing the right shoes. While this is crucial whether you are new to the sport or a seasoned marathoner, this fixation overlooks socks, which can change the game.
By selecting the right socks, runners need not worry about blisters, chafing, corns, overheated feet, and unbearable pain. But here now is the dilemma. With advancements in fabric and design technologies, the humble running socks have morphed into hundreds of varieties that may leave any runner dazed, confused, and dashing out the store. So how do you go and pick the right running socks?
While there’s no exact science for selecting a good pair, running enthusiasts offer these basic guidelines:
Study your options. If runners spend time doing research on the best shoes out in the market, the same amount of examination should be dedicated when shopping for socks. And with the plethora of brands and sock types available, you need to be certain about the pair that you need. For example, do you require moderate or maximum cushion? Are you going to use them for long runs or sprints? Are you particular about your socks peeking out from your shoes or would you prefer a no-show? Or are you all about compression wear? These are just some of the questions a runner has to weigh in before purchasing a pair.
Know the materials. See those cotton socks? Best to run away from them. As most runners know, cotton retains moisture. And with moisture, heat, and friction present in your running shoes, you’ll likely end up with painful blisters. The best material for your socks are synthetic fibers such as nylon, polyester, acrylic, and CoolMax since they wick away moisture and keep the feet dry and cool.
Set a budget. Running isn’t necessarily cheap. You have to spend a good deal for your shoes, clothes, gadgets, sunglasses, and yes, even your socks. A pair of running socks typically sell from $1o to $20. Compression socks are more expensive at around $30 a pair. Remember, you might be needing two pairs of more, so it is best to have a budget while shopping around.
Even the strongest, fastest runners suffer from running injuries. Injuries usually happen when runners work too hard or without caution. But running injuries can be prevented. Here are some of the most common running injuries and ways how athletes can avoid them.
A stress fracture is a crack in the bone that causes discomfort or pain, often affecting the feet or shin. It happens when runners put too much pressure on their steps. For runners to prevent stress fracture, they must take enough time to rest. Continuous bone stress can lead to more injuries.
Achilles tendonitis is the inflammation of the large tendon (Achilles tendon) that attaches the calf to the back of the heel. Repetitive pain or stress usually cause this injury in the tendon area. Tight calf muscles are also to blame for this kind of injury. Runners can treat the area by doing calf stretches and icing the area.
Hamstring injuries happen when the leg muscles are weak. People who are flexible such as athletes and dancers are at risk of such injury due to their stretched-out muscles. Those who have muscular imbalance are also candidates for hamstring injuries. Some runners have to rest for weeks and even months before participating in long-distance marathons. A deep tissue massage can help runners recover from hamstring injuries.
A lot of runners think that foot blisters are normal after every marathon. Blisters can affect one’s running performance, especially those who are running long distance. Blisters can be prevented by stopping at the first signs of a hot spot. Runners can put a gel bandage or a moleskin band around the area.
Many people feel that breathing through their chests or upper bodies is good enough. While shallow breathing can be helpful at times, it can exhaust the upper chest and lungs. Practicing deep or diaphragmatic breathing prevents dizziness and nausea. It can also help the runner take in the appropriate amount of oxygen.
Learn breathing through the nose
Breathing through the nose helps runners breathe deeply and efficiently. People who run in cooler temperatures could experience dry air that can lead to asthma-like symptoms (e.g. coughing and wheezing). The human lungs work best with moist air, and breathing through the nose makes it possible to take in the moist air. It also filters out air impurities.
Match breathing to steps
Think of breathing and running as a dancing routine. Tempo and timing are important in breathing and running. For easy-paced jogs, try inhaling for three to four steps, and exhaling in the same number of steps. For intense runs, try breathing in for one to two steps, and exhaling at the same pace.
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In the past years, dehydration seemed to be the problem that made many runners weak. Not having enough electrolytes in their system affected their performance in marathons. This opened up opportunities for different sports drinks to find their way into the market and become the solution for those who need their fluids.
Since running became popular, sports and fitness experts have seen a new trend—over-hydration or hyponatremia. A body that is overhydrated and in action can also mean a low level of sodium in the blood. This could cause disorientation, confusion, muscle weakness, nausea, and vomiting. In worse cases, it could lead to seizures or cardiac arrest.
Experts from the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) and International Marathon Medical Directors Association (IMMDA) suggest that runners should only drink when they feel thirsty. People lose fluids at different rates and to avoid getting into extremes, runners should learn what happens to their bodies when it is time to hydrate.
A cup or two of water is safe enough to cover the first hour of a marathon. Sports drinks can also be consumed in small doses. Finishing multiple cups or a whole bottle might even be detrimental to one’s performance. Throughout the process, what’s important is that the body has an adequate amount of fluids to move swiftly.
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