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After a marathon
Muscle soreness after a marathon is usually attributed to microscopic tears in the muscles. This soreness usually abates within a week, but most runners will take about three weeks to completely recover to pre-race condition depending on recovery rate. The immune system is reportedly suppressed for a short time. Studies have indicated that an increase in vitamin C in a runner's post-race diet decreases the chance of sinus infections, a relatively common condition, especially in ultramarathons. Changes to the blood chemistry may lead physicians to mistakenly diagnose heart malfunction. It is relatively common to only come to realize that there are injuries to the feet and knees after the marathon has finished. Blisters on the feet and toes commonly only become painful after the race is over. Some runners may experience toenails which turn black and subsequently detach from the toe. This is from the toenails being too long, or the shoes being too tight and repeatedly impacting on the front of the shoe. Gentle exercise in the week after the marathon can aid muscle recovery. Many runners receive a sports massage from a licensed massage therapist approximately 24-48 hours after finishing a marathon. After long training runs and the marathon itself, consuming carbohydrates to replace glycogen stores and protein to aid muscle recovery is commonly recommended. In addition, soaking the lower half of the body for 20 minutes or so in cold or ice water may force blood through the leg muscles to speed recovery.
Before the race
During the last two or three weeks before the marathon, runners will typically reduce their weekly training, gradually, by as much as 50%-75% of previous peak volume, and take at least a couple of days of complete rest to allow their bodies to recover from any strong effort. The last long training run might be undertaken no later than two weeks prior to the event. This is a phase of training known as tapering. Many marathon runners also "carbo-load" (increase carbohydrate intake while holding total caloric intake constant) during the week before the marathon to allow their bodies to store more glycogen. Immediately before the race, many runners will refrain from eating solid food to avoid digestive problems. They will also ensure that they are fully hydrated beforehand. Light stretching before the race is believed by many to help keep muscles limber. Some runners will wear an ice vest before the race to reduce their core temperature so as to avoid overheating later in the race.
A study published in 1996 found that the risk of having a fatal heart attack during, or in the period 24 hours after a marathon, was approximately 1 in 50,000 over an athlete's racing careerâ€”which the authors characterised as an "extremely small" risk. The paper went on to say that since the risk was so small, cardiac screening programs for marathons were not warranted. However, this study was not an attempt to assess the overall benefit or risk to cardiac health of marathon running. In 2006, a study of 60 non-elite marathon participants tested runners for certain proteins (see Troponin) which indicate heart damage or dysfunction after they had completed the marathon, and gave them ultrasound scans before and after the race. The study revealed that, in that sample of 60 people, runners who had done less than 35 miles per week training before the race were most likely to show some heart damage or dysfunction, while runners who had done more than 45 miles per week training beforehand showed few or no heart problems. It should be emphasized that regular exercise in general provides a range of health benefits, including a substantially reduced risk of heart attacks. Moreover, these studies only relate to marathons, not to other forms of running. It has been suggested that as marathon running is a test of endurance, it stresses the heart more than shorter running activities, and this may be the reason for the reported findings. In 2007, Ryan Shay, a 28 year-old elite long-distance runner, died after collapsing early in the US Olympic marathon trials. His death was reported as probably due to a pre-existing heart abnormality.
The marathon is a long-distance foot race with an official distance of 42.195 kilometres (26 miles 385 yards, or exactly 267â„32 miles) that is usually run as a road race. The event is named after the fabled run of the Greek soldier Pheidippides, a messenger from the Battle of Marathon to Athens. The historical accuracy of this legend is in doubt, contradicted by accounts given by Herodotus, in particular. The marathon was one of the original modern Olympic events in 1896, though the distance did not become standardized until 1921. More than 800 marathons are contested throughout the world each year, with the vast majority of competitors being recreational athletes. Larger marathons can have tens of thousands of participants.
The length of a marathon was not fixed at first, since the only important factor was that all athletes competed on the same course. The marathon races in the first few Olympic Games were not of a set length, but were approximately 40 kilometres (25 mi), roughly the distance from Marathon to Athens by the longer, flatter route. The exact length of the Olympic marathon varied depending on the route established for each venue. The standard distance for the marathon race was set by the International Amateur Athletic Federation (IAAF) in May 1921 at a distance of 42.195 kilometres (26 miles 385 yards). Rule 240 of their Competition Rules specifies the metric version of this distance. This seemingly arbitrary distance was that adopted for the marathon at the 1908 Summer Olympics in London. At a meeting of the International Olympic Committee in The Hague in May 1907 it was agreed with the British Olympic Association that the 1908 Olympics would include a marathon of about 25 miles or 40 kilometres. In November 1907 a route of about that distance was published in the newspapers, starting at Windsor Castle and finishing at the Olympic Stadium, the Great White City Stadium in Shepherd's Bush in London. There were protests about the final few miles because of tram-lines and cobbles, so the route was revised to cross the rough ground of Wormwood Scrubs. This lengthened the route, as did plans to make the start 700 yards (640 m) from Queen Victoria's statue by Windsor Castle, and it was decided to fix the distance at 26 miles (42 km) to the stadium, plus a lap of the track (586 yards, 2 feet), using the Royal Entrance as the marathon tunnel, and finishing in front of the Royal Box. For the official Trial Marathon on 25 April 1908, organized by the Polytechnic Harriers, the start was on â€˜The Long Walkâ€™ â€“ a magnificent avenue leading up to Windsor Castle in the grounds of Windsor Great Park. For the Olympic Marathon itself the start was on the private East Terrace of Windsor Castle, with the permission of King Edward VII, so that the public would not interfere with the start. The Princess of Wales and her children drove from their home at Frogmore on the far side of Windsor Great Park to watch the start of the race. Shortly before the Games opened it was realized that the Royal Entrance could not be used as the marathon entranceâ€”it was raised to permit easy descent by the royal party from their carriages, and did not open onto the trackâ€”so an alternative entrance was chosen, diagonally opposite the Royal Box. A special path was made just outside the Franco British Exhibition ground so that the distance to the stadium remained 26 miles. The finishing line was left unchanged, but in order that the spectators, including Queen Alexandra, could have the best view of the final yards, the direction of running was changed to "right-hand inside" (i.e. clockwise). This meant the distance in the stadium was shortened to 385 yards, and the total distance became 26 miles 385 yards (42.195 km). For the next Olympics in 1912, the length was changed to 40.2 kilometres (24.98 mi), and changed again to 42.75 kilometres (26.56 mi) for the 1920 Olympics, until it was fixed at the 1908 distance for the 1924 Olympics. In fact, of the first seven Olympic Games, there were six different marathon distances between 40 and 42.75 kilometres or between 24.85 and 26.56 miles (40 km being used twice). However, the dramatic finish of the 1908 Olympic marathon led to world-wide marathon fever. In a postcard sent at the time, an American spectator said he had "just seen the greatest race of the century." The huge crowd, including Queen Alexandra, watched as the little Italian, Dorando Pietri, staggered round the final 385 yards (352 m), falling several times, and eventually being propelled by officials over the line as Irish-American Johnny Hayes got ever closer. Dorando was disqualified and Hayes was awarded the Gold Medal. However, Queen Alexandra was so moved by his plight that the very next day she presented Dorando with a silver-gilt cup. Dorando and Hayes both turned professional and there were several re-matches, which had of course to be over the 26 miles 385 yards. Many other marathons were also held at that distance, including the important Polytechnic Marathon. The IAAF minutes are reportedly silent as to the reason the 26 miles 385 yards (42.195 km) was chosen in 1921, so any conclusion must be speculative, but emotional attachment to the distance of the "race of the century" was clearly strong. The 42.195 km and 26 miles 385 yards distances are identical to within half an inch (1.2 cm). The difference between the standard distance and the rounded figure frequently employed (as in the table), 26.22 miles, is slightly over two metres or 6â€‰Â½ feet.
During the race
Coaches recommend trying to maintain as steady a pace as possible when running a marathon. Some advise novice runners to start out slower than their average goal pace to save energy for the second half of the race (negative splits). As an example, the first five to eight miles (8-13 km) might be run at a pace 15-20 seconds per mile slower than the target pace for later. Typically, there is a maximum allowed time of about six hours after which the marathon route is closed, although some larger marathons (such as Myrtle Beach, Marine Corps and Honolulu) keep the course open considerably longer (eight hours or more).
Modern marathons such as New York, Chicago, London and Berlin have tens of thousands of runners and millions of spectators. Common courtesy for other runners becomes necessary when running in a densely packed crowd. Those employing a walk/run strategy or who are simply walking are encouraged to stay to one side, leaving the middle of the street for faster runners. Runners in groups are encouraged not to block the entire street, preventing other runners from passing them. Two or three runners abreast is recommended. Large groups may consider single or double files. Spectators should remain on the curbs, instead of crowding onto the street and condensing participants into an even smaller space.
Most participants do not run a marathon to win. More important for most runners is their personal finish time and their placement within their specific gender and age group, though some runners just want to finish. Strategies for completing a marathon include running the whole distance and a run-walk strategy. An intermediate approach is to run from water stop to water stop, and walk through the water stop area to ensure the fluids are consumed instead of spilled. In 2005, the average marathon time in the U.S. was 4 hours 32 minutes 8 seconds for men, 5 hours 6 minutes 8 seconds for women. Another goal is to break certain time barriers. For example, recreational first-timers often try to run the marathon under four hours; more competitive runners may attempt to finish under three hours. Other benchmarks are the qualifying times for major marathons. The Boston Marathon, the oldest marathon in the United States, requires a qualifying time for all non-professional runners. The New York City marathon also requires a qualifying time for guaranteed entry, at a pace slightly faster than Boston's. A qualifying time is also needed for Washington D.C.'s National Marathon. However, unlike Boston, where the qualifying times serve to attract a more talented field and limit participation, the National Marathon is motivated more by the need to reopen city streets in a limited amount of time.
Glycogen and the wall
Carbohydrates that a person eats are converted by the liver and muscles into glycogen for storage. Glycogen burns quickly to provide quick energy. Runners can store about 8 MJ or 2,000 kcal worth of glycogen in their bodies, enough for about 30 km/18-20 miles of running. Many runners report that running becomes noticeably more difficult at that point. When glycogen runs low, the body must then burn stored fat for energy, which does not burn as readily. When this happens, the runner will experience dramatic fatigue and is said to "hit the wall". The aim of training for the marathon, according to many coaches, is to maximize the limited glycogen available so that the fatigue of the "wall" is not as dramatic. This is in part accomplished by utilizing a higher percentage of energy from burned fat even during the early phase of the race, thus conserving glycogen. Carbohydrate-based "energy" gels are used by runners to avoid or reduce the effect of "hitting the wall", as they provide easy to digest energy during the run. Energy gels usually contain varying amounts of sodium and potassium and some also contain caffeine. They need to be consumed with a certain amount of water. Recommendations for how often to take an energy gel during the race range widely. Alternatives to gels are solid candy, cookies, other forms of concentrated sugars, or any food high in simple carbohydrates which can be digested easily by the individual runner. Many runners experiment with consuming energy supplements during training runs to determine what works best for them. Consumption of food while running sometimes makes the runner sick. Runners are advised to not ingest a new food or medicine just prior to or during a race. It's also important to refrain from taking any of the non-steroidal anti-inflammatory class of pain relievers (i.e., aspirin, ibuprofen, naproxyn) as these drugs change the way the kidneys regulate their blood flow and may lead to serious kidney problems, especially in cases involving moderate to severe dehydration.
The name marathon comes from the legend of Pheidippides, a Greek messenger. The legend states that he was sent from the town of Marathon to Athens to announce that the Persians had been defeated in the Battle of Marathon. It is said that he ran the entire distance without stopping and burst into the assembly, exclaiming "ÎÎµÎ½Î¹ÎºÎ®ÎºÎ±Î¼ÎµÎ½" (NenikÃ©kamen, 'We have won.') before collapsing and dying. The account of the run from Marathon to Athens first appears in Plutarch's On the Glory of Athens in the 1st century AD who quotes from Heraclides Ponticus's lost work, giving the runner's name as either Thersipus of Erchius or Eucles. Lucian of Samosata (2nd century AD) also gives the story but names the runner Philippides (not Pheidippides). There is debate about the historical accuracy of this legend. The Greek historian Herodotus, the main source for the Greco-Persian Wars, mentions Pheidippides as the messenger who ran from Athens to Sparta asking for help, and then ran back, a distance of over 240 kilometres (150 mi) each way. In some Herodotus manuscripts the name of the runner between Athens and Sparta is given as Philippides. Herodotus makes no mention of a messenger sent from Marathon to Athens, and relates that the main part of the Athenian army, having already fought and won the grueling battle, and fearing a naval raid by the Persian fleet against an undefended Athens, marched quickly back from the battle to Athens, arriving the same day. In 1876, Robert Browning wrote the poem "Pheidippides". Browning's poem, his composite story, became part of late-19th century popular culture and was accepted as a historic legend.
Annually, more than 800 marathons are organized worldwide. Some of these belong to the Association of International Marathons and Distance Races (AIMS) which has grown since its foundation in 1982 to embrace 238 member events in 82 countries and territories. Five of the largest and most prestigious races, Boston, New York City, Chicago, London, and Berlin, form the biannual World Marathon Majors series, awarding $500,000 annually to the best overall male and female performers in the series. Other notable large marathons include United States Marine Corps Marathon, Honolulu, Los Angeles, Rome and Paris. The Boston Marathon is the world's oldest annual marathon, inspired by the success of the 1896 Olympic marathon and held since 1897. The oldest annual marathon in Europe is the KoÅ¡ice Peace Marathon, held since 1924 in KoÅ¡ice, Slovakia. One of the more unusual marathons is the Midnight Sun Marathon held in TromsÃ¸, Norway at 70 degrees north. Using unofficial and temporary courses, measured by GPS, races of marathon distance are now held at the North Pole, in Antarctica and over desert terrain. Among other unusual marathons can be mentioned: The Great Wall Marathon on The Great Wall of China, The Big Five Marathon among the safari wildlife of South Africa, The Great Tibetan Marathon - a marathon in an atmosphere of Tibetan Buddhism at an altitude of 3,500 metres (11,000 ft), and The Polar circle marathon on the permanent ice cap of Greenland in -15 degrees Celsius/+5 degrees Fahrenheit temperatures. The Intercontinental Istanbul Eurasia Marathon is the only marathon where participants run over two continents, Europe and Asia, during the course of a single event. The historic Polytechnic Marathon finally died out in 1996. The book The Ultimate Guide to International Marathons (1997), written by Dennis Craythorn and Rich Hanna, ranks Stockholm Marathon as the best marathon in the world.
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Modern Olympics marathon
When the idea of a modern Olympics became a reality at the end of the 19th century, the initiators and organizers were looking for a great popularizing event, recalling the ancient glory of Greece. The idea of organizing a marathon race came from Michel BrÃ©al, who wanted the event to feature in the first modern Olympic Games in 1896 in Athens. This idea was heavily supported by Pierre de Coubertin, the founder of the modern Olympics, as well as the Greeks. The Greeks staged a selection race for the Olympic marathon, and this first marathon was won by Charilaos Vasilakos in 3 hours and 18 minutes (with the future winner of the introductory Olympic Games marathon coming in fifth). The winner of the first Olympic Marathon in 1896 (a male-only race) was Spiridon "Spiros" Louis, a Greek water-carrier. He won at the Olympics in 2 hours 58 minutes and 50 seconds. The women's marathon was introduced at the 1984 Summer Olympics (Los Angeles, USA) and was won by Joan Benoit of the United States with a time of 2 hours 24 minutes and 52 seconds. Since the modern games were founded, it has become a tradition for the men's Olympic marathon to be the last event of the athletics calendar with a finish inside the Olympic stadium, often within hours of, or even incorporated into, the closing ceremonies. The marathon of the 2004 Summer Olympics revived the traditional route from Marathon to Athens ending at Panathinaiko Stadium, the venue for the 1896 Summer Olympics. The Olympic men's record is 2:06:32, set at the 2008 Summer Olympics by Samuel Kamau Wanjiru of Kenya.
As marathon running has become more popular, some athletes have undertaken to complete goals involving the running of a series of marathons. In the United States, a popular goal is to run a marathon in each state (50 in total) plus Washington, D.C.. Over 300 individuals have completed this circuit once and some have done it eight times. In 2004, Chuck Bryant of Miami, Florida, who lost his right leg below the knee, became the first amputee to finish this circuit. Bryant has completed a total of 59 marathons on his prosthesis. Twenty-seven people have run a marathon on each of the seven continents, and 31 people have run a marathon in each of the Canadian provinces. In 1980, in what was termed the Marathon of Hope, Terry Fox, who had lost a leg to cancer and so ran with one artificial leg, attained 5,373 kilometres (3,339 mi) of his proposed cross-Canada cancer fundraising run, thus maintaining an average of over 37 kilometres (23 mi), close to the planned marathon distance, for each of 143 consecutive days. On February 8, 2009, John Wallace claimed to become the first person to run marathons in 100 different countries. However, some of his runs were not official races but individual runs over the marathon distance (e.g. Cambodia); furthermore some of his 'countries' are not independent (e.g. French Polynesia) Previously, Wally Herman had run marathons in 99 different countries. On December 14, 2008, 64-year old Larry Macon set a record by running 105 marathons in a single calendar year. In Europe a goal among some people is to run the greatest number of marathon races overall in one's lifetime. There is something called the 100-club, for example. To qualify one must have run 100 races. Other goals are to attempt to run marathons on a series of consecutive weekends (Richard Worley on 159 weekends), or to run the most marathons during a particular year (e.g. Larry Macon ran 93 in 2007), or the most in a lifetime. A pioneer in running multiple marathons was Sy Mah of Toledo, Ohio, who ran 524 before he died in 1988. John Bozung, a runner based in the Utah area, claims to have the current "unofficial" record for having run 258 marathons in 170 consecutive months as of November 2007. As of June 30, 2007, Horst Preisler of Germany had successfully completed 1214 marathons plus 347 ultramarathons, a total of 1561 events at marathon distance or longer. Sigrid Eichner, Christian Hottas and Hans-Joachim Meyer have also all completed over 1000 marathons each. Norm Frank of the United States is credited with 945 marathons. Some runners compete to run the same marathons for the most consecutive years. For example, Johnny Kelley completed 58 Boston Marathons. Four runners dubbed the "ground pounders" (Will Brown, Matthew Jaffe, Alfred Richmond, and Mel Williams) have completed all 32 US Marine Corps Marathons. Another mention for most consecutive marathons is Jerald Fenske, who has completed every Paavo Nurmi Marathon he has entered since his first in 1978 at age 17, a total of 30 through 2007.
Other notable marathon runners
This is a list of elite athletes notable for their performance in marathoning. For a list of people notable in other fields who have also run marathons, see list of marathoners.
Mount Penteli stands between Marathon and Athens, which means that, if Pheidippides actually made his famous run after the battle, he had to run around the mountain, either from the north or from the south. The latter and most obvious route matches almost exactly the modern Marathon-Athens highway, which follows the lay of the land southwards from Marathon Bay and along the coast, then a gentle but protracted uphill westwards towards the eastern approach to Athens, between the foothills of Mounts Hymettus and Penteli, and then mildly downhill to Athens proper. This route is approximately 42 kilometres (26 mi) and set the standard for the distance as run in the modern age. However there have been suggestions that Pheidippides might have followed another route: a westward climb along the eastern and northern slopes of Mount Penteli to the pass of Dionysos, and then a straight southward downhill path to Athens. This route is considerably shorter, some 35 kilometres (22 mi), but features a very steep initial climb of more than 5 kilometres (3.1 mi).
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Most coaches believe that the most important element in marathon training is the long run. Recreational runners commonly try to reach a maximum of about 20 miles (32 kilometres) in their longest weekly run and a total of about 40 miles (64 kilometres) a week when training for the marathon, but wide variability exists in practice and in recommendations. More experienced marathoners may run a longer distance, and more miles/kilometres during the week. Greater weekly training mileages can offer greater results in terms of distance and endurance, but also carry a greater risk of training injury. Most male elite marathon runners will have weekly mileages of over 100 miles (160 kilometres). Many training programs last a minimum of five or six months, with a gradual increase (every two weeks) in the distance run and finally a little decrease (1 to 3 weeks) for recovery. The decrease, commonly called the taper, should last a minimum of two weeks and a maximum of three weeks, according to most trainers. For beginners wishing to merely finish a marathon, a minimum of 4 months of running 4 days a week is recommended. Many trainers recommend a weekly increase in mileage of no more than 10%. It is also often advised to maintain a consistent running program for six weeks or so before beginning a marathon training program to allow the body to adapt to the new stresses. The marathon training program itself would suppose variation between the hard and the easy training, with a periodization of the general plan. Training programs may be found at Runner's World, Hal Higdon, Jeff Galloway, Boston Athletic Association  and from numerous other sources. Overtraining is a condition that results from not getting enough rest to allow the body to recover from stressful training. It can result in lowered endurance and speed and place a runner at a greater risk of injury.
Water consumption dangers
While drinking fluids during the race is necessary for all runners, in some cases too much drinking can also be dangerous. Drinking more than one loses during a race can decrease the concentration of sodium in the blood (a condition called hyponatremia), which may result in vomiting, seizures, coma and even death. Eating salt packets during a race mitigates this problem. The International Marathon Medical Directors Association issued a warning in 2001 that urged runners only to drink when they are thirsty, rather than "drinking ahead of their thirst." Women are more prone to hyponatremia than men. A study in the New England Journal of Medicine found that 13% of runners completing the 2002 Boston Marathon had hyponatremia. A 4+ hour runner can drink about 4-6 fluid ounces (120-170 mL) every 20-30 minutes without fear of hyponatremia. Consuming sports drinks or salty snacks will also reduce the risk. A patient suffering hyponatremia can be given a small volume of a concentrated salt solution intravenously to raise sodium concentrations in blood. Some runners weigh themselves before running and write the results on their bibs. If anything goes wrong, first aid workers can use the weight information to tell if the patient had consumed too much water.
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World records and world's best
World records were not officially recognized by the IAAF until January 1, 2004; previously, the best times for the marathon were referred to as the 'world best'. Courses must conform to IAAF standards for a record to be recognized. However, marathon routes still vary greatly in elevation, course, and surface, making exact comparisons impossible. Typically, the fastest times are set over relatively flat courses near sea level, during good weather conditions and with the assistance of pacesetters. The world record time for men over the distance is 2 hours 3 minutes and 59 seconds, set in the Berlin Marathon by Haile Gebrselassie of Ethiopia on September 28, 2008, an improvement of 21 minutes and 40 seconds since 1947 (Marathon world best progression). The men's world record represents an average pace of under 2:57 per kilometre (4:44 per mile), average speed of over 20.4 km/h (12.6 mph). The world record for women was set by Paula Radcliffe of Great Britain in the London Marathon on April 13, 2003, in 2 hours 15 minutes and 25 seconds. This time was set using male pacesetters; the fastest time by a woman without using a male pacesetter ("woman-only") was also set by Paula Radcliffe, again during the London Marathon, with a time of 2 hours 17 minutes and 42 seconds, on April 17, 2005.