As marathoners train and compete for a variety of reasons, one recurrent concern raised by multiple running supporters and experts is whether the larger distances covered in marathon training make a difference in a person’s overall health. Do the extra miles assist to minimizing or avoiding metabolic syndrome, a group of cardiovascular disease risk factors that includes high blood triglycerides, hypertension, and insulin resistance? Williams (2009) conducted a study of over 100,000 male and female runners to understand more about this fascinating connection.


A two-page questionnaire (developed for the National Runner’s Health Study) was used to poll all participants (62,284 male and 45,040 female non-smoking runners) across the country through races and periodical media. It includes questions about exercise history, bodyweight, nutrition, average weekly alcohol, red meat, seafood, fruit, vitamin C, vitamin E, aspirin, tobacco usage, and particular prescriptions for blood pressure, thyroid issues, cholesterol levels, or diabetes. Runners who smoked or were devout vegetarians were not allowed to participate in the research. Survey questions and a weekly mileage record were used to estimate running distance and marathon participation. Subjects solely reported running mileage and did not include other leisurely physical activity.


Guys who ran more than one marathon each year had a reduced likelihood of needing any metabolic syndrome drugs than men who did not run. In addition, marathon runners were less likely than non-marathon runners to take cholesterol-lowering and anti-diabetic drugs. Males and girls who ran slower (as measured by marathon finish times and reported 10-kilometer performance) were more likely to take hypertension and high cholesterol drugs than those who ran faster. Furthermore, for males, longer training runs were linked to a substantial reduction in all drugs, but not for women.

What distinguishes marathon runners from the rest of the population?

The physiological and metabolic adaptations of marathon runners have been studied extensively. In the manner that their muscles utilize nutrition for energy, marathon runners vary from enjoyable short-distance runners. According to Spriet (2007), a marathon runner must use fat and glucose from fatty tissue, muscle, and liver resources to provide adequate energy for 2-5 hours of sustained hard physical exercise. Marathon training raises the capacity of muscle cells to accumulate triglycerides. During endurance exercise, fat mobilization and utilization occurs mostly at this region (intramuscular fat droplets). Marathon runners, according to Sprite, become extremely acclimated to burning fat as a source of energy, particularly while training. These muscle metabolic changes are site specific in the muscles involved in the exercise (lower limbs), according to Hawley and Spargo (2007), and not apparent in other non-trained muscles in the body. Elite marathon runners (finish times between 2:05:00 and 2:20:00) who compete at 80-90 percent of their aerobic capacity (VO2 max) may nearly entirely rely on carbohydrate throughout a marathon (Spriet, 2007). Female and male marathoners may be naturally gifted with stronger exercise capacity due to a better developed aerobic metabolism in the cells of lower body muscles, according to Williams (2009). Marathoners have been observed to consume more fruits and less portions of red meat per week then runners.