Is Distance Running Bad For You?

by Anne

Hi, I am 45 years old and have been running for about 3 months now. In October, I signed up to "walk" in the Susan Koman Race for the Cure, and ended up trying to run as much of it as I could.

I became hooked and have been running since. I am up to running 4 1/2 miles about three times a week now.

My comfortable running time for a mile is 13 minutes. The fastest I have been able to do is 11 minutes/mile. I want to continue increasing distance and improving speed, but I am getting a lot of negative feedback from family members and friends. I am being constantly bombarded with people telling me that I am going to suffer lasting damage to my knees, and that I am going to regret running in the long run. I guess I need confirmation that running is indeed as good for me as I feel that it is. I want to run as much as possible without causing injury to myself. Is there a maximum number of miles that I should not go over when I am running?

Just yesterday (right before I read the newsletter, unfortunately) I ran my 4 1/2 miles, and did not eat or drink anything before or after. I don't normally get very thirsty, so I don't drink as much water as I should. I had not eaten or drank anything for about 4 hours before I ran. About an hour after running, I was at
my son's basketball practice and I started feeling "weird." Everything seemed kind of far off and I started feeling dizzy and nauseated. I ended up getting pretty sick and it took about 3 hours of taking in fluids until I started feeling better. I could not figure out what was wrong with me, but after reading your information, I figured out that what happened to me was probably
due to becoming dehydrated. At least now I will be extra careful to make sure I don't do that again.

Thanks for the valuable information.

Answer by Dominique:

Hi Anne,
Thanks for your running question.

There is a pretty famous long-term study on people who have been running since 1984.

These people are looking considerably younger, feeling considerably better and are way healthier than their non-running counterparts. So, do not worry, running is good for you.

And I wish I had kept that copy of Runners World which had an interview with a guy who must have been 65-70. You should have seen the photo. He looked like someone in his mid-forties! It was unbelievable.

With regards to the seeds of doubt your friends and family are trying to plant in your mind:
There is plenty of scientific evidence which suggests that exercise is good for you. Running is a great sport.

Yes, there is probably a small minority of people for whom running is not a good sport to do, because they already have bad backs, bad knees etc.

And yes, there are risks of getting injured. So, injury prevention is key. Check out some tips on running injury prevention here.

Many, many non-runners / critics would be a lot healthier and would live longer, happier lives if they'd stop criticising runners and start doing a bit of running themselves!

To answer your question about the distance you can go:

Just take it easy and build it up really slowly. Also see my page about increasing mileage.

Hope this helps to fight off the criticism!
Best of luck.

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