Aliveandrunning Janathon January 13

Day 13. A short run of 2 miles a day should be achievable for most Janathon runners, if they are sufficiently motivated. It doesn’t take long and you have the option of before or after work. I might add that a run after you reach home in the evening is an excellent way to wind down and begin to relax your body. Of course, when I was in paid employment, I seldom managed to go running in the evening but it’s a nice standard to apply to others.

An uneventful 2 mile run just before dusk. It was a cold and sunny day. I should have run sooner but I was busy fixing old clay pantiles to my garage roof. I did this successfully and also fixed some guttering so I had a small but perfect sense of achievement when I set out. Tomorrow I’ll be road running in Cambridge, in the evening, with the club.

I’m very confused concerning the reports I’ve read about the amount of running undertaken and the effect on the heart. In the Observer Tech Monthly yesterday, part of an article by Catherine de Lange entitled What Science Says About The benefits Of Running (not available for sharing) discussed running and repeated the same evidence I have heard on other occasions. A study of 20,000 people in Denmark over years found that those who ran lived on average for 6 years longer than those who did not. The biggest benefits came from running between on hour and two and a half hours a week, over two or three sessions, at a comfortable pace. There is speculation that long periods of vigorous physical activity, over an hour or two, puts too much strain on heart muscle, causing it to stretch and tear, which – over years – can lead to stiffening and scarring. One 2011 study found higher levels of fibrosis, or scarring, in the heart muscle of competitive endurance athletes aged 50 or over, compared to others of the same age. It  suggests moderate intensity running in small doses – of about 30 to 50 minutes at a time. Some argue that excessive running  can cause increased calcium plaque build up in the heart, which increases the risk of coronary heart disease.

I had my heart attack 4 months after running the London Marathon, aged 58. I don’t believe that my running regime, before marathon training, contributed to heart disease. I’m well aware of factors that almost certainly did and over many years. I think my level of fitness helped me to recover quickly and allowed me to return to my prior running ability. I could physically do a marathon again and I would enjoy the challenge but I do think it would be asking too much of my heart, given I have established heart disease. OK, no more marathons then. I can live with that (no pun intended) but what about half marathons which would still exceed recommended running levels? I currently run about 3 hours a week. If I do a half marathon, the training will increase for a period of time? Is this OK for me or risky? I don’t know. How about asking a cardiologist? Well, apart from an out patient appointment after discharge from hospital, you never see a cardiologist again. You are prescribed NICE  guideline cardiac medication and are monitored by your GP. There’s not deemed to be a problem if you don’t experience troublesome symptoms. I may give the cardiac rehab nurses  or sports scientist a ring.They provided an excellent 12 week rehab programme after my heart attack and work closely with the cardiologists. It would be good to speak to other runners who have heart problems and hear what advice they have been given concerning mileage and duration.


3 thoughts on “Aliveandrunning Janathon January 13

  1. I think I understand your dilemma, there is so much information out there that it’s difficult to know what to believe and, more importantly, what guidance is relevant to you. In my experience Medical Staff will tend to err on the side of caution too (understandably!) which isn’t a lot of help when you’re trying to step your activity up.

    Personally I struggle with the short term implications of exercise without even considering the longer term impacts. Thanks for bringing it to my attention! For the time being I’m going to listen to advice, listen to my body and keep moving forwards!.

    • Thank you for your considered comment, Paul. I’ve read sections of your excellent blog and I think it’s very helpful to have your experience in such detail. I should complete the ABOUT part of the blog because I really tried hard not to have a heart attack, over a period of years, following my father’s cardiac problems and his death in 1983.But I did have an MI and it came out of the blue (after I successfully ignored warning symptoms in the previous fortnight). The problem I describe in my blog is one that most doctors would raise an eyebrow over and suggest, as you predicted, that I erred on the side of caution. What I find difficult is the lack of access to cardiac services if there are no symptoms causing concern. We are all being treated along the NICE guidelines and it feels that one size fits all. I will speak to the sports scientist at Addenbrooke’s cardiac rehab services on the matter of more prolonged exercise on a regular basis. I did discuss doing another marathon with him and he said their were no reasons against running one. My wife had other ideas, however.

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