Things That Happen To Your Body When You Run Too Much

This article is a transcribed edited summary of a video Bob and Brad recorded in June of 2020. For the original video go to

Bob: Today we’re going to talk about things that happen to your body when you run too much. Boy, what is this about, Brad?

Brad: Well, we’re both runners. I love running. I’ve run one marathon. I’ve run a number of half marathons. I continue to love to run, but I know two avid marathon runners and I’ve known them for years, they both have cardiac problems. One gentleman, his goal is to run a marathon in every continent. He’s done many. His nickname is Boston Bobby. He’s done the Boston many years in a row.

Bob: He’s going to be fine with you saying his name?

Brad: I didn’t say his last name. Anyways, there could be a lot of those. Long story short, he’s 65 now and he can’t run anymore. He run walks. He’s got atrial fib, but I don’t know all the details. It’s a heart problem though. He’s had to change his lifestyle because of it. But he’s okay. He’s adjusted and he’s very happy.

Bob: I think this is a good video because I think a lot of people think, this is how I feel a little bit, gosh, running kind of solves everything. So, if I have a heart problem like atrial fibrillation, if I run, it’ll get better. That’s not necessarily true. Running might actually exacerbate the heart problem.

Brad: But this is about distance running.

Bob: That’s what I meant. They think, I have a heart problem, so the more I run, the better. You know what I mean? They think it’ll make it better and that’s not true.

Brad: Not necessarily. It could, but you know, now all these people are such fun to be around. The second gentleman is 52 years old. His and his wife’s goal was to run a marathon in every state in the United States. And they did it. 50 states, 50 marathons. Plus, they ran a bunch of other ones. But at 52 years old, this is extremely sad, he was out for a run and he died. Cardiac problems, but there’s a little more to it that helps explain that. Overall, the good news is, running, long distance running, not a large percentage of them, it’s actually a small percentage of them, less than 5% do come up with cardiac issues that can lead to problems and sometimes death.

Bob: 5% is fairly significant though.

Brad: I think it’s less than 5%. I don’t have that number memorized. It’s not very much. However, if you have a history of cardiac problems, then you better watch out if you’re a distance runner because that can come back. I’ve got some research from Mayo. There’s a ton of research on this specific topic.

Bob: Well, I wonder, Brad, I remember years ago, and I don’t remember his name, but it was kind of one of the men that founded the running, you remember this?

Brad: I remember reading about it when I was doing research on it.

Bob: He started the running craze kind of. He ended up dying of a heart attack. Everybody said, “See, you shouldn’t run that much.” But he had cardiac problems.

Brad: And if you’re a marathon runner, you’re going to just ignore this, which is fine. If you want to run a marathon and you’re healthy, go for it.

Bob: You’re saying that the typical marathon runner may ignore this because of their personality type?

Brad: Absolutely.

Bob: So, you shouldn’t ignore this is what you’re saying.

Brad: Just keep it in mind. Take this as a grain of salt, listen to it and see what you think.

Bob: Cardiac problems don’t go away when you run.

Brad: They may not. They may, they have a chance of making things worse with distance running. This is all I did research on was distance running. Example, Dr. McCullough, Chief Cardiac Research at Baylor Institute, avid marathon runner. He ran 54 marathons and then as he’s learning more about distance running, he quit running distance. And the quote, he is “convinced of long runs, pounding the pavement,” he mentioned, “is not worth the risk to the heart.”

Bob: See and I’ve read this too Brad, and, for what it’s worth, is that marathons are really hard on your organs overall. It’s an extreme stress on them. You don’t seem like you believe it.

Brad: Well, no, I do. But you know, I would have kept running more marathons, but I had a joint problem with my knee and then I went into other things and it probably was,

Bob: The best thing?

Brad: Well, I don’t know about that because we’re going to have distance runners saying pooh-pooh. These guys are full of crap. Because that’s their attitude. That’s how they live, you know. I can completely relate to that. If you know someone, like again, just remember, these are facts.

Bob: Do you want to tell some of the Mayo issues that they came up with?

Brad: Oh, right. The actual problems that they found; we’ve got four of them here. There was a couple more. Patchy myocardial fibrosis. I’m not sure what that is. I’m not familiar with that.

Bob: I’ve never seen that.

Brad: It’s not good. Coronary artery calcification. Which kind of surprised me. Diastolic dysfunction and atrial fib. These are the things that they watch, and they found that distance running contributes to making these possibly worse.

Bob: Now, atrial fibrillation is very common, Brad. Very common, so I think if you’re a long-distance runner, you’ve got to make sure that your heart is sound.

Brad: Sure. If you’re having symptoms, you know, get in and get it checked out. The good news is, like I said, it’s a small percentage.

Bob: And it’s much worse to be a couch potato. I still remember this Brad; I think I told you about this before. I saw a cartoon one time and there’s two big, stout, overweight guys and they were watching runners go by. One says to the other, “Those guys are going to have heart attacks.” I mean, it’s much better to run and exercise, then to be a couch potato.

Brad: Right. So, as we continue our babbling on, Bob, they’re wondering what is a good guideline? There’s actually some guidelines on distance running. I think as you age, this is probably more important. I’m not sure about that, that’s my personal guess. According to the federal guidelines, moderate running, so not running real hard for 150 minutes per week is recommended. That’s five days a week for 30 minutes a day. If you’re a marathon runner, you’re not going to be able to do it. You definitely have to run more than that. Or if you have vigorous exercise, they recommend 75 minutes per week. So maybe that gives you some guidelines. Obviously, that’s going to flex depending.

Bob: As you grow older in life, you find out that moderation is everything. It’s interesting, I knew a really good runner, Brad. A couple years back I saw him. He was 63 years old at the time. Always, I mean, he was a top-notch runner. He was a college runner, the whole bit. I could see he has some valgus. So, he’s bow legged. He’s like, “I know I’ll have to give up running at some point, I’m fine with it,” because he bikes too. “But I don’t want to right now.” And I said, “Well, how much are you running a day?” “Well, it’s when I run, I can run like 4 or 5 miles, I’m fine, but when I run a hard 7 miles, then I start to feel my knee.” I go, “Stop doing seven miles hard.” I mean, you know, listen to your body. You could probably run for maybe 10 more years if you don’t run seven miles hard.

Brad: But Bob, this is about heart.

Bob: I know but it still, it fits the same thing. It’s going too far. I mean, if you don’t have to.

Brad: Right. So as far as the heart goes, you know, listen to your heart, if you’ve got chest pains when you’re running, you’ve got to get to the hospital. You’ve got to get that checked out right away.

Bob: I’ll tell another story, Brad. This one fits. I just turned 60 years old. I have a neighbor who just happens to be within days of me, he turned 60. I hadn’t seen him run for quite a while, and all of a sudden, I saw him and he’s walking. I asked him, what’s going on. He said, “I got a real kick in the teeth.” He started having heart issues. He went in and he had to have a stent. He was like, “Running was getting harder and harder. I was breathing really hard.” Thin guy looks healthy. The whole bit, so it can happen. Especially if you have the history of it. It’s hard to beat genetics.

Brad: So, again, stay active, but I feel like we’re promoting exercise and we’ve got a video on not to run. Ha-ha.

Bob: No, I think you have to listen to your body.

Brad: Be smart, yes. Train properly, train smart.

Bob: Having said that, do we dare say this? We can fix just about anything,

Brad: Except for,

Bob: A broken heart. Yeah.

Brad: But we’re working on it.

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