6 health tests to take before running a marathon

Wondering if you need a heart test before running a marathon? Here’s a list of health tests you should take before a marathon.

A recent marathon in Mumbai had 56,000 participants with an additional 2,900 runners taking part virtually. Out of them, 1820 runners needed medical assistance. Most of them suffered from dehydration, exhaustion, muscle cramps and sprains. But 22 runners reportedly ended up in hospitals, as some suffered from chest pain, knee injuries and leg cramps. Two runners died, making some wonder if there are ways to know if their bodies are ready for a marathon. Read on to know about the medical and health tests to take before running a marathon.

The two runners, one male aged 40 and the other aged 74, died due to heart attacks, says emergency medicine and critical care expert Dr Vijay D’silva.

People running a marathon
You should know if your heart is marathon ready. Image courtesy: Shutterstock.

Should medical testing before marathons be made mandatory?

All marathon participants should get a health check-up done with their doctor. If anybody has a family history of high or low blood pressure, diabetes, heart problems, kidney disease, or obesity should consult their doctor, the expert tells Health Shots. To find how fit you are, you need to visit a qualified physician or a cardiologist and get a thorough check-up done. It is important to get medical clearance for marathon participation.

What are the health tests one should take before running a marathon?

You may think you are fit, but it is better to take some tests before running a marathon. Here are some of them:

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1. Cardiac health tests

  • Lipid profile: This test maps your serum and blood lipid levels and can estimate the high-density lipoprotein (HDL) and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) ratio. High LDL level is detrimental to the heart because it can combine with other molecules and tends to clog the arteries. HDL removes the LDL molecules and protects the heart against the effects of LDL, explains the expert.
  • ECG or stress test: ECG or the electrocardiogram measures the electrical signals that travel through the heart. As it monitors the heart’s functioning, it can help in preventing heart failures that may happen suddenly.

2. Diabetes test

  • HBA1c, also called the glycated hemoglobin test: Used to diagnose type 2 diabetes, it measures the amount of sugar that is attached to the haemoglobin in a person’s blood.
  • Fasting Plasma Glucose (FPG) test: This test measures the blood glucose levels after the person has been fasting for eight hours.

3. Kidney function test

Kidney function test needs to be done, as kidneys play a significant role in maintaining the water and salt balance in body. This helps in maintaining the body’s blood pressure. It also plays an important role in the production of Red Blood Corpuscles. A well-functioning kidney is critical for intense marathon training, notes Dr D’silva.

4. Vitamin D test

Vitamin D, as well as calcium, are essential for bone and muscle health. Low levels of these indicate that you may be prone to ligament or muscle tear or bone injuries, which may happen during a marathon.

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People running a marathon
You should train under a coach for at least 3 to 6 months before a marathon. Image courtesy: Adobe Stock

How to prepare for a marathon?

Preparing your body for a marathon involves a combination of physical training, proper nutrition, adequate rest, and paying attention to overall health.

1. Training

You should train under a coach for at least 3 to 6 months, says the expert. Begin your training gradually, especially if you are a beginner. Allow your body to adapt to increased mileage and intensity. Establish a consistent training schedule, incorporating a mix of running, cross-training, and rest days. Include strength training exercises to improve muscle strength and reduce the risk of injuries. Include rest days in your training schedule to prevent burnout and reduce the risk of overuse injuries.

2. Diet

Maintain a well-balanced diet with a mix of carbohydrates, proteins, healthy fats, vitamins, and minerals. Consider carbohydrate loading a few days before the marathon to maximise glycogen stores. Stay adequately hydrated before, during, and after training. Monitor your fluid intake, especially in hot weather.

3. Watch your health

You should also pay attention to any signs of fatigue, pain or discomfort. If something doesn’t feel right, consult with your doctor. Undergoing a thorough medical check-up before starting a marathon training programme is a must.