Heart Health: Marathons

by Sucharita Yellapragada

20 miles passed. 6.2 miles remained. The temperature was 85 degrees on a Sunday morning in Los Angeles. Every breath was becoming harder and harder to have. So how did Senior Angie Kim, survive running the LA Marathon on a sunny March 9th morning?

“My friend and I dedicated every couple of miles to people we loved, and it made the first half go by very fast,” said Kim.

The marathon started at approximately 7 a.m. with the course beginning at the Dodger Stadium and ending at the intersection of Ocean Avenue and California Avenue in Santa Monica. Kim, of course, went into the race with previous experience in running marathons.

“I’ve been a distance runner since I was in 7th grade, and LA Marathon was going to be the pinnacle of my running career as I am graduating from USC,” said Kim. “It’s also in my favorite city and the city I call home,” she added.

Although no cardiologist would tell a healthy person like Kim to not run a marathon, it does not mean that he or she would advise someone to just get off the couch and starting running a race tomorrow. After all, running 26.2 miles take a huge toll on the body’s muscles, bones, joints, and heart.

“I trained until 15 miles, which is really not a lot for a marathon runner at all. I should have trained more. I tried breaking the race into two, instead of thinking I’m running the full 26.2 miles,” said Kim.

Kim admits that even with that preparation, it still was not enough to keep her body physically ready for the marathon’s toll.

“I carb loaded for a few days before the race itself and added weight training to my training, but my body was in pain. The muscles I knew never existed hurt for about four days after the race,” said Kim.

What Kim also admits she did not know is that some runners may have a hidden heart disease that can put them at risk when running high intensity races like the LA Marathon. The less training a runner has before a marathon means the more damage to the heart’s pumping ability. This genetic condition, called heterotrophic cardiomyopathy, generally goes undiagnosed until a crisis event and occurs when part of the heart muscle thickens.

Ultimately, this condition only affects one in five hundred people and there are still many benefits to running a marathon so long as a runner has adequately prepared both physically and mentally for the race.

“I’ve heard that it’s bad for your knees but I do want to run another marathon, towards early next year, or later this year. It is time consuming to train. The benefit. though, is gaining discipline and feeling accomplishment,” said Kim, who finished her last marathon as senior at USC. Kim will be heading off to the New York University for graduate school.

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