Marathon Entry Requirements

The Boston Marathon Blog has an interesting post today that asks the question: “Can Anybody Run a Marathon?” The post examines the problem of runners who enter and run in marathons without sufficient training. The article highlights the difficulties of marathon running and quotes experts who take a dim view of untrained marathon runners.

“There are some body types that excel at running marathon and long-distance events. And other body types aren’t necessarily quote-unquote made to go the distance,” physical therapist Jennifer Green of Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital said. “Most can, some can’t.”

The physical limitations of some aspiring marathon runners raises concerns about whether these individuals are putting themselves in danger by trying to run 26.2 miles without proper training.

As I discussed in my previous post about marathons and heart attacks, there has been an increase the number of runners who suffer heart attacks during races. Additionally, there have been instances where runners die from “water intoxication,” by consuming way more fluids than their bodies can handle. Because the majority of these cases involved individuals with very little running experience, it is not a stretch to argue that marathons should consider screening potential marathoners before allowing them to run. In other words, marathoners would have to meet minimal levels of fitness before being allowed to toe the line.

This is not a radical idea – the Boston Marathon already has strict entry requirements that are very difficult to achieve (3:10 for men and 3:40 for women aged 18-34). I think that marathon organizers should take a cue from Boston and ensure all runners have a minimal level of fitness.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I understand the difficulty of screening all entrants in one of the large 10,000+ participant marathons. However, marathons could at least have entrants certify that they have met certain criteria (i.e. have run at least 30 miles a week for a two month stretch, have run at least two 15 mile long runs within the two months before a marathon, etc.)

I believe that, by emphasizing the difficulty of marathons and the need for quality training, marathon organizers can cut down on the number of tragedies that have frequently marred past marathons. I certainly do not want to discourage participation in marathons, but I also want all participants to enjoy their experience without suffering serious health consequences.


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