Objective: To describe the baseline characteristics of participants starting a 25-week marathon training program, and their relationship to injury risk factors.
Design: Prospective survey.
Setting: Community-based marathon training program.
Participants: 1,548 of 2,314 registrants for the Houston Fit Marathon Training Program (mean age 35.8 +/- 9.3 years, mean body mass index 24.3 +/- 3.9, 63% female).
Intervention: 4-page survey administered at registration.
Main outcome measure: Running experience, training practices, demographics, chronic medical problems and previous injuries.
Results: Females were more likely to be classified as underweight and males as overweight or obese (p < 0.0001). The mean number of years of running experience was 6.2 +/- 6.2. Most (87.5%) planned to train at a 9-minute mile or slower pace. 52.3% of the participants had not previously trained for a marathon. In the 3 months prior to starting the program 16.1% had been sedentary. Those runners who had not previously completed a marathon and not previously trained with Houston Fit had a higher prevalence of baseline training techniques that could be risk factors for injury. During the previous 3 years, 38.1% reported having an injury, and 35% of all injuries were still symptomatic at the start of the program.
Conclusions: Training programs for the marathon attract more female athletes and those with less running and marathon experience. The prevalence of being overweight or obese is 35.6%. 16.1% are sedentary during the 3 months before starting this program. Training programs must take measures to establish baseline fitness, to educate on injury prevention training techniques, and to set appropriate fitness goals.
Clinical relevance: The research study shows that many patients wanting to start a marathon training program are relatively untrained and inexperienced with reference to endurance running. These patients will need special care and education so as to minimize injury and maximize the effect on their physical activity habits.