The aim of this study is to identify risk factors for lower extremity injuries in male marathon runners. A random sample of 1500 recreational male marathon runners was drawn. Possible risk factors were obtained from a baseline questionnaire 1 month before the start of the marathon. Information on injuries sustained shortly before or during the marathon was obtained using a post-race questionnaire. Of the 694 male runners who responded to the baseline and post-race questionnaire, 28% suffered a self-reported running injury on the lower extremities in the month before or during the marathon run. More than six times race participation in the previous 12 months [odds ratio (OR) 1.66; confidence interval (CI) 1.08-2.56], a history of running injuries (OR 2.62; CI 1.82-3.78), high education level (OR 0.73; CI 0.51-1.04) and daily smoking (OR 0.23; CI 0.05-1.01) were associated with the occurrence of lower extremity injuries. Among the modifiable risk factor studies, a training distance <40 km a week is a strong protective factor of future calf injuries, and regular interval training is a strong protective factor for knee injuries. Other training characteristics appear to have little or no effect on future injuries.