My good friend Hester sent me this video link with the title “Things that make you go hmmm”.  I was intrigued so I watched it, and then I was disturbed.  I’m a coach so I teach good practice and make sure that my athletes do things in a healthy and safe way, which is what bothers me the most about this man’s accomplishment.  Feel free to watch the video and move on or keep reading to find out how I feel about it.

http://espn.go.com/video/clip?id=6245123&categoryid=2378529

First I applaud him for taking on a challenge that was well beyond his abilities and achieving it.  There is something amazing about that, and I know the anguish you see on his face at the finish line.  My problem with his accomplishment is that he should never have tried it.  The man weighs around 400 pounds!  It is scary to think of the risk he took.

A one hundred and fifty pound person will generate around five hundred pounds of force through his calves on each step, so imagine the pressure this man put on his legs and feet.  He wasn’t breaking any land speed records out there, which in some ways is worse because of the amount of time he was putting himself through that pressure.  On the other hand, if he was capable of going faster, the force generated would probably have caused his tibias to snap in two.

I would have loved to see his vitals and blood work information when he finished that run.  I can only imagine what kind of pressure he put on his body and the levels of damage he caused.  What we don’t know is anything about his training regimen.  He is a Sumo wrestler so there is a level of fitness there, but that’s not exactly marathon conditioning.  I am thinking he trained at least a little for this thing, but then again I hear countless stories of how people jumped out on a course with no training at all and finished. They seem to think it’s perfectly ok and recommend it to their friends.  It is not ok, and in truth it is very dangerous.  You might be thinking “Haven’t I read on here that you have done things like this…even recently?” and you would be correct.  The difference, and this is not the world’s best defense, is that I’ve been a runner for the majority of my life, and my body has the ability to do these things.  Watching the video, I know that this is not the case here.  The truth is that even for someone with years of experience it is not safe to go out on a race course without proper training.

After my initial reaction wore off I decided to do a little research, and my first thoughts were correct, except that I seem to have overestimated him.  He appears to have done no real training at all, instead relying on his natural abilities to get the job done.   It took him nine hours and forty-eight minutes to finish the marathon, which consisted of jogging the first eight miles and then walking the rest.  It took as much time as the average American’s entire workday!  I’m not a statistical or medical expert, but it is not recommended that you put your body under such stress for that amount of time.   It’s just dangerous, and that’s really all I can think about it.  I could tell he was unprepared for the event in a few ways.  First, his demeanor and appearance throughout the race showed signs of under training.  Second, he wore an all-cotton outfit.  A man his size needed to be outfitted in something that could wick the moisture away from his body.  I know the jury is still out on the wicking subject, but as a coach I would want him in clothing that would breathe better than cotton to better regulate his body temperature.  Obviously the video didn’t show anything like his fluid or nutrition intake, and after reading some about it, he did not appear to have much of any.  A man his size would easily need to ingest a couple thousand calories during the race to enable performance and avoid major health issues.

My purpose in sharing this is twofold.  First I applaud the man for having the strength and will it takes to finish a marathon because it’s not easy.  It’s even more difficult given his body type so I am impressed, and that is not lost on me as a competitor.   My second point takes all that away in a message of caution.  Yes I pronounce regularly that anyone can be a runner, but you have to put in the time first.  Do not under any circumstances think you can just jump off the couch and run a marathon.  You may finish, and you may be fine, but you could very easily be the guy on the side of the road getting CPR.  “Pain is temporary, pride is forever” is a very common phrase used by people who compete, and I use it a lot in my personal training.  Pride is forever, but so is death, and that is a very real possibility for an undertrained, out of shape person who gets the wrong message from this man’s achievement and thinks he should give it a go and maybe try to break his new record.  I think one of the things that bothers me most in fact is that there was no cause here other than to break a record, which he says he wants to do again by swimming the English Channel.  I always applaud great efforts, but please do it in the right way.

My advice:  if you want to run a marathon you should train and make sure you are fit to do so.  If you are obese or heavily overweight then you need medical monitoring as you go to make sure you are benefiting instead of endangering yourself.  You might also think of enlisting the help of a professional to guide your training plan.  A good coach can be invaluable to your success as he can make sure you progress at a rate that is safe and give you the knowledge you need.  There is more to running than lacing up some shoes and taking off, so I recommend you read, listen, watch, or do whatever it is you do best to learn so that you can understand the things you need to know in order to avoid injuries.  Be motivated and think, “If he can do it then so can I,” but I implore you to do it a little smarter.

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2 responses »

  1. Matt Hester says:

    Well said!

  2. Sam Jang says:

    I think his athletic background helped in that he might of “threw in the towel” after jogging the first 8 miles. All things considered, with all the women (in shape and NOT) who do the 3-day 60mi walks and such, I think it’s relatively safe for some untrained person to attack a marathon so long as they are regulating their speed and stress to their cardiovascular system. *If you’re too hardheaded to know your limits YOU MIGHT NOT KNOW OF A SYSTEM OVERLOAD CRASH IS COMING THOUGH! When are we going for round two to see if I can redeem myself?!!?!?

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