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A word from the doctors

Posted by Elizabeth Cooney  February 17, 2010 04:18 PM

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Going the distanceGlobe correspondent Elizabeth Cooney is writing about the Boston Marathon in the series "Going the Distance," which appears in the Globe's G Health section. She's also training for it, and hopes you'll check in with her along the way.

Time to get serious, folks.

The Boston Athletic Association has sent out an important message to runners from its medical team on health problems that could come up during the Boston Marathon.

"Individuals with underlying health issues are at increased risk for medical complications during the running of a marathon," according to the e-mailed message, signed by Dr. Pierre d'Hemecourt and Dr. Sophia Dyer (co-medical directors) and Dr. Aaron Baggish. "While medical problems occurring during marathon running are relatively rare, they can be serious enough to result in death or long-term impairment."

Cardiovascular conditions are the ones to worry about, and these warrant attention: diseases of the heart muscle, heart valves, and coronary arteries. They're the ones that may trigger trouble during strenuous exercise, particularly if heat or cold aggravate them.

The doctors advise runners to talk with their doctors, listen to their bodies, and train intelligently. That means paying attention to chest pain, pressure, squeezing, or tightness. Other danger signs are shortness of breath out of proportion to activity, palpitations, light-headedness, dizziness, or fainting during or after exercise. And training should be gradual, building up slowly to the demands a marathon will place on the body come April 19.

Dr. Arthur Siegel, director of internal medicine at McLean Hospital, said he worries about novice runners entering the race. There are fewer first-timers at Boston because runners must qualify in another marathon according to age and sex, but charity runners are exempt. His advice: "Don't run a marathon unless you have some idea about where your health is."

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Look for updates, news, analysis and commentary from the following.
  • Steve Silva, Boston.com senior producer, two-time Boston Marathon sub-four hour runner.
  • Ty Velde is a 16-time Boston qualifier who's completed 12 consecutive Boston Marathons and 25 marathons overall. Ty is now training for his 13th Boston run and will provide training tips for those who train solo and outside, no matter what temperature it is.
  • Rich 'Shifter' Horgan is a 19-time Dana-Farber Marathon Challenge team member who runs in honor of his father, who died of colon cancer. He will provide updates on local running events with a focus on the charitable organizations that provide Boston Marathon entries for their organization's fund raising purposes

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