Why Marathon Runners Need Health Screenings

A marathon is no easy task for your body; for most people, running 26 miles in one go is certainly not a day-to-day endeavour. If you have never run a marathon before, but are gearing up to go the extra mile (or 20), then it is a very good idea to get a health screening before you begin that gruelling training procedure.
In the UK, generally being a busy working populace, we are not good enough at getting regular general health check-ups. This means that many conditions and health problems, both major and minor, oftentimes go undetected and untreated. When it comes to putting your body under extreme stress, as running a marathon does, such unknown conditions may be exasperated, causing dangerous or even fatal outcomes. My Doctor London, based in Euston, Central London, offers full health screenings at affordable prices so that you can keep your body safe when beginning your marathon journey.

Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA)

When running a marathon or training for a marathon, your heart is put under a lot of pressure. Although, like any other muscle, the heart is supremely adaptive to training and exercise, even seasoned and accomplished marathon-runners are subject to experiencing Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA). It has been widely reported ever since the peak in competitive running arose from the 1970s that there is a correlation between extreme running and sudden heart problems.
Alex Hutchinson reported for Runners World in 2016 that ‘… the truth is, when runners younger than about 40 die during a race, it’s usually the result of an undiagnosed genetic heart abnormality like hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (when the heart muscle gets abnormally thick, impeding the pumping of blood); when older participants die, they usually had pre-existing heart disease.‘ Reports throughout the years do evidence runners suffering sudden cardiac arrests from long distance runs, but they show that for the most part, such deaths and sufferings are caused by people with underlying heart problems deciding to partake in such races.
It is for this very reason that prospective marathon runners should go for a cardiac screening prior to and during their marathon training.

What is a Cardiac Screening?

Most cardiac screenings involve the following:

  1. A health & activity questionnaire;
  2. BMI, blood cholesterol and blood pressure measurements; 
  3. A physical health examination;
  4. An electrocardiogram (ECG), which measures the electrical activity of your heart to decipher whether or not it is working normally. 

In some cases, an echocardiography may be undertaken, which produces ultrasound images of the heart.


The above tests will enable you to know whether or not your heart is likely to withstand the stress that a marathon puts it through. Further, a doctor who gives you a cardiac screening is more likely to be able to detect any underlying heart problems that you may not know you have. Getting a cardiac screening could add years to your lifespan.

Other Tests Marathon Runners Should Get Include:

  • Kidney Function Tests 

Your kidneys, because they control the levels of water and essential minerals in your body, have to be functioning correctly if you are to run a marathon. Your kidney functionality may be measured with a series of simple blood or urine tests.

  • Liver Function Tests 

Your liver plays a fundamental role in ridding your body of harmful toxins; toxins and lactic acid accumulate in the muscles whilst training for and running a marathon. If your liver is not functioning properly, these toxins will not be expelled from your body properly. A build-up of toxins in the body can seriously disrupt your cellular activity and be the causation of disease and general poor health. Liver functionality is best tested for by taking blood samples.

  • Complete Blood Count Tests (CBC) 

A complete blood count test involves taking a normal blood sample; the amount of blood taken need not be extensive.
A complete blood count test measures the following components of your blood:

  • Red blood cells (oxygen-carrying);
  • White blood cells (infection-fighting);
  • Hemoglobin (oxygen-carrying protein in red blood cells);
  • Hematocrit (the proportion of red blood cells to the fluid component, or plasma, in your blood);
  • Platelets (which help with blood clotting).

It is vital that runners have a normal red blood cell count, given that the red blood cells are responsible for carrying oxygen around the body. The normal range is 4.5 to 5.5 million cells/cubic mm. The normal levels of white blood cells are 4000 – 11000 cells/ cu mm.


If you are considering running a marathon or undertaking any physical activity that is particularly strenuous, it is important that you go to a doctor to test your suitability for the task. It is never a bad time to have a general health check-up; so why not use your incoming marathon as a reason to get your tested.
Visit My Doctor London for more information on the great health services they have to offer.