Marathoners face bruising test

    Marathon running may be good for the mind and soul — but it is rough on the body. More than 20,000 people will participate in this year’s Philadelphia Marathon this weekend, but it will be a test of strength for those who  finish the 26.2-mile journey.

    The route will take runners on a historic trip around the city including Independence Hall, the Betsy Ross House, the Liberty Bell and along the Schuylkill River.

    Dr. Michael Ciccotti with the Rothman Institute will coordinate the medical team. He says injuries are inevitable, explaining that the force generated when a runner’s foot hits the ground disperses throughout the body over long distances.

    “They have irritation or inflammation in the foot, in the ankle or the knee,” he said. “Runners also get irritation along lateral or outer aspect of the thigh bone. So they can have complaints that relate to the lower extremities that really bear the brunt of this repeated pounding force.”

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    Ciccotti says training months beforehand and knowing your body’s limits are key to a successful run.

    Harold Travis, a 15-year running veteran, will compete in his first marathon this weekend. He said he stopped his preparatory 20-mile long runs and weight-lifting this week to let his body rest. Travis said he slowly built up the stamina for the marathon by increasing the miles weekly.

    “There’s not a lot you can do to completely prepare your body to run 26.2 miles,” he said. “You can train, you can eat right, you can drink right, but everybody at some point hits the wall. It kind of gets to the point where you really kind of have to fight your way through it.”

    Preparing physically is just as important as preparing mentally, according to Dr. Brian Sennett, the University of Pennsylvania chief of sports medicine.

    “It can be incredibly taxing if you don’t finish,” said Sennett. “You’ve invested this much time. You really had main goals set up. These goals in our minds are significant milestones in our life. And then when you can’t accomplish it, it has a significant negative affect.”

    Ciccotti says even the most elite athletes can succumb to injury when temperatures are above 60 degrees. He said that’s when most athletes drop out.

    Organizers promise there will be hundreds of medical personnel available  to deal with emergencies.

    We’re collecting dramatic photos from this year’s marathon.  Send us your photos here.

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