Does running a marathon ruin your knees?

Word on the street is that running / jogging hurts your knees and wears away at the cartilage.

So what about the marathons like Boston, Marine Corps, and New York, where each one is 26+ miles of asphalt to run on? Do these marathon runners have knees worse than Dick Butkus’?

Knees are wearable items. The cartilage can wear out, but you can keep it healthy and fend it off.

Runners are at greater risk, but a single marathon won’t do it.

Teeth suffer from wear and tear, too. It’s a balance between wear and tear and overall prevention and health. Stay healthy, nourished and use good running technique, equipment and training methods and you can minimize wear and tear, or reduce the likelihood of having problems.

Good genetics helps, too.

Like anything else you do for your health, nothing is a guarantee. Running increases the risk of cartilage issues, and a healthy lifestyle can help fend it off, but neither is a guarantee of anything!

According to this study on knee OA and long term long distance running, no.

If you are worried about high impact injuries getting good insoles (that will help keep your legs straight) and/or getting impact absorbing shoes is a good idea.

Z-coils claim they can absorb 50% of the impact of running

Kangoo Jumps claim they absorb 80%

As other said, knees do wear out, so does everything on the human body, but you can minimize the wear and tear with proper clothing and training and stretching.

Until I was 35 I would always wear the cheapo shoes I bought at Kmart. After I turned about 38 my knees really started hurting. I thought I would have to have surgery, I would wake up in pain.

A co-worker claimed it was my shoes, so I bought a nice pair of Nikes. It made all the difference in the world. Within a week the pain was gone and never came back.

So does it wear your body? Yeah, but you can reduce this risk and also the benefits you get from running will outweigth the wear and tear. Remember you can live without your knees, you can’t live without your heart

I started running at age 54 and ran almost every day for 20 years, totalling more than 25,000 miles. I ran scores of 5K and 10K races as well as ten marathons (Boston and NYC each twice) in my 50s and 60s

My knees did finally have troubles. One had a torn menuscus and eventually had surgery on that which fixed it, and a couple years later had the other one done. As much as I love running, I do have to admit that it isn’t all that good for your body, but as been noted, with proper training and good shoes, knee problems can be minimized.

However, if you run your first marathon at a sub-five-minute pace, i don’t know what will happen. :smiley:

I’d be more concerned about my nipples. I’ve seen far too many guys with chafed and bleeding nips. :: shudder ::

I think a lot depends on the individual.

Many people are able to train for and run multiple marathons and ultras, with no joint pain. I had my knee scoped after my 1st marathon.

I’m not blaming the marathon - I’ve put a lot of wear and tear on my body. I would have continued running after the knee surgery if not for a toe problem related to martial arts.

But running - even with good shoes and on good surfaces - is a pretty high-impact activity.

I know at a few avid runners including my step-father and a female best friend that refuse to do marathons because they say it is a stunt that will likely screw up their bodies permanently and I trust their judgment at least when it comes to their own bodies. They both have run 5+ miles a day for years (or closer to decades) but no marathons. My stepfather eventually blew out his knees anyway but he was in his late 50’s before it happened. I ran 6 - 8+ miles a day for about a year and I didn’t ever shoot for a marathon. I was really uncomfortable with the idea just based on the way I felt after just 8 miles. The first true Marathon runner, Pheidippides, collapsed and died after he completed it after all and that is never a good sign. I respect people that run Marathons but I am not sure it is the best way to ensure overall health.

Did anybody read the articles linked to?

The ‘fact’ that running will ruin your knees is a myth. I used to think it did, but the study convinced me. This is relatively new information, so I can understand the enduring myth, but the facts are in - running is good for your health.

Everyone will be different. Per Wesley’s links (I’ve heard about those studies in Runner’s World and other places) runners overall were found to have less knee pain as they got older than non-runners. Personally I couldn’t reliably run a mile until I was in my 20s due to knee pain, now I’m almost 40 and I regularly run 20+ miles which feels fine. My goal is ultramarathons - one of the guys I run with is in his 50s and regularly does 50mi and 100mi runs, he just sent me an article about the Western States (100 mile race through the mountains), median age of entrants keeps going up…

Regarding Pheidippides, you may be interested to know that the Spartathlon is an annual foot race retracing his route. It’s 153 miles from Athens to Sparta and they’ve been doing it for over 25 years with hundreds of participants. If there have been any deaths I haven’t found them via quick searching. The record time is about 20 hours if you want to give it a go :smiley:

Marathons in general - there’s a ton of knowledge and training readily available and millions of people run them every year with very few deaths. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend that someone with a heart condition try it right away, but I think that people who train sensibly for long distances wind up much healthier overall.

And another:

Running can be beneficial to the knees

Some anecdotal evidence: I have a rather big friend who has done his fair shares of marathons. His knees are not in good condition.

Running is, yes; but what about marathons? And what about road running compared to other types of running?
All of the links in this thread talked about “runners” being healthier than “non-runners”, so it does seem to be a myth that running say, a few miles every day is bad for the knees - it isn’t, and that answers the OP’s first question. But none of those studies answered the main question: is running a marathon on asphalt bad for your knees?