Running 26.2 miles (42.195km) definitely puts a lot of stress on both the body as well as the mind.
Sometimes though, you have to make the tough decision to drop out of a marathon race – and return home without having finished, or even started the race – regardless of whether it is an overseas or a local marathon.
But it is wise to listen to your body – and know when you should continue running, and when to drop out of the race and call it quits. In some cases, it may be wise not to turn up at the starting line at all too, depending on how your body is feeling before the race.
Here are some situations when it is better to pull out of a marathon race, rather than continue with it.
When you sustain injuries
Getting aches and pains are a very normal part of training and running any marathon race. And while it is perfectly okay sometimes to push through aches and pains, on other occasions, it may be wiser to call it quits.
Here is a general rule. If it is simply a muscle cramp or a stitch and it does not get worse with more running, then you can safely push through to the finishing line and complete the race.
However, if you feel that your pain seems to be getting worse with continued running, then you may have to re-evaluate your goals and decide whether it is the right decision to try and complete the marathon – especially if you still have a substantial distance more to go. The common types of injuries that will cause pain with more running include sprains, fractures and broken bones.
For example, if you have tripped over a crack in the pavement or an uneven part of the ground and found that you may have sprained your ankle, this is an injury that will almost certainly get worse and more painful as you continue running. So you should not continue the race. Instead, it is better to find the nearest medic along the route or perhaps get a cab to go home and rest. The welfare of your body is more important than completing the marathon – which you can always go back the following year to conquer.
After all, there is no point in forcing yourself to complete the race, but in the end you have a prolonged recovery period because you had aggravated your injury during the marathon. So it may be wiser to forego the marathon, but have a shorter recovery period and you can start training again sooner rather than later.
When you are Suffering From Hyponatremia
This is the opposite of dehydration and occurs to marathoners much more commonly than you may initially think. It happens when runners drink too much water during marathons, and as a result, their sodium levels fall to extremely low levels. Some symptoms of hyponatremia include a sudden onset of nausea, dizziness, stomach cramps and muscle cramps. In extreme cases, this can be a cause of death, if the runner chooses to remain stubborn and continue running despite the symptoms.
So if you find yourself experiencing these symptoms and are finding it hard to continue on running, it is advisable to stop at a medic along the route and ask him or her to test you for hyponatremia. This can be easily done.
However, that said, hyponatremia can be easily prevented, by consuming sports isotonic drinks and salt tablets, in addition to drinking water as you are running. So do take precautions in order not to experience this dangerous condition.
When you are feeling sick
If you find yourself feeling sick in the days leading up to and on the morning of the run, then it may be wiser to drop out of the marathon and not turn up for the race, depending on what symptoms you are experiencing. Generally, if it is symptoms “above the neck” such as a runny nose, a blocked nose and maybe sneezing, there should be no problems if you continue on and take part in the race.
However, if your symptoms are “below the neck” such as a chest cold and body aches, then it may be advisable to stay away from the race, as turning up for it may only worsen your sickness and your cold may even develop into more serious infections such as bronchitis and sinus.
An exception to the “above the neck” rule though is fever – if you are having fever, then on no grounds should you run, especially if it is during a race.