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A marathon runner is a runner who specializes in running marathons, distance races which are traditionally 26 miles (42 kilometers) long, although marathons can be organized at other lengths as well. Among runners, marathon runners are unique, because they have to train in a way which allows them to perform at a very high level across a very long distance. Some marathon runners combine their training with training in other sports like cycling and swimming for triathlons and biathlons, while others prefer to focus solely on running.
According to legend, the tradition of the marathon comes from Greek history. A messenger allegedly ran from the city of Marathon to Athens to deliver critical news, unfortunately dropping dead after the message was delivered. This legendary story was revived in the 1800s when people began to promote marathons, and the marathon was one of the first Olympic events. Today, marathons are run all over the world, and several cities have particularly famous marathon events.
In addition to traditional marathons, a marathon runner can also compete in ultramarathons, races which are longer than the traditional distance. An ultramarathon may also be run in extreme conditions, such as very hot or cold weather, making it even more physically taxing for the participants. In all cases, the goal is to come in within a specific time frame, rather than to win the overall race, and there are a number of classes in which a marathon runner can compete, including female runners, senior runners, or male runners.
Many runners are sprinters, capable of supporting a burst of speed over a short distance. A marathon runner is less interested in speed than in stamina, developing strong muscles, a big lung capacity, and a very tough circulatory system so that the heart and lungs can withstand the grueling conditions of a marathon. Marathon runners go on multiple long runs every week to build up stamina, conditioning their bodies for marathon competition.
Running in a marathon can be very tough on the body, and marathon runners must be careful to take care of their bodies and condition themselves for major races. During a race, runners have to drink enough water to prevent dehydration, without overloading and causing water intoxication. They must also stretch well before and after races to prevent cramping and other muscle problems, and eating a healthy diet during training is also critical. Some people are prone to overtraining, pushing their bodies too far and causing a breakdown.
People can train as a marathon runner alone, or in a group, and some use the services of a personal trainer to set a training schedule and goals. Using a personal trainer can also prevent overtraining, as trainers are familiar with the early warning signs of working too hard.