The primary purpose was to quantify pain experiences during a marathon run. 1,265 individuals completed an internet survey. Error-free responses were obtained from 1,227 marathon runners. Running-induced pain was reported on an average (standard deviation) of 22.4% (22.5%) of the training days used to prepare for the marathon. During the marathon, pain was experienced most frequently in the thigh (17.1%), hamstring (10%) and calf (9.3%) muscle groups. On average, pain threshold occurred at 15.7 (6.1) miles into the run. Pain intensity was quantified using a 0-10 category pain scale with ratio properties. 0.2% of the runners reported no pain during the marathon and 11.9% described the pain as “extremely intense” or “unbearable” (≥ 10). For the entire sample, the peak pain intensity at the primary pain location was a “strong” intensity (6.1±2.8), higher than that typically experienced during training (4.7±1.9) and less than the highest intensity pain ever experienced (9.2±2.6). Pain during the marathon was most strongly correlated with: pain intensity experienced 1 to 3 days after the marathon (r=.44), pain intensity felt during training runs (r=.38), the percentage of training days with run-induced pain (r=.23), the highest intensity pain ever experienced (r=.22), the number of prior marathons (r=-.18), age (r=-.14) and relative exercise intensity as indexed by perceived exertion (r=.12) (all P < .001). A significant correlation also was observed between pain intensity during the marathon and the time to complete the 26.2 mile run after statistically controlling for relative exercise intensity (r12.3=.19). It is concluded that running a marathon is a painful experience that is correlated with events experienced before (number of prior marathons, run training-related pain experiences and the most intense pain ever experienced), during (relative exercise intensity and performance time) and after (delayed-onset post-race pain) the marathon.
© 2008 American Pain Society. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.