Anybody who knows me or who has read this drivel in the Wednesday Journal for the past few years knows I’m not a big lover of marathons. Certainly I’ve got great respect for those who run marathons and give their best efforts, and many runners seem to feel that the marathon is the pinnacle of distance running. But nowhere is it written that the sport of running requires going that 26.2 mile distance.

So here are some of Oppenheim’s reasons NOT to run marathons:

Injuries: In nearly 30 years of running experience it’s been my observation that overuse injuries frequently seem to hit runners when they’re working up to marathon distance (and I can use myself as Exhibit A). Weekly mileage that exceeds 35 or 40 miles appears to be something of an injury threshold for many runners. Not that thousands of people don’t successfully run marathons, but those extra miles of training and pounding increase the injury risk unless you’re one of the elite few whose bodies thrive on high mileage.

Marathons don’t get you in better shape: I doubt that a doctor could tell any significant difference in physical fitness between a runner who frequently competes in races from 5K to, say, 10 miles and a marathon runner. And those who are cranking out lots of marathon miles (see above) just might have more chronic physical problems than the lower mileage types.

Marathons take lots of time: Running one takes months of careful preparation, with steady increases in mileage leading up to the big day. Then when the race is over, assuming you’ve given it your best effort, you’ll need two to four weeks of recovery. In all that preparation and recovery time you could have been running numerous shorter races.

And what if things go wrong? After all that preparation you could simply have an off-day, or if marathon day is too hot or windy or rainy, your efforts might be less than you’d hoped for. Marty Nieman, of the Oak Park Runners Club and a veteran of many fast marathons, observes that you can always have one of those bad days, but on marathon day you pay a bigger price (yet he keeps on running them). However, if you have a bad 10K, there’s always another one next week or the week after, and little special preparation or recovery is needed.

Depending on personal age and general durability, I think a weekly routine of approximately three or four weekday runs of four to six miles, plus a weekend run of 10 to 12 miles will keep a moderately competitive runner in excellent shape and ready for any distance up to a half marathon with little additional preparation. That general formula served me well through 25 years without a single significant overuse injury from running.

It was when I increased my mileage that the knee problems of recent years began to appear. I had intended to run another marathon (which would have been No. 3) with the goal of again qualifying for Boston?#34;and then actually running it. Then I intended to give up marathons forever.

For years my motto was: The human body isn’t meant to run more than six miles. I should have taken myself more seriously.

Paul Oppenheim is a member of the Oak Park Runners Club.

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