M.Sc. Occupational Health & Safety

This ain't very scientific, but possibly could be interesting. I am doing some research into the principle of 'risk'. I am quite interested in people's perception of risk.

For example, using genetically modified food as an example, your either for it or against it based on who you are, beliefs etc etc

So, what about running? Fifty percent of people will tell you that running is bad for you. Bad for your heart, big event tragedies such as GNR always quoted, bad for your knees.

Anyone have any experience of this?

Why did you take up running? Why do you believe that the risks were worth it?

Just really interested to hear runners points of view on this. WShen I am finished, I am going to try and shape this into some sort of research paper which of course I will make available.



  • i dont think 50 percent of people would say that, but the majority of people who would are those who are too lazy to run and use it as an excuse... i think the risk in running is minimal, and deaths in big races such as the gnr blown out of proportion...maybe there is a long term risk with knee injuries etc, but this is the case with most sports...
  • Absolutely agree with you ST. But then again we are runners. What I am trying to get at is the perception of risk.

    Why do we think differently? Impossible question I know, but your response is absolutely bang on valid. Thanks.

    As for the knee issue by the way, all the scientific reports I have read indicate that running actually has a protective effect.

    Completely un related but I must congratulate you for signing Andrew Johnson. Europe for you next season me thinks!
  • isn't a health and safety risk the risk of the health and safety officer catching you doing something wrong;)
  • well
    I didnt think about risks when i started running
    Didnt weight it up like that
    I was 38, and thought i was indestructible

    Now that i run regularly-i look for the research which supports me carrying on running

    But i have always exercised anyway
  • I don't think I ever considered the risks in any systematic sense when I started either - I saw the GNR on telly one year and decided 'I'd like to do that'. So, knowing the importance of a gradual build up set myself a target of nine months to get in shape and did it. At the time, if I considered risks at all, it was a case of balancing the risks of being active against those of sitting on my @rse pretending I wasn't getting any older and gradually seizing up completely.

    I continue to accept the risks (and I consider these much greater during training when I'm often out on my own in the middle of nowhere than during a race when there's plenty of people about and medical cover available within minutes) because I judge that they are insignificant compared to the benefits.

    I suspect that most people who run do so because they recognise some value in being active and choose running over other sports because it seems to suit them.
  • hmmm risk the only risks to myself at the mo, I feel is the dark and being attacked or falling over! more likely to fall over on the heart lungs front I am sure the benefits far out way any minor risks (if any?)

    I started running after chasing ambulance for my dad having a heart attack and couldnt run ditched the weight the fags life change, but really I love it for the feeling good stress relief!
    I had also heard that running could be benefical to myself bones and joints etc as I was taking hrt after an emergency hyster.

  • NessieNessie ✭✭✭
    Didn't think about risks at all. I had watched a marathon on TV (not FLM - it may have been European Champs or something) and was amazed at how anyone could run for 26 miles, when I struggled to run 100m.

    The thought stayed in my mind for quite a while, but I always thought I couldn't do it. Started seeing a chap who was really in to running, and he encouraged me to start. The relationship didn't last, but I had got the running bug.

    Although I'm aware of the GNR deaths, and that injuries are possible, the only "risk" I think about related to running is being able to find a loo when I really need one.

    "Why do you believe that the risks were worth it?" is not something I can answer, because I honestly don't consciously recognise that there are risks.
  • Thats a valid answer Nessie.

    This is all useful stuff. Like I said earlier, it's certainly not scientific.

    Its obvious from just a small number of posts that we as runners dont really accept that there are risks. Or, even if we do, we calculate that not to run/exercise would be of greater risk.

    Its just a matter of perception. My research is trying to look at why some people percieve running as a positive thing and why some people percieve it as a negative thing.

  • "Risk" is just another word for "probability", isn't it? And I could talk about that till the thread was dead and buried.

    Our perception of risk is probably more influenced by personal experience than by statistics. We know that the probability of a healthy person dropping dead while running is no greater than the probability of the same person keeling over while watching television or cooking dinner. But if your brother died of unexplained causes during a run you might see the level of risk very differently.

    We also seek out facts that will bolster our own beliefs, whose basis may or may not be rational, and selectively screen out those that contradict them ...

  • hmm good point vel! also the more runners you hang out with the lower any risks seems maybe as it all becomes the norms!

    I guess I should have mentioned the risk of injury, I have been worried about getting a running realated injury through not stretching properly or warming up so thats high on my list if thats any help!!
    and thats high on my list because it would stop me running!!

  • I had to make a conscious decision about "risk" when I developed a tibial stress fracture 7 weeks before I was due to do FLM on a charity place with a lot of money resting on me finishing the race. I decided that the risk of causing further damage that might necessitate a plaster-cast and a long period off running was, for me, on that occasion, worth taking, and I did virtually nothing for 7 weeks then ran/walked the race.

    The fact that I "got away with it" wouldn't stop me from advising other people NOT to emulate my example, though!

    Then there are all those everyday decisions - "Do I squeeze out an extra two miles today because I'm running well and risk not being fit to do my planned 4-miler tomorrow, or do I stop now even though I know I'll regret not banking those miles if work overruns and I don't get to run at all tomorrow?"
  • Interesting subject Dan, but if you really want to write a research paper I think you will have to do this 'properly' & get some advice (if needed)
  • In terms of why some people (far, far less than 50% of the population in my judgement) think running is 'risky', I think you'd need to ask them.

    It's far too simplistic a model to attribute the attitude entirely to media coverage but it can't help that we live in a society where 'harm' is deemed newsworthy but 'good' generally isn't. Taking last year's GNR as an example - the story that made the press was that four runners had died (tragically) despite the organisation that surrounded the event. The cause of death - primarily pre-existing and undiagnosed medical conditions that could have killed them at any point - wasn't reported nearly so widely. It's too soon to comment on what happened last week but the fact that over 30,000 people, many of them first timers, successfully completed raising millions of pounds for charity and contributing substantially to the economy of the north east just doesn't seem to be as big a story as the fact that one person died.
  • Julsz,

    totally accept that point. This is early days. Not even begun literature search yet. Just reading peoples views at this formative stage may well shape how my future research will take shape.

  • RD - have you posted on the FRA site too? Although doubtful you would get too many 'serious' answers on there!!

    However as a fell runner I see no risk in my running at all only when the clouds are down, it's raining, freezing cold and I'm stuck up a mountain and can't see a bliddy thing!
  • emmilou,

    I had not considered fell running!!

    Now that is something different!

    All I can say is that I admire you but I would not have the fitness or bottle to do what you do!
  • Hi, I took up running as a risk eliminator, I was going through a difficult time with divorce etc and all the stress that entails, I sat down and made a concious decision to do something. The options were 1) Drink myself stupid,Let it sap my self respect energy and wallow inself pity or 2) Get up, get fit and at least try and do something except mope around.

    Luckily choice 2 won the vote, running has been a Godsend for the following reasons,Risks reduced:- obesity, alcohol abuse avoided, depression reduced (the mental boost of a run cannot be quantified),general fitness and sense of wellbeing best in 15 years,the major risk of being bitter and twisted nearly eliminated.
    Compared to the risks increased:-A few pulls and strains and thats all I can think of.

    Positives far outweigh the negatives, had made plenty of new friends....the most friendly sport I have ever had the luck to participate in. Sorry I do go on a bit don't I.
  • Hi RD - there are risks everywhere. There is more risk travelling by car than by running I think. In industry we would assess the risk and take appropriate action to reduce or eliminate it e.g proper training, equipment, machine guards. The same can be said for running - reduce risk by buying good shoes, eating properly, running with a partner, carrying a mobile phone etc. I do not think it is possible to get to the bottom of risk perception though - it is purely a personal issue and down to environment and the nurturing process etc.and you are right that there is no right or wrong answer. I don't think running is risky but I do think jumping out of a plane with a parachute is risky. Yet my pal who thinks nothing of launching herself out of planes regularly lectures me about back/knee/ankle/heart blah blah blah issues!
    Very interesting issue though - I work in health and safety so I am a right old anorak about it!! Good luck in your paper - would not mind a read at it (told you I am an anorak!!)
  • I started running to get fit (lose weight, get heart rate up) and reduce the risk of diabetes and heart disease. I also wanted to combat my asthma and running was something that I could never do as it always gave me an attack.

    I only ever intended it to be a minor activity in my life and have surprised myself with the urge to enter races and push myself further. I am now at the stage where the negative risks of running are something that I feel I should consider.

    Generally I feel that if I look after my body (take rest days, stretch properly, do other activities to keep my overall muscle balance, get even minor niggles checked out)then there is little risk to me from running, compared with any other form of exercise.

    Accidents and health problems can occur from anything and the incidents reported in the media from the GNR etc are infrequent occurances that get blown out of all proportion just to create a story. Yes there are some risks if you enter an event like a marathon without undertaking the training, but the same could be said about scuba diving or even football. I don't feel at risk because I ahve takien the appropriate precautions.
  • Hi Carmen,
    I think you have hit the nail on the head. Have a good look at what you are doing and how you are doing it - then do everything praticable to reduce the risk!! Voila - a perfect risk assessment!
  • If you were to sit down and risk assess running as we would an engineering task, ie:the likelyhood of incident weighed against severity and consequence of incident compared to the long term effect of not running, then there seems to be a sensible case for running moderate amounts with the proper precautions in place.
  • There is 'Risk' in everything that we do and without realising it people do 'risk assessment' all the time, for example:

    If I'm crossing the road, will I make it across before that car hits me or am I going to hospital?

    When you wake in the morning there is always a 'risk' that you will die that day.

    I didn't even think about risks when I first started running all those years ago. Nowdays the only risk I am bothered about is getting run over as I cannot hear the traffic (the reason why most of my training is off road)
  • I ran and took part in orienteering events when younger and don't think I ever thought of any risks other than that of the possibility of a sprained ankle or other minor injury.I remember people talking about James Fixx dying of a heart attack but it didn't bother me then.

    The development of type 1 diabetes 18 months ago gave me the impetus to (re)start running. It was an attempt to escape the possible future of blindness, dialysis, amputation or heart disease which loomed before me.
    I didn't consider the cons, only the pros. As far as I could see it all the risks were lessened by exercise and running was the simplest way. I started escaping and running round the carpark and up and down the stairs whilst still in hospital wearing an insulin pump (now that in retrospect was a risk as I didn't know amything about insulin or pumps)
    Because I feel fitter than before (and all the medical checks confirm this) I feel that the risks of stopping are far greater than the risks of carrying on.
    I'm not blind to potential problems but they can be lessened. I worry about impact on joints (I'm 54) so never run 2 days in a row and wear supportive shoes and run on trails much of the time. I could fall down or have a serious hypo in the middle of nowhere so my husband always knows which route I've taken . I wear an identity tag. I'm too old and slow to be competitive so I don't consider there's a risk pushing of myself too hard.
    Like everyone else here I'll continue running in spite of scare stories, perhaps you need to ask the same question on a forum for more sedentary interests.
  • Deaths in all GNRs over 26 years 13 out of 700,000 runners.

    I guess that means approximately 699,987 runners didn't die doing the GNR.

  • Shearchick, of course I will send you a copy.
    Extreme Muzzy, you are so right by the way.

    Teulieres, you and I have roughly the same opinion. For me, the risk of not running has far more implications than not.

    When I started running I didn't think about risks, apart from getting knocked over by cars when running in the dark. I feel great two years on...best thing I ever did.

    I really do think, and I must be aware of bias, that my research is going to suggest what we all know anyway. As long as your sensible, well kitted out, the risks of running are very easily minimised.
  • One of my mates tried to encourage me to stop running once as he said it would be bad for my knees. This belief was that I should stop running in case I got an injury which meant I couldn't run (but could walk ok). That made no sense to me - why stop doing someone to avoid the risk of having to stop it later.

    As an asthmatic, I suppose my risk factor is bigger than most peoples as I could have an attack at any time. Given I don't generally keep my inhaler on me when I run, this could be quite dangerous so I've started making sure I always have it on me when I'm in remote locations. Saying that though, running actually makes my asthma better, so the risk I'm taking is a small chance of a worst situation in order to gain an improvement.

    The biggest risk I've identified though is when I used to run along some woods a few years back. These are woods in the middle of a farmer's field and I never saw anyone else ever use them. It got me wondering what would actually hapen if I was to fall over a branch, break my leg and be unable to get up. No-one would be about to help me, I would be unable to move and stuck there. If it was a particularly cold night, wearing on the ground outdoors in shorts and a t-shirt might not be a good idea. Given I live on my own, it could be a few days before anyone noticed I was missing, and no-one would know where to look for me.

    The biggest hazard I've ever faced though as a few years ago being very stiff after a half-marathon, relaxing in the bath and my leg muscles really tightened up. They were so tight I was unable to get out of the bath. Living on my own, all sorts of stuff started going through my mind about what happens if I can't get out for days and end up trapped in the bath for ages after the water got cold. As my bathroom is tiled and enclosed (no outside walls), shouting for help wouldn't be much use. Needless to say after another while in the bath my muscles relaxed so there was no problem at all.

    Anyway, as you can tell, I like to put cheery ideas into people's heads at the start of the weekend.
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