PSA: marathon safety

PSA: marathon safety

ING Miami Marathon, running, half marathon, marathon, fitness, health

photo credit: J.D.Tomcik | Flickr

Miami is all-abuzz this week as the ING Miami Marathon & Half Marathon is taking place this Sunday. I volunteered with Achilles International at this race last year, and it is an entertaining (South Beach! Crystal blue waters!), flat course—the perfect introductory marathon. Throughout the course I saw some seriously bizarre and barbaric sights unfold: women shamelessly dropping their run shorts mid-race in order to quickly empty their bladders, racers ruthlessly pushing each other out of the way at the crowded starting line, and most jarring of all was the middle-aged man stumbling through the last few miles of the race, absolutely incoherent and barely able to stand, let alone run. The sight of him really disturbed me, and I never found out what happened to the man—had he finished the race? Did he collapse shortly after I saw him? Was he okay?

I recently came across an article in ACSM’s Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise journal that discussed a study on sudden cardiac arrest and death in U.S. marathons. There is currently no real reporting system for any marathon-related sudden cardiac arrests or sudden cardiac deaths, so this study was aimed to help with emergency planning for marathon races.

The study used over 30 years of race data with over 1.7 million runners and the findings were really interesting. The overall risk of sudden cardiac arrest during a marathon is 1 in 57,000, with the risk of sudden cardiac death 1 in 171,000. What I found startling is that 93% of these victims are male, and the average age is 50 years old. Just like the man I saw.

The study also found that most incidents occur within the last four miles of the race, a time when bodies are severely fatigued and pure adrenaline takes over.

Now that I have totally bummed you out for the day, here is the silver lining: race developers are taking these statistics seriously and adding additional medic stations along courses. The use of automated external defibrillators (AEDs) in these situations indicate a higher chance of survival, so they are vital to have along the course, as well as ample and knowledgeable emergency staff. Like the NYC subway system so eloquently puts it, if you see something, say something! Quick responses to those in distress are the best way to ensure safety, so if you happen to be in the crowd cheering on your best friend, wife, father, keep your eye out for anything unusual.

So for those of you who have been eating, sleeping, and training for the ING, enjoy yourself and be careful! Make sure you maintain proper hydration and avoid overheating. While the race starts early in the morning to avoid time in the Miami sun, it doesn’t guarantee a hospitable environment. Here’s to a safe and successful 26.2!

photo credit: J.D Tomcik | Flickr