Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Marathoning as a Deadly Sport

On Sunday evening, and all day long on Monday, I had many people call, email or ask me in person if I had heard about what happened at the Chicago marathon on Sunday. Of course I heard! I was tracking 6 runners online (including my friend Randi who I was originally planning on being there with). I was glued to my computer all morning, virtually "watching" my friends cross each 5K split mark.


It was hot. Record-breaking heat, actually, and the temperature was said to have gone up to about 93 degrees. Most of my friends ran about 30 minutes slower than expected, except for Randi, who lives in Texas and is used to running in hot weather. Congrats to Randi for finishing her first marathon and keeping a steady pace throughout!


My cousin Brian even called me on Sunday night to make sure I was okay. (Thanks Brian!!!) He wasn't sure if I ran the race or not, be he also heard about the runner dying at the Army Ten Miler on the same day.


Someone just e-mailed me: "Did you see what happened at the Chicago marathon this weekend -- someone actually died during the race, and I think someone also died at a race in D.C. this weekend, too. Who knew it was such a deadly sport?" It's not a deadly sport! That is, if you train properly and don't have a heart condietion.


I don't like how the media is handling this. The reactions of my non-running friends and family were "OMG- Did you hear someone DIED because of the HEAT!" Well, yes, but this actually is not all that uncommon, unfortunately. Someone died at the Virginia Beach half marathon when I ran it in 2005, and also at the Marine Corps marathon in 2006. These are just races that I ran, so I am sure there are plenty of other marathons, half marathons, and even shorter races where people have died. In each of these instances, the person had a pre-existing heart condition.


What really annoys me about this situation is that people are blaming the marathon for that guy's death, saying that the marathon should have been shut down earlier, or even cancelled altogether. He had a heart condition! You can't blame the Chicago marathon for that. Furthermore, after this weekend's incident, people are now viewing marathons as deadly and dangerous. Even my dentist yesterday was talking about this!


Marathons, in and of themself, are not dangerous. They are only dangerous if you have a pre-existing condition, or aren't properly trained. And if you feel like the marathon is hazardous to your health while running it, STOP! I know that runners are stubborn and they will get to the finish line if it kills them. I understand that mentality. But this is their choice, and the marathon, itself, is not to blame.


The first time I ran a marathon, my father thought that something horrible would happen to me. When he called me a few hours later, he said "ELIZABETH!!!!!! You're okay!!!!!" He was shocked. He was surprised that I was talking normally and was energized and had no injuries. He was almost just as worried after the second marathon, but I think by marathon 3, he realized that I wasn't going to die from doing this.


So this one guy's death is being sensationalized because the entire Chicago Marathon was such a fiasco with the heat. He had a heart condition, and very well might have died even if it weren't hot. During the Marine Corps Marathon, it was in the low 60's and someone died. I passed out after a half marathon in 90-degree, humid weather. But I definitely didn't blame the race organizers for that. That being said, The Chicago Marathon was not well prepared and they ran out of water and gatorade. That certainly was a mistake, but we can't blame this man's death on that.


So now, marathons are getting this reputation of being dangerous and potentially deadly. And it annoys me.

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