Sunday, May 27, 2012

Marathon Deaths Rare

The start of the 2011 Columbus Marathon from a
walker's perspective.
The headline in today's paper -- Marathon Deaths Rare -- caught my eye.

Even though I knew it was true, people died in two different races I was in. And the year after I did the Detroit Marathon half, three people died running that full marathon. I'd like to know the facts.

According to the article in The Columbus Dispatch, a Johns Hopkins study published in The American Journal of Sports Medicine reported that a runner's risk of dying is slim. The actual number of people dying during or soon after a marathon is 0.75 per 100,000 runners. And men are more likely to die than women -- twice as likely.

The researchers looked at 300 marathons a year from 2000 to 2009. They found that 28 people died during races or within 24 hours of completing them during that time. Over half the people who died were over 45 and all but one of those over 45 died of heart disease. The younger runners died from other things, such as hyponatremia or cardiac arrhythmia.

During these same years, the number of people finishing marathons increased from 299,018 to 473, 355 annually!

After reading this article, I was thrilled to be reassured that the risk of death from "running" a marathon is extremely low. Though the number of people finishing marathons is increasing dramatically, I am a little concerned that this study does not indicate the number who walk or racewalk marathons as opposed to running them. I don't have hard statistics, but from experience I know there are an increasing number of marathoners who are walkers. Are the number of walkers increasing faster than runners? I doubt it. But since it does not appear that any of the athletes who died were marathon walkers, I do wonder if maybe the statistics for dying while "running" a marathon might be higher if you eliminate walkers from the base number.

Despite these concerns, I still believe that the benefits of running far outweigh the risks.


Adolfo Salgueiro said...

For those who believe running/walking marathons is dangerous because somebody dies once in a blue moon, the rebuttal is very simple and a commonplace: You have a better chance of dying in a car accident, so I'll take the risk and do something worthwhile with my life and health before I get hit by a bus.

Cindi said...

You are right!