It's hard to ignore the steady stream of reports of deaths at big-city races around the country in the past few weeks. Two runners died at the San Jose Rock 'n' Roll Half Marathon on Oct. 4. A marathoner collapsed at the Baltimore Running Festival on Oct. 10. And then on Saturday, three men died while running the Detroit Marathon (one had just completed the half).
Obviously, these are terrible tragedies. Terrible, and puzzling. You can't say this happens all the time, because it doesn't: In Baltimore, there hadn't been a death since 2001; in Detroit, it had been 15 years since a runner died during the race. You can't say it happens only to older runners, because all but one of the six recent victims were 36 or younger. And it's not just men -- one of the two who died in California was female.
You can say, however, that the odds of this happening to you during your fall distance race are very, very, very slim. As noted in the story about the Detroit deaths, "Minneapolis cardiologist Kevin Harris presented a study this year at the American College of Cardiology's 58th Annual Scientific Session showing the death rate for marathons was 0.8 per 100,000 participants."
Anyway, I know your non-running friends are going crazy forwarding you all these links to all these articles about the marathon fatalities. And hey, it's OK to feel sympathy for the families of the victims. But don't let people scare you.
Remember: There were 50,000 runners at these three events who all had the experience of a lifetime.
If you want a medical perspective, check out this decent Q&A with a running cardiologist/expert published today on the Runner's World Web site.