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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Marathon Deaths: An Analysis

Three runners died during their 1/2 marathons this weekend in Detroit. A man also died during a race I was in this year, Ironman Canada.

As more people take up endurance sports, this is becoming a more common occurance.

The media love the parradox... a healthy active person suddenly drops dead while exercising. And I'm sure inactive people get a smug satisfaction out of it, as it gives them one more reason to stay on the couch.

Well, not really.

The Benefits

As Dr. Paul Thompson identifies in this study, active people are 30-50% less likely to suffer a heart attack than inactive people. So the benefit to being active is quite clear and irrefutable, over a lifetime you are less likely to die of heart disease.

Around 250 per 100,000 die of heart disease every year in Canada.

The Risk

But what is the risk while running a marathon? Most recent statistics peg the death rate at between 1 in 50,000 to 1 in 75,000 participants.

If you run one marathon per year?

Around 2 per 100,000.

The Conclusion

The numbers don't lie: being active is far more likely to save your life than to kill you, by an order of magnitude. If every inactive person took up marathoning, we'd have far fewer overall deaths from heart disease, not more.


Kieran said...

Hmmm... If every inactive person took up running marathons (assuming they achieved the nescessary level of health and training to complete it) I'd die of a heart attack from the stress of every possible race being sold out the moment it opens!

Paul said...


oh, and Kieran's comment is terribly funny..