For the third time this season, I have had to read about yet another fatality in a long distance running event. Last Sunday in the Dodge Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon, a 37-year old man died shortly after completing the event. The cause of his death has not been disclosed, but we are still left to wonder what is going on here. While running is still one of the safest, healthiest sports you can engage in, it seems that this kind of news is becoming all too common.
One reason for this might simply be that there are more marathon and half-marathon participants than ever before. Running USA reports that in 2010 there were record numbers of athletes racing in both events across the USA, with a combined total of nearly 2 million finishers. http://www.runningusa.org/statistics
Given this number, the chances of a single fatality occuring in any given race must be greater than it used to be. Add to this possibility the additional fact that overall race finish times have been increasing — a likely result of slower, less well-trained athletes competing — and the potential risk of a fatality rises still further.
But perhaps there is something else going on here. In the current issue of the Road Running Club Of America’s magazine, Club Running, (http://issuu.com/rrcaexecdir/docs/2011.club.running-fall/1), Dr. Lewis Maharam explains in an interview that increased caffeine consumption might be the culprit.
Caffeine intake of more than 200mg increases the risk of a cardiac event. With many sports gels packing a dose of 25-35mg per serving (or up to 100mg in one gel I’ve used!), the possibility for a caffeine-triggered problem rises significantly. Dr. Maharam recommends taking a baby aspirin before the race — something that many doctors recommend for a range of reasons — and limiting the intake of caffeine to no more than 200mg per day.
I’m not quite ready to start taking pills if I don’t really need to — especially with the possible stomach issues that may come with taking regular doses of an N-SAID drug such as aspirin — but I may start limiting the amount of caffeine I take on race day. Just something to think about.
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