Looking back over the 2011 season, I was thinking about the losses we’ve had in roadraces. As I wrote in my blogpost “Has Road Racing Become A Lethal Sport?” (November 3), this past year has been one of the most fatal for long distance runners in memory, with at least 5 runners dying as they neared the finish line or shortly after they crossed it.
As I thought more on this, I realized something strange: these incidents all involved men. Looking back over the years, it seem like these fatalities always involve men, dating back to Ryan Shay collapsing at the Olympic Trials four years ago in NY, and before that as well. In triathlon, too, it’s the men who have been dying.
Can this just be a coincidence? I find that hard to believe.
At a time when female participation in long distance running has been exploding, and has nearly equaled male participation in the marathon and surpassed it in the half-marathon, one would think that the risks of running, and the occassional and rare tragic consequences, would be equally shared. But that doesn’t seem to be the case. This is subject that’s very ripe for study.
Here’s one very unscientific, possible explanation for at least some of these deaths: perhaps among non-elite, less well-trained runners, men are more concerned with finishing times, while women are more focused on enjoying the experience.
As I noted in my earlier blog, runners who use caffeinated supplements to get an edge put themselves at risk of a cardiac event if they consume more than 200mg in a day. Combined with the adrenaline rush that comes with a big push to the finish line, a runner with a latent heart problem may end up collapsing. So perhaps some undertrained men are pushing themselves harder than their female counterparts, and paying the price.
Whatever is going on here, the answer is not to give up running; it’s to set realistic goals, prepare properly, and stick to your plan all the way to the finish line. Train for the kind of race you want to run, and then run the kind of race you’ve trained for. That’s just smart marathon training.
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