Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Dying While Running

I saw a man die while running on Sunday.

I like to think I am invincible, especially when running. I get stronger with each step. I improve with each deep breath. I believe this to be true. Seeing a runner have what appeared to be cardiac arrest reminds me though I am NOT invincible.

I did not see him collapse, I saw him on the ground then a rush of people move in to try to revive him just after he crossed the finish line. Efforts that lasted over 20 minutes to no avail.

Sad, sure. I know running can be taxing on the heart but like any muscle it gets stronger the more you work it. The risk of dying while running is quite small. A study published in 1996 found a 1 in 50,000 chance during a runner's marathon career. (Based on exercising for more than 3 hours in a marathon.)

The man who died was younger (36) than me and finished slower than me (by 20 minutes). I do not know what shape he was in but you have to wonder if he prepared enough to handle the event. Did he push himself too much? Were there other factors that contributed to his heart's failure like clogged arteries? Most who die while running had undiagnosed heart anomalies. Too many questions requiring answers we will never get but it got me thinking about the dangers of running and what I and all runners should do to look out for ourselves.

Know your limits and know your body. Listen to your body and train and run accordingly. Be alert in any drop in endurance or strength. Be aware of any chest discomfort, numbness in the jaw or arms, tightness of the chest or shortness of breath. Have your heart checked.

I paid special attention to my heart tonight, my first run since Sunday. I strapped on my handy heart monitor and throughout my run I did not peak over 150bpm. I did not run very fast, my normal leisurely (for me) 7:30 per mile pace. Even at the end, my heart rate hovered just under 150bpm.

According to heart charts for a person my age the max heart rate should be around 190bpm, so I was not pushing it. This is now my guideline to watch and monitor from this point on. The good thing was my recovery rate. Within one minute my heart rate dropped down to 80bpm, well above average according to the charts. The old ticker is not only working but working well.

There were a series of stairs about midway through my run. At the top were two guys smoking pot. One of them was coughing like crazy. Maybe it was his first time. On my way down I said to myself I may not be invincible but I would rather run the risk than sit around doing that or nothing at all.

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