Just landing up for a marathon could be disastrous
When you sign up for events, please spend 3-4 months preparing for them. Just don’t land up there as that could be a recipe for disaster. Find out what the weather conditions are. Your well-being is your responsibility, before you outsource it to others.Updated: Jan 20, 2020 09:51 IST
Sunday’s Mumbai Marathon unfortunately saw the death of one runner and multiple other hospital admissions for conditions like heart attack and heat stroke. Understandably, there is panic in the running fraternity and their families across the country.
One pleasant morning in Bengaluru in May 2008, a lean man in his mid 30s collapsed at around the 4 km mark of a 10 km race. He was immediately picked by a critical care ambulance manned by trained emergency medicine doctors. He was found to have no pulse. He was rushed to the hospital, which was a couple of kilometres away.
The ambulance had to take a detour because race marshals on the course wouldn’t allow it to take the shortest route. Crucial minutes were ticking away. Luckily he survived. I happened to be the one heading the medical support for the event. With all the best intentions and having done a lot of homework, poor communication could still have led to an unnecessary fatality.
As for the participant, he left no stone unturned to kill himself for no rhyme or reason, though unintentionally. The gentleman had been wearing leather shoes, formal trousers and a shirt. He was a taxi-driver who had heard about the race that same morning and just showed up for fun. The night before, he had been on a drinking binge. Him being thin didn’t mean he was healthy, that’s a fallacy. A thin person who leads an inactive lifestyle is far worse than someone who is probably a bit chubby in spite of making all the right choices with being physically active and eating.
When you sign up for events, please spend 3-4 months preparing for them. Just don’t land up there as that could be a recipe for disaster. Find out what the weather conditions are. Your well-being is your responsibility, before you outsource it to others.
Health scares in running events are rare. The benefits of being active, sensibly of course, far outweigh such setbacks. When was the last time you quit travelling because of some freak road accident? In any case, if you are born, the only thing that’s confirmed is death. You might as well have a quality life, or at least make an effort for it.
Running is the simplest form of exercise, which can be taken up by almost anyone, anywhere, anytime. We need to appreciate that benefits of any form of exercise far outweigh being a couch potato. There is a higher chance one will die of a heart attack sitting and watching television or be run over by a bus while crossing the road outside one’s house.
As for the organisers, when you put together your events, the health of the participants should be your primary concern. In 2008 for that 10 km race in Bengaluru, I had 100-plus doctors and paramedics supporting the event. I had to prepare for war zone-like conditions as a couple of weeks before the race there were nine synchronised bomb blasts in Jaipur.
But with 1000-plus running events now taking place across the country, it is sad to see most of the organisers aren’t focusing on the safety aspects. There needs to be a body that standardises all running events. No one should accept last minute entries. Whoever is volunteering for an event must be trained and courteous.
My advice is, be it the fence-sitters or regular joggers, walkers and exercise enthusiasts of any sport or physical activity is that injuries and accidents do happen in sports and while doing physical activity, similar to when you are not doing anything. So enjoy what you love doing. The only words of caution is, baby steps—one step at a time. Seek expert medical advice if you are not sure, from a doctor who knows what your sports or physical activity involves. Even better would be if that doctor is fit. No need to rush for all expensive medical tests if you get breathless after 21 or 42 km. It just proves you are not super human. The plan should always be to keep miling and smiling.
The writer is sports exercise medicine doctor