Runner Claire Squires collapsed and died just a mile from the end of the Virgin London Marathon. How can you stay safe?
Thirty-year-old Claire Squires had run the marathon once before, trained for this year’s race, was fit and apparently healthy – facts which make her death all the more shocking.
She fell in the final stretch of the 2012 Virgin London Marathon, and paramedics were unable to revive her despite immediate medical attention. The cause of death is as yet unknown, but she was apparently complaining of feeling 'out of sorts' throughout the race.
Marathon running is by its very nature an endurance activity, and most of us start to feel the gruelling effects long before the end. Listen to your body, the experts say. But how can you spot the difference between discomfort and danger signs?
Firstly, remember that deaths during long distance races are extremely rare. Squires is only the 11th runner to have died during the London Marathon – and the only woman - since it began in 1981.
So what symptoms might be a reason to pull up from a marathon run? Take this advice from Bupa sports medic Dr Tom Crisp.
'Chest pains are an obvious sign that things are not right. Physical exertion obviously means you will have a rapid pulse, but danger signs are if this starts dropping, becoming more rapid or irregular. You may notice this as palpitations, shortness of breath or dizziness.
'These are all signs that things are not right with your heart. Older runners should also look out for headache, numbness and tingling, which could be indications of stroke. These feelings could spread upwards from your feet. If your upper limbs and hands start to be affected then you should certainly take notice. Nausea and double vision are also bad signs.'
If things start to feel bad during your run, with these symptoms in particular, Dr Crisp's advice is to stop: 'Sit down, lie down, and if you are suffering the heart symptoms listed above, raise your legs.
'Ask for help and don’t be afraid to quit. It's better to stop and recover than push yourself too far. You may even be able to start running again after a short break and medical advice. Remember, it's only a race.'
Dr Crisp was HQ medical officer to Team GB during the Atlanta Olympics and chief medical officer to Team GB at the 2000 Sydney Paralympics, and has 30 years experience of sports medicine.
What if you’re feeling unwell on the morning of your race, are there signs that you should abandon your run or should you give it a go anyway?
Dr Crisp says, 'If we never ran when had a sniffle or a bit of a cold, most of us would never run. But the usual advice is that if you’ve got a fever, your heart could be at risk so it would be foolish to exercise.
'If your symptoms include muscle ache, shortness of breath or you’re coughing up phlegm, then pull out.'
If you have any existing health issues that you think could put you at risk, check with your GP before you sign up for a race or start training.
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