The marathon is going well

Death in a marathon: how healthy is running a marathon?

Deaths and fatalities - risk in running, mountain running and marathons
- Herbert Steffny

Marathon: Self-torture for amateur runners to the death
- The world

Marathon: death runs with you
- Focus

Marathon: is it a matter of life and death?
- Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

If we believe the headlines, then running a marathon should be one of the most dangerous sports in the world.

Time and again we read reports in the media of sudden deaths during the mass running movements.

I recently heard a report on the public service broadcaster about the positive effects of endurance exercise on health.

Most recently, a doctor was quoted as saying that running is of course good, but if you “overdo it”, such as running a marathon, you risk your life - I am quoting from memory.

Then it was mentioned that in 2010 as many as 10 people fell dead in a marathon.

Is a marathon healthy for you?

Are we risking our lives with our sport? And how dangerous is running a marathon compared to other sports such as fitness, fencing or football? How many people die watching TV at the same time?

Speculations aside, we are dealing with the hard facts: According to Peter Greif's marathon best list, more than 100,000 runners successfully crossed the finish line in a marathon competition in 2010, and in the same year there were 10 deaths at these events. The probability of losing your life in a long-distance running competition was 10,000 to 1 in 2010.

Let us now assume that the 110,000 people had instead taken part in a soccer tournament or went to the gym over the same period - how many would have died then?

The fact is that between 100,000 and 200,000 people die of sudden cardiac death every year across Germany. With almost 80 million Germans, the probability for the average German is between 800: 1 and 800: 2. So the probability that I will die in a marathon is much lower. Now, of course, I don't run marathons all year round ...

For the past 40 years, scientists have been collecting data on marathon runner deaths during competitions. In total, there was a data pool of over 4,500,000 runners, 41 of whom died of heart attacks in one of the competitions, so the death rate is 110,000 to 1. Professor Bill Roberts of the University of Minnesota Medical School comments: "Anyone who gets a heart attack, is in good hands at a marathon. The chance of survival is 50-75% compared to 15% otherwise. " So you are only safer if you are already in the hospital for other reasons ...

The German magazine for sports medicine published an article on sudden cardiac death in sport in 2005, in which research results on the risks in the individual sports were published. Our top 5 list of the “most dangerous” sports for our heart:

  1. Triathlon
  2. basketball
  3. American football
  4. Soccer
  5. To run

To be fair, it has to be said that all other possible causes of death and injury have not been considered here. The number of “regular” sports injuries to tendons, muscles and joints are significantly higher in sports such as basketball, football and soccer than in running.

Interestingly, viewers watching an exciting football broadcast also have an increased risk of heart attacks (cf. Stern, 2008, heart attack on penalties).

Running makes you healthy, but not immortal.

Basically, it certainly makes sense to have your doctor examine you for possible heart defects before a marathon competition. I did this myself a few years ago.

In my opinion, the positive effects of running training on health outweigh all risks (Wikipedia on running):

  • Weight control.
  • Strengthening the cardiovascular system.
  • Strengthening the musculoskeletal system.
  • Mental balance.
  • Dynamic stress on the back muscles.
  • Stretching of the chest.
  • Strengthening the immune system and reducing the perceived burden of illnesses such as the flu and the common cold.

"Life is deadly from the start," said my geography teacher at the time - Mr. Grimm, if you only knew that I am quoting you here ...

If you like this article, you might also be interested in:

Photo credits in the article “Marathon running healthy”: © Royalty-Free / Corbis

Category: Cardio TrainingTags: Health, Marathon, Medicine, Prevention