Friday, December 21, 2007

Science Wire: Deaths rare during marathons

Despite media attention to the contrary, a new study hot off the presses in the venerable British Medical Journal shows that marathon runners don’t drop like flies from heart attacks on race day (study (pdf)). In fact, the risk of dying from a heart-related problem is quite small. The study looked at 3.3 million runners competing in 750 U.S. races over 30 years and found that, for every 100,000 racers, less than one (0.8 to be exact) died during the event. This translates to about two deaths for every 2 million hours of hard running, and the vast majority of these occur in the last mile of the race. The real kicker of the study, though, is that running the course may be safer than driving it. Looking at car crash deaths on those same roads and for similar timeframes, the researchers found about 35 percent fewer deaths during the marathons than would be expected if those roads had been open to traffic. The upshot: wear your seatbelt on the way to the race, and maybe take it a bit easy on mile 26.

Check out Gina Kolata's piece in the New York Times (story).

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