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Monday, November 21, 2011

Two Runners Die At Philadelphia Marathon

Two male runners died from heart attacks at or near the finish of the 26.2-mile Philadelphia Marathon yesterday.

Autopsies are likely -- I would recommend them -- for the victims, a 21-year-old male and 40-year-old male. However, other factors may have been at work and deserve careful exploration.

Weather conditions Sunday morning in Philadelphia were described as ideal. I say: Nonsense! As a veteran marathoner (eight-time finisher) who completed Sunday's marathon (plagued by injuries in 4:09), I disagree vigorously with that description.

Although temperatures were in the 50s, the humidity was high (nearly 70%). During the race the temperature rose nearly ten degrees. The combination could be lethal, even at sub-room temperature. High humidity impairs the body's ability to cool itself through perspiration.

The humidity could have combined with another factor to impair runners. If runners were not wearing wicking material (which draws perspiration away from the skin and out), soaked overshirts could cause runners to lose the ability to release heat. Overheating could occur, particularly after several hours of uninterrupted exertion. (This is the difference between a training run and a four-hour-long run where body core temperatures could rise steadily and inexorably.)

These factors deserve careful consideration before any blame for these deaths is placed.

(Eric Dixon is a New York investigative attorney and nine-time marathoner and veteran roadrunner.)

Eric Dixon

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