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Warning on final marathon distances

Organised marathons do not result in a greater chance of sudden death, a study claims.

Deaths in races often attract a lot of media attention, but a study published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) says this is not symptomatic of a problem.

And this is especially true when the number of fatal road crashes which are prevented by the roads being closed for a marathon are taken into account.

Professor Donald Redelmeier, from the University of Toronto in Canada, examined marathons throughout the US to test whether the total number of sudden deaths changed when roads were closed to traffic and opened to running.

Over the 30 years the researchers looked at, there were 26 sudden cardiac deaths, equivalent to a rate of 0.8 per 100,000 participants or about two deaths per million hours of exercise.

But because of the road closures, 46 vehicle fatalities were prevented, equivalent to almost two lives saved that would have otherwise occurred.

The data also shows that the final 1.6km of a marathon accounts for almost half of the sudden cardiac deaths.

The authors suggest the last half of the race should therefore be a priority for medical staff.

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