After hearing about Ryan Shay dying during the Olypmic Marathon Trials, or Chad Schieber dying during the Chicago Marathon, or any other runner that dies during a race or training, you may think that running is too dangerous an activity to be worth taking up. Ignoring the fact that training for and running a marathon makes you much healthier than you otherwise would be, if you can put such a strain on your heart that you die it can’t be worth it, right?

Wrong. Canadian researchers have determined that the act of having a marathon actually halves the number of deaths that would occur, because for every marathon death there is at least 2 motor vehicle deaths that are (statistically) averted. Nor are those deaths occurring on alternate routes.

The study examined 3,292,268 runners on 750 race days and 14 million hours of running and compared the number of deaths to the national data on traffic fatalities, estimating how many were expected to occur in the area on race day and checking the number that did occur.

Fewer than 1 in 100,000 people died while running a marathon, Dr. [Donald A.] Redelmeier and his colleagues reported. The chance that a middle-aged man โ€” the typical marathon fatality โ€” would die while running a marathon was about the same as the chance a middle-aged man would suddenly die anyway.

Dr. Thompson, the Hartford cardiologist, said there was another way of making the comparison. He noted that middle-aged men who run marathons are not typical of men their age. He said their risk of dying while running a marathon, while low, was nonetheless about seven times their risk of dying at other times.

This is an interesting study, because it provides a good reason for having marathons without talking about the individual benefits to the runners themselves. Running marathons actually provides a safety measure for the drivers that would normally be on the course.

So the next time that somebody tells you how dangerous it is for you to be running a marathon, you can tell them that you are running it to keep them safe for the day.

(Source: New York Times)