Dec. 20, 2007 -- Marathons may be lifesavers -- and not just for people who get in shape to run the 26.2 miles in a marathon.
Marathons are more likely to save lives due to road closures on the race course than to cause runners' sudden cardiac death.
So say researchers including Donald Redelmeier, MD, of Canada's University of Toronto. They studied large U.S. marathons run on public roads from 1975 to 2004.
Together, those races included more than 3.2 million runners, 26 of whom suffered sudden cardiac death. That's less than one death per 100,000 runners.
Those sudden cardiac deaths tended to happen in the last mile of marathons, so that may be a key stretch of the race for rescue workers to watch over, Redelmeier's team notes.
Redelmeier and colleagues also checked traffic fatality data from counties where the races were run. On marathon days, those counties had about two fewer traffic deaths for each sudden cardiac death that was marathon-related.
Closing the roads for the marathon probably accounts for those lives saved, according to the researchers. Their report appears in BMJ, formerly called the British Medical Journal.