We were greatly shocked and saddened to hear the news that two men died yesterday after completing the Cardiff half-marathon; an event that thousands of athletes and runners train hours towards and look forward to every year. The men, 25 and 32, both collapsed after crossing the finish line, within minutes of each other. An emergency team attended to both before they were taken to University Hospital of Wales in Cardiff, where they later died; it is believed as a result of suffering cardiac arrests.

The marathon has been running for 15 years, this year attracting an estimated 20,000 runners; making Cardiff’s the second biggest half marathon in the UK after the Great North Run. Bosses at Run 4 Wales noted that these are the first fatalities to ever have occurred at the Cardiff half marathon and praised the swift reactions of the emergency medical team, noting that “We have a team of 10 doctors in place and a huge deployment of medics and St John’s Ambulance around the 13.1-mile course.”

“There’s an almost full A&E unit at the finish line and the medical team acted in complete professionalism.” We have been reassured that a full review will take place, as occurs after each marathon.

Chief Executive, Matt Newman went on to say that “We are 100% satisfied that there was nothing more that could be done by the team at Run 4 Wales or the medical professionals in place on the day. We know that on occasion people suffer with cardiac arrest but we absolutely make sure runners are informed of all the things they need to put in place from a health perspective. That includes training properly, being aware of any health issues and notifying us of those prior to the event.”

Whilst commending the actions of the medical team, I’m sure this news brings little emotional comfort to the families of the men, whom our thoughts are with at this time.

Whilst this news is shocking, it is not the first of its type: only earlier this year, in the London marathon did a runner die following collapse and a triathlon in Barry saw another athlete lose their life, after a suspected cardiac arrest. The frequency of these fatalities means that we must do more to protect athletes who choose to take part in such physically strenuous activities and events. Whilst it is important to ensure that emergency medics are available to act on their expert knowledge and provided with automated external defibrillators (AEDs), it is simply not enough to acknowledge that cardiac arrests could occur: we must ensure that more measures are taken to prepare and protect athletes ahead of their next big races. And ahead of potential cardiac arrest – not just during. This goes for all sporting events: marathons, half and full length; biathlons; triathlons. In Cardiff and all across the UK.

Whether that means providing each athlete with, and ensuring they wear a heart rate monitor to allow them to keep track of their body whilst pushing themselves physically, or providing expert advice on the lead-up to a race regarding healthy diets and lifestyle habits which may benefit the athlete during their big race. Unfortunately, research shows that although older groups of the population may be more at risk, exercise-induced cardiac arrest can happen to anyone and as such we currently know little about how to otherwise prevent it. Clearly this is an area of research which needs focus and advancement, in order for us to understand how to increase measures to help athletes taking part in such events to protect themselves during strenuous exercise.

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