Monday, February 7, 2011

Fatal Race

It feels weird to be posting about this tragedy right after writing about the so-called "Death Race." But this is bugging me.

Near the finish line of yesterday's Kaiser Permanente San Francisco Half-Marathon, one of the runners collapsed and died. Peter Hass, a Bay Area resident and president of a pet toy company, was just 36 years old, and appeared to be trim and healthy.

You'd think that a race sponsored by one of California's largest health care providers would have medics at the finish line, ready to respond to such a serious medical emergency, but then you'd be wrong:
Witnesses say that Hass didn't have a "fighting chance," since medical staff and paramedics didn't arrive for another 20 minutes. 
After Hass fell to the ground, race volunteers pleaded for help. An announcer made repeated calls for medical assistance, yet only runners standing around came to Hass' aid and performed CPR, according to media reports.
I understand that Kaiser Permanente didn't organize or manage the race -- a company called RhodyCo Productions did. But given the not-insignificant numbers of runners who suffer cardiac events and other injuries, you'd think that an enormous healthcare consortium like Kaiser Permanente would have (and could have) done more to ensure adequate medical care at this event.

Long distance running can be rewarding to some, but as I wrote last October, too many people blindly assume that it's low-risk, too, when in fact:
[M]arathoners – beginning with the very first one – keep dying mid-run. And not just the couch potatoes who push themselves too hard -- we're talking about ostensibly “healthy” runners (like this guy and this guy). Yes, only about 1 out of every 50,000 marathoners die of heart attacks during races, but almost half a million people finished marathons last year, so statistically, we're seeing roughly ten or more fatal mid-race heart attacks per year. And how many more die during training? (Incidentally, how come CrossFit -- which hasn't yet experienced a single reported fatality -- is invariably described as "controversial" and "dangerous," but long-distance running is viewed by most people as normal and healthy?) 
Did Kaiser Permanente and/or RhodyCo fail to take the proper precautions because of simple negligence, or were they lulled by "experts" and shoe companies -- into the (incorrect) assumption that endurance events are "heart-healthy"?