Standard Chartered Hong Kong Marathon

Female runner, 52, dies after running 10km event in Hong Kong marathon

Victim is the third person within five years to die after competing in one of the event’s races

PUBLISHED : Monday, 13 February, 2017, 4:48pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 14 February, 2017, 9:09am

A 52-year-old runner has died after competing in the 10km event at Sunday’s Standard Chartered Hong Kong Marathon.

The woman collapsed near the finishing line in Victoria Park. She was taken to Ruttonjee Hospital in Wan Chai before being transferred to Pamela Youde Nethersole Eastern Hospital in Chai Wan, where she died at 3.41pm on Monday, the Hospital Authority said. The cause of death was ­unknown.

She was the third person in five years to die after competing in one of the event’s races.

In 2015, Ng Cheuk-yue, 24, died in hospital hours after ­collapsing just 100 metres from the finishing line of the 10km race.

And a 26-year-old man died in 2012, moments after completing the half marathon.

Following his death, marathon organisers increased the number of medical staff on site from 700 to more than 800.

At least 27 people were taken to hospital following Sunday’s event, but almost half were ­discharged within a few hours.Two men, aged 46 and 23, were in critical condition but had improved to serious on Monday night.

The organisers said introducing screening processes to assess the health of participants was too costly and impractical, adding this practice was not done at marathon events in any other city.

There were high air pollution levels in the city on Sunday, with the Air Quality Index reaching 152 – or unhealthy according to the Environmental Protection ­Department’s rating system.

Dr Gary Mak Yiu-kwong, head of the Hong Kong Association of Sports Medicine and Sport Science and a consultant for the marathon organisers for almost 10 years, described the woman’s death as “very unfortunate”.

He said the chances of a runner falling ill increased if they were over 35, with coronary heart disease or a viral infection being a common cause of death. He said more than 50 per cent of injuries occurred in the final kilometre or so as runners pushed themselves harder to claim a faster time.

“The higher the fitness level, the lower the possibility of injury, that is proven,” he said. “Immediately before or after the finish line, there is a higher chance of injury, because there is a surge of adrenaline as the heart starts to cool down and the imbalance of stress can cause problems.”

Mak said large-scale running events created the possibility some relatively inexperienced runners with serious pre-existing and undetected medical conditions would be affected by intense exercise.

He added 10km runners should train at least two or three months ahead of a race, while full marathon runners should train five times a week over a one-year period and half marathon runners the same over six months.

In 2014, a study by Baptist University found that one third of the event’s 10km runners risked their health by not doing a single day’s training in the 12 months leading up to the event.

Another third surveyed only trained once a week, the research found.

The Amateur Athletic Association and Standard Chartered Bank expressed condolences at the woman’s passing and were ­offering assistance to the family.

Additional reporting by Raymond Yeung