Health checks are a must for runners
- The city’s premier annual running carnival attracts tens of thousands of entrants
- But in an eagerness to take part, many runners overlook the need for health assessments and adequate preparation
Hong Kong’s fitness boom inevitably means the city’s premier annual running carnival, the Standard Chartered marathon, attracts tens of thousands of entrants. The popularity is such that organisers have had to restrict numbers for the next edition on February 17 and just 35,000 will be able to compete in the 10km race, the most keenly contested. But a coroner’s inquest into the death of a man during the contest in 2015 has raised a matter too easily overlooked in the eagerness to take part; that health assessments and being properly prepared are necessities. If every participant made the effort, tragedies and injuries would be reduced.
Deaths have occurred from time to time in the two decades since the Standard Chartered bank began sponsoring the event, which is organised by the Hong Kong Amateur Athletic Association. Each year, there are hundreds of people who require medical treatment for injuries, dehydration and exhaustion. The rigours of distance running are not always appreciated by newcomers driven to participate through community excitement and peer pressure. Among those wanting to compete are likely to be runners unaware they have serious pre-existing and undetected health conditions.
Competitive distance running is intense exercise. People should not walk onto the course without being prepared. A health check and doctor’s clearance should be an essential starting point. Then has to come the training; sports medicine and science professionals advise that for the 10km event, runners should begin two to three months ahead of the race, participants in the 42km full marathon should train five times a week over a year, and those doing the half-marathon the same over six months.
Deaths during long distance races most often occur in people with undiagnosed heart problems, usually in those who are older or have inherited conditions. Such deaths are rare, but they underscore why a health check-up by a doctor beforehand is important. People who are overweight or unfit, have had a previous injury or whose bodies are not properly aligned are likely to get hurt while competing. These are matters those looking forward to the upcoming races need to give thought to.