Running a Marathon? Be Proactive!


Physical exercise


By Joy Stephenson-Laws, J.D., Founder


Recently, a 46-year-old woman named Trisha Paddock died after participating in a marathon. According to one news report, the mother of three collapsed at the finish line of a Los Angeles charity half-marathon for The Asian American Drug Abuse Program.

She suffered from cardiac arrest and later died at a local hospital. Her husband said she did not have any known health issues and that she was an avid walker and runner.

A GoFundMe page launched for the Paddocks said she suffered a major heart attack and went on life support after she collapsed,” according to the report.

This very tragic story sounds all too familiar. For example:

  • In October of 2021, a 22-year-old marathon runner died during a race. According to one report, Hayden Holman collapsed, stopped breathing, was revived and then later died at a nearby hospital. 
  • Another report discusses an incident involving a Hall of Fame marathon runner who collapsed and died during a race that occurred in May of 2021. 
  • At a Texas marathon back in January of 2020, two runners suffered heart attacks. One of the runners was a 74-year-old man who died. What’s particularly disturbing about this death is that this man reportedlywent to every doctor in town three weeks prior, including cardiology stress tests," according to his brother. 
  • Back in August of 2005, 59-year-old Gary P. Williams died after collapsing during a marathon. According to one report, his son said that “his father had no heart problems, family history of heart trouble or hint of any illness before the race.” He did have high blood pressure, but it was under control with the use of medication. The cause of death was likely a heart attack.

And another similar story is really chilling. This report discusses a middle-aged marathon runner who wore a t-shirt that said "You haven't really run a good marathon unless you drop dead at the finish line." He died of a heart attack during a race.

A young mom also “suffered a cardiac event” while running a marathon. Fortunately, she survived. And a healthy, experienced 41-year-old marathon runner suffered a heart attack during a race. Thankfully, she survived as well.

Sudden deaths in marathon running have been the subject of much study in the cardiology and sports medicine fields because they are rare and unpredictable occurrences,” according to one report

“Research estimates range from 0.5 to 2 deaths per 100,000 marathon runners in a given race, a far lower risk of death than in the majority of daily activities.”

I’m glad to see reports that these cardiac events are actually rare, but there are way too many stories about healthy, fit, young people dying while running marathons.

So how can we be proactive?

The reality is that some medical professionals are not really fans of marathon running and don’t recommend it. They may say run these marathons at your own risk.

"I personally have retired from running marathons. I'm convinced there's sufficient enough concern here that I just don't want to pay the ultimate price of overdoing it. I'm enjoying the shorter races," said Dr. Peter A. McCullough, a cardiologist referenced in the last report mentioned.

He also said, “When someone suddenly dies in an athletic event, particularly in teenagers and those in their 20s and 30s – the most common cause is hypertrophic obstructive cardiomyopathy."

This is actually a genetic condition that makes it difficult for the heart to pump blood.

Other healthcare practitioners may say that if you don’t have any known medical conditions, you should be fine to participate in marathons. It really is a personal choice and you have to weigh the risks for yourself. Unfortunately, the 74-year-old man mentioned earlier did his due diligence and took the recommended tests before participating in a marathon, but he still died.

If you are training for a marathon or wish to participate in a marathon in the future, it is highly advised to get an electrocardiogram (EKG) or a heart stress test

“Your doctor should ask about any symptoms such as chest pain or shortness of breath, ask about a family history of heart disease, measure your blood pressure, and listen to your heart with a stethoscope. He or she can perform the tests needed to determine how to proceed in the safest way possible for you,” reports John Hopkins Medicine

When running or working out, know concerning signs such as:

  • Chest pain
  • Excessive shortness of breath
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Difficulty completing a workout you normally have no problem completing
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness

Consider whole genome sequencing.

If test results suggest that your risk for heart attack is high, you can be proactive and make an intelligent decision whether to participate in these events. Being aware of a propensity for heart attack can also motivate you to make lifestyle changes such as eating  healthier, performing appropriate physical activity, exercising, refraining from smoking and heavy alcohol consumption, reducing stress and treating any potential existing conditions such as high blood pressure or cholesterol.

Finally, it is extremely important to fuel your body properly for these intensive workouts. You can read about how to do this in detail here.


Enjoy your healthy life!


The pH professional health care team includes recognized experts from a variety of health care and related disciplines, including physicians, attorneys, nutritionists, nurses, and certified fitness instructors. This team also includes the members of the pH Medical Advisory Board, which constantly monitors all pH programs, products, and services. To learn more about the pH Medical Advisory Board, click here.


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