How NOT to die when you’re running a marathon.


How are you today? I’ve been running 6 or 7 miles every day this week, but I’m taking tomorrow off because I’m going to be running a little half marathon this weekend. Yes, another one. Anyway, on Tuesday after waking up I noticed my eye was a little red in the corner. I didn’t really think much about it but it got much worse over the course of the day.

After running yesterday, I noticed it was bleeding. Yes, the inside of my eye. For those of you with weak stomachs, dont enlarge the picture I’m about to post, just scroll right past it.

This is what it looked like the first day.

Subconjunctival hemorrhage

Anyway, it got a lot worse yesterday but it seems to be getting better today. Back in July, I had a minor altercation with my weed eater and had the same results; but this happened while I was sleeping. I posted a picture on instagram and then my sister texted me a picture of a girl in her office who woke up with the same thing! However, hers covered the entire white of her eye. EEEEEEEEEEWWWWWWWWWWW!

This is obviously the sign of an impending zombie apocalypse, don’t you agree? No? Maybe I watch too much The Walking Dead or I’m just having Norman Reedus withdrawals, but I digress…

Anywho, this eye thing really freaked out the hubs and he did not want me to run in a race this weekend without speaking to my doctor. So, I did just that and it turns out it’s a subconjunctival hemorrhage, which was probably caused from sneezing, and my eye requires no treatment as long as it continues to get better. Since the marathon is not until this Sunday, he feels it’s okay for me to run.

So with all that drama, MacGyver brought up that fact that runners sometimes die during marathons. And while I’m sure most of you know this, I though it might be time to share some information with you. Believe it or not, there are precautions that you can, and should take, to help prevent death or at the very least serious injury while running a marathon.

If you want to stay healthy, it’s recommended that you get at least an hour of moderate exercise every day, but regular exercise is no guarantee that you won’t get heart disease or even suffer from a heart attack. Regular exercise is like an investment in your body. Like any investment, you hope it pays off in the end, but there are no guarantees.

FACT: Some runners die.

Those that die who are under 30 or even 35 typically have structural defects in the heart such as Ryan Shay. They may have rare heart conditions that haven’t been diagnosed. Runners over 35 typically die from artery disease that causes heart attacks.

The medical directors of the world’s largest marathon and endurance events, (IMMDA International Marathon Medical Director’s Association) have developed a current theory based on preliminary research and observations regarding sudden deaths that have occurred during half marathons and full marathons in the past few years.

They believe that most of these deaths can be attributed to certain conditions or factors which include:

Underlying conditions that may or may not have been previously diagnosed.

Exercise that exceeds in intensity or duration from the athletes usual routine.

Performing endurance exercise which releases muscle enzymes that may activate platelets and produce a blood clot or decreased blood flow and oxygen to the heart.


Sprinting the last mile which increases adrenaline and may cause abnormal heart rhythms.

To help reduce your risk of Sudden Death, the IMMDA has developed guidelines based on the latest scientific research, and here they are:


If you have not sufficiently trained for the race with a corresponding race plan that is appropriate for that level of training, you should not run. Period. In other words, if you’ve only trained for a 5K, you should not attempt to run a full marathon.

You should have a yearly physical and be sure to let your physician know what your exercise routine is and what your goals are. If you haven’t seen a doctor in 10 years, you may want to do that before running a full marathon.

Unless you have a medical condition or your physician has advised you not to, take one 81mg baby aspirin on the morning of any run/walk of 10K or more.

Do Not consume an NSAID’s before a walk or run 10K or over.

Consume less than 200mg of caffeine before and during a 10K or longer walk or run.

Only drink a sports drink or its equivalent during a run/walk of 10K or more.

Drink only when you are thirsty.

Consume salt during a 10K or more unless you have a medical condition or your physician has deemed it inadvisable.

During the last mile of your run/walk, maintain your pace or slow down. Do not sprint unless you have practiced this in your training.

For more information on the IMMDA and its recommend guidelines and research, visit this site.

And remember, always call your doctor and schedule a regular medical checkup. (And by doctor, I mean your physician, not webmd! You runners, GAH!)

So tell me:

Are you a long distance runner or an endurance athlete? Have you, or anyone you know, ever suffered from a life threatening condition during or immediately after an event?

*disclaimer – I am not a physician, nor do I have any medical training at all. This post is not intended as advice and I strongly suggest that if you have any concerns at all regarding your health, you seek the advice of a professional.

20 thoughts on “How NOT to die when you’re running a marathon.

  1. Hope your eye is better! I don’t know anyone who died or came close to it while running a marathon. But I am reminded of it whenever I announce to a non-runner my intentions to run a marathon. I get all the “it’s not good for your body” and “people die” etc. Fun conversations.
    I’m generally pretty healthy so I am not too concerned about “dying” or major injuries. When I feel something’s not right, I slow down or stop all together.

    • I just love all the things that non runners say, cracks me up even if I’ve heard it 9000 times before, LOL. My eye is much better thank you.

  2. I’m glad your eye isn’t anything serious! I am a marathoner and I regularly get checked by my Dr to ensure I am in tip top shape, especially since I had my son almost 2 yrs ago! I know anything can happen, but I air on the side of preventive medicine and check ups!

  3. Oh my goodness you’re eye LOOKS painful though you say it’s not! I also have a red eye right now too but nothing like that! My 2 nd graders keep asking me why I’m crying! I think mine is an infection which I’m self treating ….. Not working too good though! As far as the marathon info …. Hmmmm…. You know I’m on the fence about signing up for a full….after reading this idk…. I log about 45-50 miles s week but never over 15 at one time…..what to do what to do????

    • I think that once you do a full, you’ll want to do another one and another one. And 45-50 a week is plenty enough to be ready, that’s about what I log at the height of my training. I’m shooting for the Clearwater full mid January, but we’ll see how I feel. If your eye doesnt get better see your doctor. Mine looks bad, but it is okay. But best not to mess around with things like that. I need to see where Im running, I already run into things and I can see, imagine if I couldn’t LOL

  4. OMGGGG YOUR EYE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Could you see okay out of it? Did it hurt!? I cannot imagine! That probably freaked some people out when you walked around in public! LOL. My eye has been so flipping itchy the past 2 days – only getting better now, but I was worried it was going to look like YOURS!

    I really really hope it gets better! It looks so painful! I cannot believe that happened in her sleep!

    PS: Me + Marathon = A Bald Eagle Swimming — It doesn’t happen. LOL!

    • The eye is getting much better and isn’t really painful at all, and I hate to admit it but I went shopping today and everybody got out of my way quickly, it was the absolute best shopping experience ever, no lines at all, and it was also a little fun to scare the kids at the bus stop this morning since they laughed at me when I ran into a parked truck a few weeks ago…so it hasn’t been all that bad. LOL A bald eagle swimming, you are hilarious!

  5. We have history of high blood pressure and heart problems in my dads side of the family BUT they all live unhealthy lifestyles. They’re hard working people but they smoke and drink and are never active other than work. I’m hoping my active and healthy living will help avoid health issues my family has.
    I have thought about dying while running and it’s scary stuff. So it’s in our best interest to research and follow the advice of of experts.

    • You are so right and kudos to you for making wise choices regarding your health. We may have disease in our families, but it doesnt mean that we have to acquire those diseases because some of them are completely preventable with proper diet and exercise. And it is scary to think about dying while running but it’s also very rare and preventable in most cases with the right preparation. I wish there were more articles like this post out there so people could be better prepared but I guess that’s why I felt the need to write it.. 😉

    • The worst part is that it looks really bad but it isn’t painful but when people look at you they just cringe and its so embarassing. How long did it take yours to heal? My incident with the weedeater only took a week but I’m not sure about this kind.

    • I totally get that. And I think that would be one of the best ways to go. I used to say I wanted to die surfing but then I thought, it would be just my luck, I’d get eaten by a shark, so running would be my next choice. 🙂

  6. When I ran my first half-marathon (Akron, 2012), a man collapsed and died in the first mile. By the time I ran by him, the paramedics were already there. A fellow runner who was a nurse caught him as he collapsed, and she brought him back. He ran the relay the next year. It was incredible.

    • OMG. I seriously don’t know what I would have done if I would have been there but that is like the best comeback story EVER.

  7. I have only recently started running distances greater than 10k and found your post very informative. While I won’t be running a marathon any time soon I do have a 30k race lined up for the end of March and a half-marathon in May. I’ve been following the recommended training schedule for the 30k diligently and resting more often, even when the runs are short and I want to go farther. I started taking 81mg of asprin years ago, family history of heart attacks, even though my doc says my ticker is perfect

    • Good for you, preventative measures are always best. It’s scary to think about family history sometimes, isn’t it? I’m glad your following the training plan, that is the best way to go and good luck on those races. Once you’ve run them, come back here and post a link in the comments to your recap, I’d love to read about them and share it with everybody.

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