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What precautions should you take before running a marathon? A cautionary tale

3.56K   //    14 Jan 2015, 13:35 IST

An unforgettable Monday

I would like to share something very important with all of you my runner friends.

I had attended the South Asian convention of our company at Pattaya, Thailand from 30th April till 6th May. My colleague Nick from China and I decided to go for a long run on 5th May which was a Monday. It turned out to be a Monday I will never forget, and one which has impacted my life and guided me to the path I want to take going forward.

Nick was a good runner and runs 42 in under 4 hours and is fit by any standard. He had finished his breakfast and was waiting for me at the lobby when I arrived. We met at 5.45 am. After a little bit of stretching, we both hit the road. It was more of a chit-chat run, we both were enjoying our pace and were sharing our experiences while running. 

My Garmin showed 9.3 km and I told Nick that we will make a U-turn when we reach 10 km. Nick told me that he wanted to take a break and have water and urged me to go ahead and complete my 10 km mark. I came running back after the 10k turn and saw Nick walking so I joined him. I asked him if he was alright and he told me he was fine.

We were walking and talking for some distance and I told him that we would start running again whenever he was ready. We had another 4 to 5 km to return back to our hotel.

Nick becomes unconscious

After walking for 5 minutes or so, we started running again. While we were running, Nick was telling me about his work in China, how he was used to working late hours, how sometimes he didn’t get much time for running, etc. We had almost reached the 12 km mark when he suddenly said “Qait!” and FELL DOWN. Before I could realise what was happening and tried to get a hold of him he fell flat on the ground. I was shocked by what had happened and tried to do whatever came to my mind first.

I made him sit and splashed water on his face and kept saying “NICK?..NICKK??...Open your eyes, please talk to me...NICK?...NICK??.. Are you OK?? Can you hear me?? NICK..NICKK!!”. This sounded desperate even to my own ears but I was not aware if any of my words were reaching him at all. His eyes were closed and he was breathing very hard. He started making some noise with his mouth wide open, his hands and legs became stiff, and the people who gathered around were trying to help me as much as possible to revive him.

Help is forthcoming

Somebody put a spoon in his mouth assuming he was having fits. Some of them applied balm on his neck and made him sniff it. I could see people around were very concerned and very helpful. When I checked his pulse, it was beating frantically; his hands and legs were getting stiffer and yellowish in colour and he was gasping for breath.

After a while, me and the people around took turns and tried CPR and mouth to mouth resuscitation to revive him. I also asked people to call for an ambulance to take him to the hospital.


The oeople around were doing the best they could; after all, it was a life in front of us which was trying to stay alive. I could see some people on the road who were controlling the traffic and with their wireless devices were calling out for help in Thai language. The ambulance eventually arrived and we were on our way to the hospital. He was taken straight to the ICU and was given CPR.

In the doctors’ hands

I heaved a sigh of relief when he was finally in the hands of the medics. Although all of us did our best, these were the professionals who would keep him alive. The shock was slowly leaving me and the realisation of what happened and could have happened hit me. I realised my Garmin was still on so I switched it off.

It seemed like a lifetime from the time Nick fell on the road to the time I handed him over, but my Garmin reading said 21 minutes. Nick started breathing partially after 30 minutes or so and they shifted him to another hospital to check his cardio. The results showed that he had one blockage in his chest and out of three tumours one had burst in his stomach, and there was internal bleeding too.

I got to know last week that he had multiple organ failure and the doctors had given him a few days to live. 

I did my best, I gave it my 100% but it was beyond my hands to save him

This incident really shook me. I also became a strong person at the same time. These are the following things I realized that must have gone wrong with Nick even though he was a fit runner.

  1. I think he did not do his whole body check-up regularly. If he had done so, he would have known about the blockage and tumours and would have taken care about his blood pressure too.
  2. Too much of work in the previous week had stressed him out. Maybe he did not have proper sleep either. His blood pressure was high, but he felt better when he ran.
  3. When he stopped at 9.3 km, he must have got some indication but never disclosed it to me. That’s the blunder all runners do; because of many reasons, runners hesitate to disclose to the other runner that they are feeling tired or they are feeling uneasiness.

If you don’t feel comfortable to keep up with the runner who runs along with you, or if you feel any kind of uneasiness, please reduce your speed or walk for some time. Otherwise, that movement might be the last movement of your life; I am sorry to be so blunt about this, but it is what it is. However, if you have done routine medical check-up, then you can carry on.

Lessons I learnt from the incident

1. In case of an emergency, look for some transport to move the person to the nearest hospital. On the way to the hospital, keep doing CPR till you reach the destination. Please consult a doctor for details.

2. Always carry an emergency contact number and your blood group details when you are running.

3. Please learn personally how to do CPR; you can save somebody’s life because of this.

4. If you are doing any sort of exercise or if you are a runner, people say that you run so much you can eat anything, and that you will easily burn it out. I feel that’s a wrong perception. I was suffering high cholesterol problem until the last six months, and I have been running for close to 10 years now. My doctor told me that running or any physical exercise won’t reduce cholesterol. Now my cholesterol is normal because of my diet.

5. Each person’s body type is different, so one should learn to listen to one’s body.

6. You may look very fit on the outside, but you won’t know what’s happening inside your body unless you do a medical check-up.

I have decided to make “healthy running” my mission. I don’t want any other runner to die because he is unaware of his health issues or is neglecting his health. It is my personal agenda to create this awareness, and I have asked my doctor friends who are runners to join this crusade. I urge you to do your bit to save a runner friend.  

Nick is no more, but for me he lives on.

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