A small calculation

Yesterday, a competitor in the London marathon collapsed and died. The event warranted a headline on the BBC news. The article pointed out that someone collapsed and died two years ago.

Now, of course, running a marathon puts a huge strain on competitors; but these people should be fitter than average. So how surprising are these statistics?

A very small calculation, taking the average lifetime of a person to be 70 years, the average marathon time to be 5 hours, and the number of competitors 36000, shows that the expected number of ordinary people who would die during the equivalent period of ordinary life would be just over 1/4.

So it seems that the answer is, not at all surprising.

I did a similar calculation at about the time I ran the London marathon for the first time. The number then was very similar.


About Peter Cameron

I count all the things that need to be counted.
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4 Responses to A small calculation

  1. Matt Daws says:

    Shouldn’t we adjust for age?
    I would guess most runners are in the 15-44 age band, so about a 1:1000 risk of death in the next year. There are 1752 five-hour periods in a year, and 36000 runners, so you’d expect 36 to die this year, but only 0.02 to do so in a given 5 hour window…

    But, that seems very sensitive to age. If it was 36000 male runners 55-64 then the risk is 1:100 and so we’d expect 0.2 people to die in any given 5 hour window.

  2. Shecky R says:

    interesting… just yesterday 2 runners (out of over 12,000) in a local marathon where I live collapsed and died, both in their 30s.

  3. softlaws4095 says:

    According to my opinion age barriers should be done
    12-17 for under 18
    18 – 35 for youth
    35 – 50 for middle age
    51 to 60 for middle age
    61 to 75 for old age

  4. When I ran the London in 1987, I had several years’ worth of data (I think 12000 is rather a small number for doing statistics on). These calculations are, of course, just order-of-magnitude; I simply wanted to debunk the opinion I had read in the press that all this marathon running is terribly dangerous.

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