It’s probably a man thing, but it always saddens me when a pretty woman dies. Like this one.
hairdresser Claire, 30, … fell to the ground as she made her way along Birdcage Walk, near St James’ Park, on the final stretch of the 26.2 mile course.
Claire, from North Kilworth in Leicestershire, was given medical attention by paramedics but died at the scene yesterday afternoon, organisers said.
I know Birdcage Walk quite well. I used to work in Westminster 40 years ago, and on lunch breaks I’d often cross Birdcage Walk to get to sit out on St James’ Park. And that makes it all the more poignant.
And in the photo of her, wearing her running kit, she looks so beautiful, and so happy.
But she’s not the first person to drop dead during a marathon run, and she won’t be the last.
Ms Squires’s death was the 10th since the London Marathon began in 1981.
Five of the previous fatalities were a result of heart disease in runners apparently unaware that they had a problem. Four of these were cases of severe coronary heart disease.
The last competitor to die before yesterday was a 22-year-old fitness instructor in 2007.
And yet you don’t have to think about it for more than about 5 seconds to realise that running a 26 mile marathon is something that imposes enormous stresses on a human frame. You’re pushing yourself to the limits of your physical capacity. You’re stressing your muscles, your bones, your heart, your lungs, everything. And the health risks are well recognised. In fact, you might even say that if you want to kill yourself, running a marathon is a pretty good way to set about it. Much better than smoking, which takes about 40 years to kill people off, if it kills anyone at all. And bear in mind of course that the very first marathon runner, Philippides, also dropped dead at the finish line.
Philippides, the one who acted as courier, is said to have used it first in our sense when he brought the news of victory from Marathon and addressed the magistrates in session when they were anxious how the battle had ended ; “Joy to you, we’ve won” he said, and there and then he died, breathing his last breath with the words “Joy to you”.
And she was sponsoring a charity. You can see its name in the photo. The Samaritans. That’s the charity for depressed and suicidal people to contact before they kill themselves. Ironic, isn’t it? She kills herself trying to help a charity that tries to stop people killing themselves.
And the charity (and it’s a genuine charity, this one) has been raking in money since the news of her death. In fact, reading the Mirror report, you’d think that this was the only story that really mattered. Her own website had a few hundred pounds donated yesterday, but a little over 24 hours after her death it has risen to £205,000.
In fact pretty much all the news coverage seems to be about how much money she’d pulled in, and not the tragedy of her death.
She enjoyed running. I can’t see why anyone would want to do it, but if people enjoy running, then they should be able to run all they like, even if it kills them.
It’s the awful hypocrisy of it all that gets me. They ban smoking in pubs because of the negligible/non-existent health risks, citing an entirely fictitious death toll, but they encourage people to run marathons, even when one runner actually dies every other year, and dozens collapse every year.
But then, they don’t exactly advertise the dangers (my emphases):
First aid services on the day are provided by St John Ambulance, who set out more than 40 first aid posts along the route and at the finish, and two field hospitals at the finish. One of these hospitals has an ‘intensive care unit’ for more serious collapses, but intravenous fluids may be given at other sites, if necessary.
There is a much larger first aid post in the Isle of Dogs, two thirds of the way round the course. There are also cardiac units at the finish and resuscitation facilities along the course and at the finish.
In all, more than 1,000 St John staff volunteer to work on the day, together with other doctors, physiotherapists and podiatrists
A runner who makes contact with first aiders during the race is logged as a ‘casualty contact’… To minimise lurid newspaper headlines about Marathon casualties, these contacts are divided into categories which clarify the seriousness of the various conditions involved. These include:
Social contacts – who stop and ask for such help as a drink, a shoelace or a dressing to treat themselves;
Musculoskeletal contacts – with cramps or painful joints, bones or muscles;
Topical contacts – with blisters, abrasions, runner’s nipple, skin chafing or subungual haematomas (blood clots under the toenails);
Constitutional contacts – who collapse, have chest or abdominal pain, diarrhoea, fits, vomiting etc.
The St John Ambulance reports are supplemented by enquiries to the designated receiving hospitals, which are asked to flag up all Marathon accident and emergency cases.
In 2000, when 32,600 runners completed the race, 4,633 St John Ambulance and 38 hospital contacts were recorded.
Only those deaths, or collapses leading to deaths, that occur during the Marathon or within the finish area of the race, are considered Marathon deaths.
So about 15% of marathon runners require medical attention of one sort or other during the race. One wonders how many more of them require medical attention after the event, when they’ve gone home, and discover that they’ve been injured, or wake up the next morning with bruises and swellings.
Is there any comparable sporting event that produces casualties on this scale? Or that requires so many medical officers to be on hand?
But then, it’s not about health, of course. It’s about conformity to an ideal athletic human type. And that’s why there won’t be any calls from senior doctors to curb marathon runs, and there won’t be any health experts fretting about the modern epidemic of marathon injuries and deaths. Participation in marathon runs is, almost by definition, the very epitome of healthy living, and so nobody’s going to criticize it, even if every marathon run requires 1,000 medical staff on hand, and local hospitals ready to receive dozens of serious casualties. Sky News is already playing down the health risks.
No. If you’re going to point fingers at anyone, you point them at smokers. Because they are, almost by definition, the epitome of unathletic and unhealthy living, even if a great many of them live to a ripe old age, and there doesn’t need to be any medical assistance on hand when they meet up for a few drinks with their friends.
Rest in peace, Claire Squires.