This type of runner is more likely to collapse
It is less common than you might think, but during large running running events in which tens of thousands of athletes participate always a few individuals collapse. What kind of athletes are they? In Sports, Swedish researchers at the University of Gothenburg put together a profile based on 28 interviews.
The researchers interviewed 28 people who had participated in the Gothenberg half-marathon between 2010 and 2017, collapsed and had to be taken to a hospital.
A stereotype of the endurance athlete who collapses while running is that of someone who is simply not fit enough for intensive exertion. This stereotype certainly does not really apply to the collapsed in the Swedish study. Yes, 41 percent of the study participants had high blood pressure or used blood pressure medication, and 24 percent had had a heart attack or stroke at a relatively young age. However, many runners had no medical history.
Most study participants reported that they had received warning signals prior to collapsing. 61 percent had been remarkably tired, half were dizzy. Other warning signs were nausea, confusion, difficulty seeing, thirst, cramps, headache, and anxiety.
The study participants had however ignored those physical warning signals, mostly because they let their pace not be determined by theor body. Sometimes they felt the pressure of other athletes to keep going, but more often the study participants wanted to equal or surpass a previously set time, or had set themselves a goal that they wanted to achieve at all costs.
The monomaniac focus on performance was the most important factor found by the Swedes.
“All interviewees described themselves as stubborn, ambitious and disciplined persons”, write the Swedes. “Most of them measured their performance based on figures such as the number of kilometers, pulse, or time.”
“Collapsing runners seem to lack the ability to make a decision to withdraw from the contest despite being exhausted. They feel the pain, but are unable to put meaning to their feeling, to adjust their pacing, and to handle other influences.”
“Consequently, they do not overcome the problem or assess the situation. These individual mental characteristics may indicate a unique profile for collapsing runners.”