Saturday, March 16, 2013

One runner dead, 30 hospitalized after half-marathon

Gideon Markowicz / EPA

Zohar Bimro is treated by a medic after winning Friday's half-marathon in Tel Aviv, Israel. One participant died and more than 50 others were injured.

By John Newland, Staff Writer, NBC News

A man in his 30s died and four people were put in medically induced comas on Friday after suffering heat stroke and dehydration while running a half-marathon in Israel.

The race was run in temperatures that climbed from the 70s at the 5:45 a.m. (11:45 p.m. Thursday ET) start but approached 90 degrees in less than two hours.

City officials and organizers of the Tel Aviv Gillette Marathon last week decided to postpone the full race until March 22 because the forecast called for temperatures approaching 100 degrees. The starting time of Friday's half-marathon was moved 30 minutes earlier.

Medical personnel said 60 people were tended to by ambulances and 30 were taken to hospitals. Twelve people were listed in critical condition early Friday, with four in medically induced comas, but the number in critical condition had dropped to two by Friday afternoon.

Paul Goldman, an NBC News producer and editor in Tel Aviv, ran the race and said he had no difficulties and was unaware of any problems until he had finished in 1 hour and 42 minutes. Many of those who collapsed were further back in the field, he said.

"After the race, when we finished and went to get water, the ambulances started arriving," Goldman said. "Then I started hearing more sirens. Here in Israel when you hear sirens, you can identify when it?s just one siren or whether it?s an incident. You could tell something was going on."

While Goldman said he was personally unaffected by the temperatures, he added that "everyone complained that it was very dry."

"I felt it was very dry from the start," he said. "You feel it in the lips and the mouth."

City officials held meetings before Friday's race and allowed it to go ahead after consultations with "the highest-ranking medical professionals," Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai said in a statement.

"We will investigate and examine the event thoroughly and we will reach conclusions and learn the necessary lessons," he added. "We will also cooperate fully with any investigation that will occur regarding this matter."

The mayor noted that the race was run "under decent weather, according to all of the official opinions."

Goldman, who has been running for 15 years, said many runners, particularly Israelis, would not have had an opportunity to train extensively this year in hot weather.

"It was winter until literally a week ago," he said. "Everyone that has trained for the marathon, we were all running in rain conditions and training in pretty cold weather. Suddenly people who were training in the cold were running in the heat. Your body is not used to it."


Full Israel coverage from NBC News?




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