While running the marathon at the Rio Olympics, athlete O.P. Jaisha says she encountered a series of understaffed Indian desks where there was no one to give her water or refreshment in the blistering heat and she ended up collapsing at the finishing point and went unconscious for a couple of hours.
The Athletics Federation of India (AFI) claimed that the athlete and her coach refused the option of energy drinks and that is why she had to be rushed to a hospital after the marathon.
Controversies apart, the Hyderabad Marathon is just three days away and doctors and athletes give tips to the participants to prepare themselves to not end up like Jaisha.
Dr Ramineni. S. Chandrasekhar, M.S. Orthopaedics and marathoner, feels that being an accomplished athlete, Jaisha should have known about dehydration. She could have quit earlier to avoid the risks of dehydration. The fault could be of the AFI, but the runner should not have risked her health. There is always a next time.”
It’s easy to get caught up in the glory and pride of becoming a marathoner, but there is more to being a marathoner than smiling to the crowd in the final round. Don’t overdo things as it leads to burnout and injuries. Dr S. Bakhtiar Choudhary, director & senior consultant, Hyderabad Spine Clinics, explains why people collapse at the finishing point, “If we can recall Boston Marathon, every year, four or five people used to collapse and scientists observed that people were drinking too much water which was reducing the sodium levels in their bodies. But from the last three Boston marathons they have compelled athletes not to drink water unless they were thirsty. After that, nobody collapsed. So there are mistakes on the athlete’s part on why they become exhausted.”
Another reason could be nutrition, he says. “In marathon, 50 per cent is training and the rest 50 per cent is nutrition and water management. This is not followed properly.”
Asked about the ethics and morality of the players and organisers, he says, “Being a marathoner myself, I can say that there are a lot of stations provided with water, electrolytes and edibles at every 5 and 10 km.” Having seen and trained many marathoners, Dr Bakhtair adds, “No coach will be on the track to provide water and other things.”
You can’t complete a marathon without fuelling your body properly. “It’s prudent for the runners to hydrate regularly during long runs and avoid dehydration. Sipping water and energy drinks at aid stations will maintain energy-electrolyte balance. Nutrition and hydration should be well taken care of. It is also prudent to have a DNF (did not finish) than risking life, says Dr Chandrasekhar. He also feels that it’s not logical to blame the organisers.
Shankar, former international athlete and long runner, says, “What happened at Rio is unfortunate, but you should also be prepared. They should carry their own water with electrolytes. One can’t simply blame the organisers alone.”