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Woman Dies After Racing

Posted by: on May, 14 2014

A Virginia mother of two died Tuesday, two days after she collapsed after competing in Frederick’s half marathon.
Sarah Defren, 38, was an avid runner who ran daily at 5 a.m. and had competed in several past races, her pastor, the Rev. Lisa Webb of Woodstock Presbyterian Church in Woodstock, said Wednesday. Defren suffered a heart attack at the finish line Sunday and was taken to Frederick Memorial Hospital before being flown to Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Webb said. She never regained consciousness.
“Everyone is in a state of shock,” Webb said.woman died after running
Defren is survived by her husband, Mark, and two children, Grant, 3, and Brooke, 4, Webb said. A Facebook prayer page had been set up on Defren’s behalf Monday. More than 1,400 people had “liked” the page by Wednesday afternoon. The church is planning a celebration of life service for Defren at 1 p.m. Saturday. Woodstock is about an hour and a half southwest of Frederick off I-81.
Webb thanked the first responders, doctors and hospital staff who came to Defren’s aid. She had spoken with Defren a day before the race about her desire to volunteer at the church. Defren worked as a physical therapist who specialized in caring for the elderly and people with Alzheimer’s disease, Webb said.
According to online results, Defren finished Sunday’s race in 2:38:03.
Frederick Running Festival organizer Corrigan Sports Enterprises President Lee Corrigan said Defren sprinted across the finish line and was talking to a member of the medical team. She “went down right there,” Corrigan said.
Defren’s death is the first in the Frederick Running Festival’s history, Corrigan said.
A female runner died after the 2001 Baltimore Marathon of a brain aneurysm, CSE spokesman Dave Gell said. A male runner died in 2009; the cause was not determined, Gell said.
Corrigan said the company had reached out to the family in support. Defren also ran in the 2013 Frederick festival, Gell said.
“All we can do is be as prepared as we can, and I think we did do a good job with that,” Corrigan said Wednesday.
Deaths following long-distance running events, while rare, have gained greater attention in recent years as such races become more popular, said Paul D. Thompson, chief of cardiology at Hartford Hospital in Connecticut. Thompson helped write a 2012 study in the New England Journal of Medicine that calculated a total of 59 cardiac arrests — 40 in marathons and 19 in half marathons — among 10.9 million race participants in the U.S. from 2000 through 2010. Of those 59 who suffered cardiac arrests, 42 runners, or 71 percent, died.
The overall rate of cardiac arrest-related deaths from running is about one for every 184,000 participants, according to the study. One in 100,000 deaths is among men, while one in 500,000 is among women, Thompson said.
The cause of death in runners also varies in part by age, Thompson said. Among people under 30, cardiac arrests are often the result of an unknown congenital heart problem that doesn’t become apparent until around the race, he said. Among older adults, other contributing factors, including narrowed arteries, are often a factor, he said. Some people may also overhydrate during a race, leading to death.
“There are more deaths, and that’s because marathoning has become a bucket list sport,” said Thompson, who has run the Boston Marathon 29 times.
According to the nonprofit Running USA, the half marathon has been the fastest-growing standard distance race in the country since 2003. The number of half-marathon finishers in the U.S. quadrupled from 482,000 in 2000 to more than 1.96 million in 2013, according to an annual report released in April. During that same period, the number of runners finishing U.S. marathons increased from 353,000 in 2000 to 541,000 — a record high — in 2013.
A 20-year-old Colorado woman died Sunday after collapsing near the finish of that day’s Boulder Spring half marathon, according to a story published Monday in The Daily Camera. Last month, two men died after participating in a Rock ’N’ Roll half marathon in Raleigh, North Carolina, The News & Observer reported. In March, a 16-year-old girl died after finishing the Shamrock half marathon in Virginia Beach, and a man died in England after collapsing near the end of a half marathon in Hampshire, according to Runners World.