Health Ministry publishes guidelines for hot-weather marathons

Experts say organizers of sporting events must inform public of risk factors and proper preparations.

Runners take part in Tel Aviv marathon 370 (photo credit: Tamara Zieve)
Runners take part in Tel Aviv marathon 370
(photo credit: Tamara Zieve)
The Health Ministry released on Thursday a report by a committee of experts asked to prepare guidelines for outdoor sports competitions such as the Tel Aviv Marathon, during which a runner was overcome by heatstroke and died earlier this summer.
The recommendations presented by the committee’s chairman Prof. Danny Moran were accepted by ministry director-general Prof. Ronni Gamzu and will be implemented, the ministry said. The guidelines were needed, as obesity is growing, but public participation in such mass events – from 10-kilometer runs to 21.1 km. half-marathons and 42.2 km. full marathons – is also increasing, the ministry said.
When such competitions are held in hot and humid conditions, participants are at risk – even of death. The sports medicine experts on the committee said the guidelines are not meant to cancel sporting events or bar certain people from participating but to protect people from suffering harm to their health, the report said.
The organizers of such events must disseminate accurate information so participants can prepare for competitions and be aware of risk factors and dangers to their health.
The experts said that organizers of competitions must open a website to provide participants with information on preventing harm from heat and overexertion; how to train for the competition; how much water to drink; and health conditions that make participation risky.
A week before the competition, the website must provide weather forecasts for the date of the race and recommendations for preparing for the expected conditions.
The organizers must also send text messages to participants via their cellphones.
The Sports and Culture Ministry is to hold seminars for participants in long-distance runs. They must also appoint a medical director for the race to prepare for medical assistance during the event. Rescue and firstaid organizations must be on hand during the events and be instructed on specific risks and treatment of hypothermia.
Any person who loses consciousness during a race and is revived will not be allowed to continue the race, the experts wrote. In addition, a water station will be set up at least every 3 km.
The medical officer will be able to recommend if a competition needs to be cancelled or shortened due to harsh weather conditions and set up flags (white, blue and yellow) depending on how hot it will be if the race is held. If three runners per 1,000 participants suffer from heatstroke, the medical director will consider halting the event.