Two runners died and 74 were hospitalized Sunday during the Comrades Marathon in South Africa, according to SABC News. As of Wednesday, nine runners remain in the hospital, two of whom are in the ICU though they have been taken off ventilators.
The two fatalities include 31-year-old Mzamo Mthembu, who suffered a sudden heart attack during the 90-km down-run and was transferred to Westville Hospital, where he was pronounced dead. The other fatality, 47-year-old Phakamisa Ntshiza, had “difficulty” at the halfway mark and was pronounced dead at the scene. No further details are known, according to Comrades Marathon Association Dr. Jeremy Butler.
The local weather on Sunday was recorded as partly cloudy at 71.4 degrees Fahrenheit.
The tragedy follows a similar one in May, when America’s Frontline News reported that sixteen people were taken to the hospital after running the Brooklyn Half Marathon, including four runners who collapsed and a 30-year-old runner who died of cardiac arrest.
A meta-analysis conducted by York St. John University in 2016 reviewed sudden cardiac deaths in marathons in the 34 years between 1976 and 2010 and found that incidence rates ranged between 0.6 and 1.9 per 100,000.
The total number of runners in the Comrades Marathon was capped at 15,000, and around 20,000 runners reportedly participated in the Brooklyn Half Marathon. That would put the incidence death rate per 100,000 at 13.3 and 5 respectively.
Both marathons required COVID-19 injection as a prerequisite, though Comrades Marathon changed its stance in March to allow “unvaccinated” runners who provide a negative PCR test.
In February, former physician Professor Tim Noakes expressed concern about runners collapsing during the Comrades Marathon.
“[I]n South Africa the @ComradesRace is making ‘vaccination’ a prerequisite for entry to the 2022 Comrades Marathon,” tweeted Noakes. “Can the organisers be absolutely certain that not a single healthy runner will be harmed by this advice? And exactly who will benefit from this requirement?”
Replies to the tweet show that some met the researcher’s remarks with scorn.
“Why are you consistently ignoring the severity of this disease?” responded one user.
America’s Frontline News reached out to Professor Noakes who, despite his prediction, seemed hesitant to tie the injuries and fatalities to the COVID-19 injections, though he did call on the Comrades Marathon Association’s medical director to “be proactive to study this problem.”