The Mental Game of Marathons: Life or Death?

A recent news story talked about two men who died at or near the finish line of the 8th Philadelphia Marathon.  The apparent cause was-heart related according to a source for the article,  Dr. Lewis G. Maharam.  Maharam explains that it seems like we’re seeing more deaths, but the death rate has remained the same – there are just more people entering marathons and half-marathons.  He went on to say that some runners’ hearts are particularly vulnerable to an adrenaline surge that occurs when they first spot the finish line, a location Maharam called “The X Spot,” which he said “comes from the excitement of knowing you’re going to finish.”

I’m wondering if adding mental training to the physical training of a marathon or half marathon is a matter of life or death for some people.  By harnessing the power of the mind, an athlete can learn to control surges of adrenaline and minimize the effect on the body.

An interesting observation by a colleague in the field says that mental preparation may help with reducing eliminating panic attacks that may be a cause of deaths of triathletes in the swimming leg.

It seems like there’s a connection to me.  What do you think?  Follow the discussion at

For more information on the Philadelphia deaths, see this ABC News article.

For more information on deaths among triathletes, see this article.

Also see Brian David Phillips’ perspective on mental preparation for extreme athletes.

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