While around 37,000 people took part in the London Marathon on April 22, one young woman never got the chance to see the finish line. Claire Squires, a 30-year-old hairdresser from North Kilworth, Leicestershire, collapsed 25 miles into the race and died, just over a mile short of the finish line. Medics were reportedly called to the scene immediately but they were unable to revive her.
Squires was reportedly participating in the marathon to raise money for the charity Samaritans, which offers 24-hour counsel to those under despair or contemplating suicide. Prior to the race Squires had raised £650 (around $1,000) on the website JustGiving.org. However, after news of her death spread, donations started pouring in from friends, well-wishers and other maranthoners with contributions amounting to more than £50,000 (around $82,000) and rapidly climbing.
The chief executive of Samaritans, Catherine Johnstone, issued a statement upon learning of Squires death, saying, “We are devastated following the tragic death of one of our marathon runners and are supporting the family through this very difficult time. Our thoughts are with everyone who knew her.” The London Marathon also issued a statement:
“It is with regret that we have learnt of the death of a competitor in the Virgin London Marathon…. We would like to emphasise that our immediate concern is for the family of the deceased. Our thoughts and deepest sympathies are with them at this difficult time.”
Squires is the 10th person believed to have died while running the London Marathon, which has run every year since 1981. The last death happened in 2007, when 22-year-old fitness instructor David Rogers died of hyponatraemia, a sodium imbalance that can be caused by drinking too much water. The majority of fatalities have been a result of heart conditions. Tests to determine the cause of Squires’ death haven’t taken place yet.
While the bulk of participants in the London Marathon are amateurs rather than professional athletes, the physical exertion of the course isn’t necessarily dangerous for the average runner. While the sudden death of an athlete who is in presumably in good shape may seem jarringly counterintuitive, death rates during marathons are statistically very low. As Alice Park wrote on Healthland in January, a recent study found that the chances of having a heart attack while running a marathon are “even lower than the risk of having a heart attack and dying while participating in college sports, a triathlon, or even jogging.”