BEIJING (AP) Two runners died after collapsing during a half-marathon in southern China on Saturday, event organizers said.
One runner suffered sudden heart failure 4.5 kilometers (2.8 miles) from the finish of the Xiamen International Half-Marathon in the coastal city of the same name. A second runner died after crossing the finish line. Both were taken to an area hospital, where they were declared dead.
Municipalities throughout China have organized such road races as publicity events, despite the relative lack of interest in jogging as a pastime among Chinese.
Few if any races require medical checks for participants, while high levels of smoking, high-fat diets and heavy urban pollution raise the health risks for runners drawn from among the general public. For those in less than perfect fitness, stress on the heart is a major risk of running long distance, along with wear and tear on the legs and feet.
Facing growing levels of obesity, general ill-health and an aging population, the Chinese government has sought to promote exercise and healthy pastimes. At least 15 marathons are scheduled across China for 2017, along with scores of shorter distance road races.