Although this issue has been on the forefront of Milo Marathon’s post-race discussion, I decided not to comment on Remus Fuentes’ untimely demise after complications from heatstroke running the 21-km distance until Milo had issued a statement about it. Remus’ father Rudy had given a statement about his son’s death and alleged that Milo was responsible for it, but I know it’s dangerous to form and voice an opinion when not all facts are known about the events that transpired.
Now that those two statements are out in public, the Philippine Daily Inquirer has also published a well-written and well-researched article which reflects my views on the issue. Allow me to quote some passages from that article (“How to Avoid Pitfalls of Long-Distance Race” by Romina Austria):
But local experts say serious injuries—and death—can be prevented.
“Listen to your body,” coach Manny Calipes of the University of Santo Tomas track team said. “First and foremost, it is the runner who is responsible for his safety.”
Calipes, a UST athlete from 1976 to 1980, said a runner should know when to stop.
“Risks are always there, especially for runners who do not declare their true health conditions, that’s why runners are made to sign waivers,” added Calipes. Waivers are also a way for organizers to escape responsibility for any injuries or deaths during a race.
Based on the account of the victim’s father published in several blog accounts and reaching even the Nestle headquarters in Switzerland which produces Milo, Fuentes collapsed at the 19.9-km mark. A policeman and Fuentes’ running buddy quickly took him by taxi to the Ospital ng Maynila.
National race organizer Rudy Biscocho, in a telephone interview with the Inquirer, said Fuentes fell a few minutes before 8 a.m. near the Aristocrat restaurant along Roxas Boulevard. Biscocho was at the final kilometer area on the corner of Pedro Gil, along with medical and communications staff at the time of the incident.
“We received a report that a runner needed an ambulance and immediately dispatched one,” said Biscocho, the country’s most experienced race director.
The ambulance, one of the event’s seven units, did not find Fuentes there.
Biscocho said they were not aware of Fuentes’ case until the following day because it was not their medics who attended to him. Just the same, he immediately went to see Remus after learning of his collapse. Nestle Philippines, which paid for the hospital and funeral expenses, ordered the veteran race organizer to look into Fuentes’ condition the next day.
Had his running buddy and the policeman waited for the race ambulance, Fuentes might have been alive today, reports said. The ambulance crew was trained and equipped to handle running emergencies like heat stroke.
Fuentes was the third known Milo Marathon casualty. In 2007, 38-year-old electrical engineer Fidel Camson fainted near the 10K finish line at the Quirino Grandstand. His wife admitted that although Camson was a frequent runner, he was hypertensive and usually experienced heart palpitations.
A 21K runner also collapsed on the Buendia flyover of the July 4 Milo race, some 4 kilometers from the finish line. He was attended to by an ambulance, taken to the Ospital ng Maynila and was discharged the same day.
At this weekend’s races, many runners wore black arm bands in memory of Remus. As this sport grows in popularity and as more races pop up on the calendar, organizers must be on their toes to ensure everything’s in order. I believe the local running community will no longer be as tolerant of sloppily conducted races as in the past.
Let us all be careful runners as well; no new PR is worth leaving our loved ones in this world, and running on to the next. While Remus was only one casualty out of approximately 28,000 registrants (roughly 0.004%), that 0.004% is a 100% loss to his grieving family. My heart goes out to them right now.