Daily Israel Report

Tel Aviv Marathon Death Prompts Sweeping Rule Changes

The death of a runner in last March's Tel Aviv Marathon has prompted the Health Ministry to issue rules for marathon sponsors
By David Lev
First Publish: 7/18/2013, 1:26 PM

Marathon runners 'march' on Tel Aviv
Marathon runners 'march' on Tel Aviv
Israel news photo: Flash 90

A special Health Ministry committee investigating the death of a runner in the most recent Tel Aviv Marathon has recommended placing greater restrictions on when marathons can be run, how long they should last, and who can run in them.

The investigation was spurred by the death of Hertz Michael Michaelowitz, a 29 year old runner, during March's Tel Aviv Half Marathon. Although the weather in Israel is generally mild in March, in terms of heat, the country had been experiencing a heat wave in the days before the race. The city decided to postpone the full marathon for a week, until March 22, when temperatures began climbing on the original race date, March 15.

However, the half-marathon scheduled for that day did take place, although the race began at 5:45 AM, a half hour earlier than originally scheduled. Still, temperatures climbed quickly, and dozens of runners had to be treated for exhaustion, dehydration, and heat stroke.

Thirty people had to be hospitalized, 12 in serious condition – with Michaelowitz, an IDF officer, dying of heatstroke. The subsequent full marathon was cancelled. Stricken runners later told reporters that assistance was very slow in coming, and that some had to wait long minutes before medical personnel could be found to help them. City officials, including Mayor Ron Huldai, expressed sorrow at Michaelowitz's death, but said that by all accounts the weather conditions were “reasonable” for an event of this type.

In order to prevent future tragedies, the committee drew up a list of rules and regulations groups will have to follow in order to run marathons. According to the recommendations, races will he supervised by a doctor, who will have the responsibility and authority to shut down a race if s/he determines that it is necessary. The doctor will also be responsible for ensuring that there is enough medical assistance on hand to ensure the safety of participants.

More and better stocked drinking stations will be needed as well, with stations within at least three kilometers of each other, supplying runners with half liter cups or bottles of water. In addition, all races will be cancelled if the temperature hits 28 degrees Celsius (about 85 degrees Fahrenheit) with a relative humidity level of at least 50%. In addition, the medical supervisor will be able to shut a race down if at least three out of 1,000 participants in a race require medical treatment.