Marathon runner died from natural causes

A 28-year-old Briton who collapsed about 1km from the finish line at the Standard Chartered Marathon Singapore suffered a sudden cardiac death due to natural causes, said State Coroner Marvin Bay yesterday.

Mr John Ying Wah Gibson was taking part in the 21.1km, or half- marathon, category last Dec 4 when he collapsed at about 6.30am along Esplanade Drive.

A keen athlete who lived in Hong Kong, Mr Gibson had taken part in triathlons without any problems. He had no known medical conditions and a check-up had not revealed any ailments.

A fellow runner who saw Mr Gibson stagger caught him before he fell. Mr Gibson was unresponsive and his skin felt cold.

Bystanders performed rounds of cardiopulmonary resuscitation. An ambulance arrived, and an automated external defibrillator (AED) was applied.

At the Singapore General Hospital, he was pronounced dead at 8.50am.

Senior consultant forensic pathologist Marian Wang, who performed the autopsy, said death was most likely from lethal cardiac arrhythmia of an unknown cause. This can present as sudden death in an individual who seems well with no clinical symptoms.

Investigations showed that a handbook containing information and tips was handed to registered marathon participants.

The medical operations plan provided for 111 AEDs and four medical tents with resuscitation capabilities set up along the route, and the ground response complied fully with the plan and casualty management procedure.

In his findings, Coroner Bay said, to mitigate the risk of death or injury from arrhythmic episodes or other exertion-related disorders, the runner himself must ensure he is in optimum health, as well as listen to his own body during the race.

He advised organisers to see where else improvements could be made in their response.

Asked how he was coping, Mr Gibson's father, Adjunct Professor J. Robert Gibson, 64, who attended the inquest, said: "It has now been a few months. Life moves on - every day you wake up, and have got a job to do."

Prof Gibson, who has a daughter, 32, and another son, aged 27, said his late son was not very experienced in long-distance running, particularly in this sort of climate.

"I don't think he understood well enough. If he had, he would have stopped running, walked a bit and be alive today," he said .

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 05, 2017, with the headline 'Marathon runner died from natural causes'. Print Edition | Subscribe