One of the country’s leading cardiologists, Professor Pedro Brugada, has warned of the danger faced by runners in this weekend’s 20km run through Brussels, where temperatures are forecast to reach 28 degrees. Prof. Brugada, cardiac consultant to former King Albert II, said the situation was “an invitation to misery,” with participants in the run, the 39th edition of the event, risking dehydration and fainting. The race is due to start at 10.00 on Sunday in the Cinquantenaire park, with temperatures at that hour expected to be around 24 degrees.
“That sort of effort in such heat is an invitation to misery,” Prof. Brugada told De Morgen. “Of course I realise you can’t just put off such a gigantic event for a week, and that you can’t stop people from taking part, but why don’t they start off at 06.00, the way they do in Spain?”
Organisers have arranged for 300,000 bottles of water to be distributed from six drinks stations, as well as 14 Red Cross stations, and an energy drink and banana for every participant. The fire brigade will also be on hand to create water-sprays to cool down runners.
The risk, explained physiologist Romain Meeusen of the Free University of Brussels, is that the heart needs to work harder to cool the body to its ideal temperature when external temperatures combine with increased physical effort. This leads not only to extra strain on the heart, but also to loss of fluids and overheating. Runners are advised, he said, to drink enough – up to two litres of fluid can be lost in a two-hour run – and to slow down or walk if the body demands it.
Rearranging the start time is simply impossible, said organiser Carine Verstraeten. “The whole route has to be closed off, and the police need to make their arrangements,” she said. “Organisationally it’s too complicated.” Runners who have not trained sufficiently, she said, should not sign up for a 20km race. “Participants should be careful and responsible.”