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Racers at a marathon (Mikael Damkier/shutterstock.com)

Following the recent death of a 35-year-old man who died during the Ottawa marathon and a close-call for a Halifax man who was revived after he collapsed at the finish line of a half-marathon, concerns have been raised about the safety of long-distance running.

Jack Goodman, a professor of kinesiology and physical education at the University of Toronto who has studied deaths among marathoners, said that for most people, training and completing a marathon is safe.

However, for those with underlying health problems, Goodman said marathons can increase their risk of death.

“Marathons don’t kill, but they can be a trigger,” he told CTV’s Your Morning on Wednesday. “It’s the disease that’s underlying that ultimately leads to these tragic events.”

Goodman said anyone with high blood pressure, diabetes, chronic fatigue, and a history of cardiac events should go see a doctor before they start training for a marathon.

“It’s not necessary to undergo complicated tests if you’re healthy, have no risk factors, you’ve got no serious family history,” he said.

The kinesiology and physical education professor said it’s also a good idea for anyone over the age of 40 to get a medical checkup as a precaution before taking up long-distance running.

Goodman also said that people who have never done any running or very much physical exercise should avoid running a marathon right away and instead concentrate on improving their fitness in a gradual way.

“Give yourself a lot of time,” he said. “Give yourself a year. Get a great base of fitness and go slow, go steady, not too much, too quickly.”

On the other hand, those who are accustomed to physical activity and want to migrate to running longer distances should be safe to do so, Goodman said.

“On balance, people who run marathons are very healthy,” he said.