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Event Information: CPR Program

Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) demonstrations for runners, family members, and spectators

The Boston Athletic Association, in partnership with the American Red Cross and the American Heart Association, is pleased to announce an exciting new program. In conjunction with the 2012 Boston Marathon, we will be providing cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) demonstrations for runners, family members, and spectators. This public awareness initiative follows a recent study lead by the B.A.A. medical team which examined cardiac arrests during marathons and found that bystander CPR, specifically CPR performed by other runners or spectators, was the most important determinant of life or death.

At the official B.A.A. Marathon Expo we will be holding brief sessions to teach the basics of “hands only” CPR, a technique known and recommended for resuscitation. This should result in a critical mass of runners and spectators having the knowledge and the tools to assist in the event of an emergency.

CPR competency is part of being a responsible runner and community member. All runners, spectators, and race supporters are encouraged to participate in this valuable and potentially lifesaving program.

We believe that this effort represents an important opportunity to improve the safety of the Boston marathon, the overall sport of running, and the communities in which we live.


Saturday, April 14
10:00 a.m., 11:30 a.m., 1:30 p.m., and 3:00 p.m.

Sunday, April 15
10:00 a.m., 11:30 a.m., 1:30 p.m., and 3:00 p.m.

Participation will require pre-registration and will be handled on a first come basis. CPR teaching sessions are expected to last roughly 20 minutes.

The location is the mezzanine level, Back Bay and Federal rooms.


Please e-mail us at , and tell us which of the eight sessions you would like to attend, and how many people will be in your party.


Distance Runners, an Evolving Population

Vigorous exercise is a cornerstone of healthy living. It has been well-established that repetitive aerobic activity reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease. Recognition of the health benefits of routine exercise has led to a dramatic increase in recreational sport participation in the United States over the last several decades. Long-distance running is a prime example of a sport that has experienced tremendous popularity growth.

The increase in distance running popularity has been accompanied by a change in the profile of the distance race running community. Once dominated by young competitive athletes, distance races now attract individuals spanning a wide range of age and health backgrounds. The growth of charity programs coupled with the clinical use of the “marathon lifestyle” as a tool to reduce cardiac risk among seemingly healthy runners and those with established disease has led to a surge in the number of runners with significant cardiovascular risk.

Race-Related Sudden Death, the Exercise Paradox

Although routine exercise reduces overall cardiovascular disease risk, exercise transiently increases the risk of a cardiac event in predisposed individuals. Specifically, runners with underlying cardiovascular disease have the highest risk of an adverse event such as heart attack or cardiac arrest during or immediately after exercise. Causal cardiac disease can be congenital (present at birth) or acquired later in life and may come with no warning signs prior to a fatal event. The somewhat paradoxical association between exercise and sudden cardiac death has direct relevance to the sport of distance running. Race-related cardiac arrests have increased steadily over the past decade and have affected every major marathon. These unexpected tragedies attract considerable media attention and often over-shadow the positive aspects of the race experience.

Distance Running Cardiac Arrests, RACER Results

Distance race-related cardiac arrests remain poorly understood. Recently, a collaborative of nationally-recognized leaders from the distance running medical community was formed to study this important topic. The RACER (Race-Associated Cardiac Event Registry) Study Group, directed by physicians at the Massachusetts General Hospital and members of the Boston Athletic Association Medical Committee, conducted the first comprehensive study examining distance race-related cardiac arrests. Slated for publication in the New England Journal of Medicine (December 2011), this effort has greatly enhanced our understanding of this entity.

One of the primary objectives of the RACER initiative was to determine factors responsible for cardiac arrest survival. Careful statistical analysis of roughly 60 race-related cardiac arrests, revealed numerous factors including runner age, underlying cardiac diagnosis, and specifics of on-scene medical care that determine cardiac arrest outcome. Using a multivariable model to determine the relative importance of these factors, the immediate initiation of by-stander cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) was identified as the single most important determinant of cardiac arrest survival.

Saving Lives, Implementing RACER Findings

Recognition of the importance of bystander CPR presents an opportunity to save lives. The more race participants and spectators who are equipped to perform rapid and effective CPR, the more likely it is that a race-related cardiac arrest will be survived. It is this important fact that underlies the current proposal to provide cardiac arrest education and CPR training to runners and community supporters of the B.A.A. Boston Marathon.

By partnering with the American Heart Association (AHA) and the American Red Cross (ARC), both widely recognized leaders in CPR education, B.A.A. Medical Leadership seeks to develop and implement the first marathon-based CPR education program.

This initiative will consist of the following key objectives:

  • Pre-marathon education. In conjunction with public media supporters and medical associations integral to BAA medical race support, public outreach in the forms of video, print, and web-based content will be prepared. It is projected that this media campaign will be publicized on a local and national level. This outreach will focus on promoting the importance of cardiovascular health among runners and will emphasize value of community preparedness for sudden cardiac arrest survival.
  • Pre-marathon CPR training. CPR training will be offered at the B.A.A. Boston Marathon Race Expo. Numerous training sessions (anticipated duration, 20-30 minutes) will be offered throughout the course of the Expo. This training will be free of charge to runners and race supporters (family and community spectators) and will teach CPR techniques including recently simplified “Hands Only” CPR for the lay-person. This session will also provide a brief over-view of the concept cardiac arrest care which emphasizes the step-wise transition of care from initial community response, to emergency medical services, to definitive hospital-based intervention.
  • Post-marathon CPR dissemination. The benefits of CPR education will extend far beyond marathon Monday. Runners and race supporters trained in CPR at the B.A.A. Boston Marathon Race Expo will take this new knowledge base and skill set back to their respective communities. It is anticipated that will result in an active community presence by thousands of individuals with CPR training across the United States and abroad.

Participation in distance running races provides a platform for healthy living among millions of individuals across the world. Race training and participation does not however protect completely again cardiovascular disease. The rare but devastating tragedy of race-related cardiac arrest is a significant issue. Recent advances in our understanding of this phenomenon coupled with a team approach to prevention and preparedness has the potential to impact individuals and the community at large. The BAA and affiliated partners have the potential to develop and implement a novel CPR education and training program that has the potential to save lives both during race day and beyond.

B.A.A. Moment 8

1996 - Centennial Boston Marathon

The historic centennial Boston Marathon in 1996 was monumental for many reasons. It was the not only the first time that the ChampionChip timing and scoring device was used in a major US Marathon, but it was the largest running event ever held at the time. 

The starting field of 38,708 stood for more than seven years as the largest in the history of the sport. Included among the finishers were 16 Boston champions.