Instructor Collapses During Recent Marathon

Olga Ramaz

The 22 annual Los Angeles Marathon gathered 24,715 participants, one of them was Sona Donayan, a Culinary Arts instructor, who in spite of collapsing mid-race due to dehydration, finished the race like a true champion.

Donayan is no novice runner. She has participated in 11 marathons since 2002, including Las Vegas and San Diego. This was her seventh run in the L.A. marathon.

This was the first time that Donayan had suffered from dehydration during a marathon.

“I kind of failed in the preparation phase for it in terms of hydrating my body,” she said. “I should have been paying attention to drinking water, which I didn’t do.instead I was drinking diet sodas, which dehydrates you in a way because it contains caffeine.”

She recalls that the first mile or so was uphill and that she was overexerting herself to try to break her record time of five hours, 14 minutes. After the first half of the marathon, she started feeling faint.

“Coming after the first half I felt weak and nauseous, but I took some rest at mile 13 and 14,” she said.

Donayan slowed down her pace to stop and drink water. She decided she wanted to continue because she believed that she could complete the marathon. Unfortunately, severe dehydration took its toll at mile 22.

“I remember seeing the banner and passing it,” she said. “I guess I didn’t go far. I completely lost consciousness because I was extremely dehydrated.”

Donayan fell to the curb and suffered some scrapes and bruises. She does not recollect how long she was unconscious but she does remember hearing paramedics talking to each other and trying to get a pulse, which was very slow and not detectable.

“It was a scary experience and I learned my lesson in hydrating well,” she said.

Donayan was then taken to a medical tent and put on IV. She waited about three hours for her vital signs to normalize. The doctors at the scene allowed her to go on but prohibited her from running.

She had four remaining miles to go and after some walking, Donayan completed the marathon at eight hours, 20 minutes.

“For the first time I got home in the dark after a marathon,” said Donayan. “I wasn’t used to it and it was quite unusual.”

Although not personally familiar with Donayan, Sports Information Director Alex Leon, was impressed with Donayan’s feat and assures that the last couple of miles are always the hardest to complete.

Aside from dehydration, Donayan believes that the hot weather conditions, which reached 80 degrees, and the change in the course, might have been factors that contributed to her exertion.

“The first uphill part was treacherous, nobody that I can share opinions with liked it,” she said.

However, Donayan enjoyed the new route. She liked it better than the old one and expressed eagerness to run it once more.
Donayan was not the only one who suffered a mishap during the marathon. She said that there were a number of people at the tent, where she rested, that suffered from dehydration, and two that suffered asthma attacks during the race.

According to Melissa Kelley of the Los Angeles Fire Department, as reported by the Associated Press, a 50-year-old male bicyclist went into apparent cardiac arrest and died at 7:41 a.m. at South Catalina and Exposition Boulevard during the 22-mile-plus L.A. Bike Tour, which was being held in conjunction with the marathon.

It was also reported that the fire department responded to more than 100 reports of injuries, mainly heat-related or from falls. Kelley said that approximately 20 to 25 people were hospitalized.

This is not the first time a fatality is recorded in the history of the L.A. Marathon. Last year a retired Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Deputy, 60-year-old James Leone and Los Angeles Police Department Detective Raul Reyna, 53, died at mile three and 24, respectively. Both Leone and Reyna suffered apparent heart attacks and became the second and third fatalities since 1990, when 59-year-old William McKinney died of heart failure at mile 21.

Although this mishap left a blemish on her track record, Donayan said that she already forgot about it.

She said, “it was a big thing and yet, it was an easy thing to forget when you have your eyes set on the next goal.”