This isn't common in the U.S.
DAVE MCGILLIVRAY, for Runner's World
I'm a Runner's World subscriber in Singapore, age 58. I had a heart episode eight years ago and I have a stent. A year ago I started a fitness program with a trainer and progressed to taking part in two 10-K races. I train five times a week, and run a minimum of 4-K each time. My health and fitness have improved remarkably in 12 months.
There are races every month here, and a standard item when registering online is that you are asked to answer a list of questions about your fitness and medical history. Most races allow you to continue registering after you've done that. There's one race, however, that requires more. If you answer the health-check questions honestly and state your medical condition, your registration is halted and you're told to get a doctor to certify that you are fit to participate. I got that doctor's letter, but then decided I did not want to take part in this race because I felt that is a discriminatory requirement.
The organizers claim they have the runners' interests at heart, to avoid the tragedy of participants dying in a race, but I suspect this encourages people to lie while registering or just not take part.
My question is: How common is requiring a doctor's letter confirming fitness to participate, in races in the U.S. or elsewhere? Does it make sense? Is it something new, likely to become a trend?
Thank you, Alan John
Thanks for your question. I am not aware of any race in the U.S. requiring a doctor's letter confirming fitness in order to participate. Interestingly, I do recall, back in the early '70s, the Boston Marathon having physicians at the start checking every runner with a stethoscope to be sure they were "fit" to run. I'm not sure what the doctors did if they felt someone was at risk.
I don't think that many race directors feel that requiring mandatory clearance is in anyone's best interest. Many directors, but perhaps not all, feel that at some point, runners must take personal responsibility for themselves and for their actions.
Race directors should heavily encourage all runners to get a clear bill of health from their doctors before they even think about signing up for a race. I'm not sure directors want to or should get into the business of determining which runners they need to get a doctor's note from and which ones they don't, especially given the incredible number of participants in races these days. However, many registration forms now do ask each runner to fill out a "medical history" that can be printed on the back of everyone's bib number in case of an emergency.
That being said, every race director needs to decide how they want to handle these types of situations in their event. I suppose there is no real right or wrong process but rather individual race preferences.
The exception to this policy, which we follow at the Boston Marathon, is requiring medical documentation or proof of disability for classification in our push rim wheelchair division, visually impaired/blind division, and mobility-impaired division.
Hope this is somewhat helpful and gives some additional background regarding your question.