In Sign of the Times, New York City Marathon Takes H1N1 Precautions

Hand sanitizer in goody bags and advice for runners who want to avoid the swine flu.

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On Sunday, November 1, some 42,000 runners will share the experience of running the ING New York City Marathon. But marathon organizers are taking special measures to make sure they won’t also be sharing the flu—specifically, the H1N1 virus, aka swine flu.

For the first time, marathoners’ goody bags—customarily filled with things like minipacks of pain relievers and samples of energy bars—will include small hand sanitizer sprays printed with the logo of the New York Road Runners, the organization that puts on the race. The official marathon program also says hand sanitizer will be available at the prerace expo and the race's start.

There’s more: Race organizers advise people not to run the race if they come down with the flu during marathon week, since the effort will make symptoms worse and could spread the virus to other runners. (You’d think this would be obvious, but marathoners can be fairly rabid in their pursuit of a finisher's medal, especially after putting in months of training.) And organizers remind people that the immune system may be depressed for 72 hours after a marathon, so during that window, they should take extra care to wash their hands, get rest, stay warm, and use hand sanitizer.

[Read more about the effects of heavy exercise on the body, including the immune system and heart. And for swine flu coverage, follow our On Parenting blog or see all of our H1N1-related stories.]