Marathon runner left fighting for life after downing too much water during race

A London Marathon runner was left fighting for her life and in a coma after drinking too much water during the race.

Johanna Pakenham, 53, unknowingly overloaded her body after downing more than a dozen bottles of water to cope with the heat.

The mum-of-four later collapsed at home and suffered a seizure, and her partner was forced to perform CPR to keep her alive.

By taking in too much fluid during, Joanna had flushed the sodium out of her system, resulting in the life-threatening condition know has hyponatremia.

Johanna, who has no recollection of crossing the finish line, is now back home and wants others to be wary of the affects of drinking too much water while running.

The mum, from Wadwick, Hampshire, said: "I love running and I’ve been doing it for years, I’ve taken part in four marathons – although this was my first one in 15 years.

"I remember starting the race but around half way through is when things start to get hazy.

"I saw my family at the beginning and apparently, I saw them three times throughout, but I have no recollection of that.

"I remember my dad’s voice in my head saying ‘make sure you stay hydrated’ but without the electrolytes, the water was doing more harm and making me worse, there is such a thing as too much water, which I learnt."


According to the Met Office, it was officially the hottest London Marathon on record on April 22 – hitting highs of of 23.2C.

Joanna endured the scorching temperatures and frequently stopped off at water stands dotted along the route.

She estimates she drank a small bottle of water at around 20 water stations – but wasn’t replenishing the electrolytes she lost with ‘energy’ drinks.

She said: "I had about 400 metres to go and I remember saying ‘I’m wobbly’ and my family couldn’t believe I wasn’t going to cross that finish line.

"There’s a picture of me taken at the starting line and I look fine, then I had a photo taken at the finish line, I have no recollection of it being taken – I don’t recognise that woman in that photo."

Joanna completed the race in six hours and 35 minutes but cannot recall much until she woke up several days later in a hospital bed.

She said: "The plan was to go out for pizza but apparently I said I was feeling sick. I started driving back with my daughter Emma and my partner, Richard, when they noticed how unwell I was in the car.

"When we got back they called 111 but by the time we’d gotten through all the question they were asking, I had a massive seizure, which is a common reaction to hyponatremia."

Johanna quickly stopped breathing so her husband Richard, who owns a farm, began trying to resuscitate her.

She said: "My family immediately called 999 and Richard was the one who administered CRP until the ambulance arrived, I think they managed to get me breathing by that point."


Johanna was then taken to Winchester Hospital and kept in intensive care, where she fell into a coma for the next couple of days.

She continues: "I remember nothing from that Sunday right through to Tuesday. I think I woke up and spoke a little on Wednesday, to be honest, even the next few days were blurry until Saturday – I pretty much lost about a week altogether."

Joanna had suffered from hyponatremia, a condition that occurs when the concentration of sodium in your blood is abnormally low, causing confusion, vomiting, seizures and comas.

Sodium is an electrolyte, and it helps regulate the amount of water that’s in and around your cells, causing them to swell.

Johanna has since seen a heart specialists and had follow-up tests but there’s nothing to suggest she is permanently affected by the incident.

She said: "From what we can tell it was just a one-off, the doctor says I’m perfectly fine to go running again.

"I guess I just want people make sure they’re taking in the right electrolytes as well as water, so this doesn’t happen to anyone else."

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