The Chicago gong show

9 10 2007

I can’t even imagine the scenario.

You’ve been running a marathon for 3.5 hours, maybe closing in the finish line, definitely closing in on some serious fatigue in temperatures that feel like 40 degrees Celsius with the humidex.

 Then, you’re told the race is cancelled. Sorry, time to go home. It’s just too hot.

 As I’m sure you know by now, that was the situation in Chicago this weekend, as one of the world’s biggest marathons was shut down due to the record-shattering heat. From The Associated Press:

Chicago Marathon organizers defended their preparation for a brutally hot marathon as runners told stories of fainting or vomiting by the roadside and of angry participants detouring into convenience stores in search of the hydration they say they couldn’t find along the course.

A 35-year-old Michigan man who had a heart disorder died and scores went to hospitals during the 26.2-mile race, which organizers halted about 3 1/2 hours after the start because of fears of heat exhaustion.


“We did feel we had more than adequate water supplies out there,” said Shawn Platt, senior vice president of LaSalle Bank, the marathon’s sponsor.

Platt said planners did not anticipate runners would use drinking water to cool themselves when misting stations and sponges weren’t available. He acknowledged many stations were set up toward the end of the route instead of early on when runners first started showing signs of fatigue.

“Probably we should have been a little more proactive about that,” executive race director Carey Pinkowski said.

Signs of trouble came early.

“By the first or second water station, they were out, and they were apologizing, saying, ‘Just run a mile or two and there’ll be more water,'” said Merrie Ann Nall, 59, of DeKalb.

What a frickin’ nightmare. Where even to begin with that.

I honestly don’t know how I would react to those kinds of conditions. I can’t honestly say I would have obeyed the “bullhorns” telling me to stop after months of hard work and preparation, but could you risk serious heat exhaustion and illness to continue?

Meanwhile, our friends at the AP also asked today: “Are big-city marathons becoming too big?” Not a question we need to grapple with very often in small-scale Canada, where a 3,000-runner full marathon counts as a decent-sized field.

My biggest races have been a 30,000 (Marine Corps Marathon) and 25,000 (Honolulu) and let me say — those were just huge. Frankly, once a field gets beyond a certain size, you just lose perspective as a runner. I’ve never seen a New York or a Boston live, but can only imagine the added impact of 10,000 more runners and hundreds of thousands of additional spectators.

I think the point of the article is one we circle back to in running chit-chat: Should everybody run a marathon? Is that reasonable?

But one thing is for sure: contrary to the lead on the AP story, I’ll never run a big-city race in a chicken suit or G-string. You have my personal guarantee on that.

BTW – Picked up this little bit of youtube gold from The Joggler’s site. Good catch, Michal. 




One response

10 10 2007

Wow, the video says it all, huh?

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