Monday, October 8, 2007

Chicago ’07 Leaves a Black Mark

I was going to write a race report on my running of the Grete’s Gallop ½ Marathon, but the events of the day cannot be ignored...

One dead, 302 injured & hospitalized. It read more like a summary of war in a foreign country than a description of a renowned national road race. But this was the report from The Chicago Tribune on the 30th annual LaSalle Bank Chicago Marathon that was held this morning. According to this article and others, with temps reaching as high as 88 degrees, it was the hottest day in the history of that marathon. It was so hot that pretty much all the water stations ran out of water by the time the 4:30 pace group rolled by. People were dependent on sidewalk pedestrians and crowd supporter to hand them bottles of water from the sidelines. The medical aide stands were literally overflowing with runners suffering from heat-exhaustion. The guy who died was a 35-year-old man (?!) from Michigan. Eventually, with too many runners and not enough supplies, race officials called off the marathon, forcing many to stop running after 12, 15, 18, and even 20 miles. In total, only 24,931 out of the 36,000 runners who started the race crossed the finish line.

I am both saddened and horrified at the inability of the race organizers and directors to manage the distribution of fluids to the runners. Although the runners must bear some responsibility to lower their race expectations and adjust their pace accordingly to accommodate the heat, it is dangerous and borderline evil for race directors to allow people, some of them novices, to run a marathon without ensuring them free access to water along the way. And then to have to stop a marathon mid-race and force people off the roads, that is cruel too, because this is what some people will carry with them for the rest of their lives as memories of their first marathon. Kudos and major high-fives for all those who were able to battle through the heat and humidity to finish the race. I just think it casts a black eye for the running community when organizers of a major marathon cannot plan ahead adequately to deal with weather-related circumstances that were known to everyone at least a week in advance, and thereby creating havoc and danger for its participants. I am disappointed because I was planning on running this as a destination marathon sometime in the next few years. I’ve heard such great things about it in the past. But because of this, I’m going to have to rethink those plans.


aham23 said...

very well said. i currently am at a loss of words and thoughts. i just dont know what to think about this, my first marathon. ?

Jackie Tam said...

Just so you know, my mother went nuts after reading this story in the newspapers. So don't surprise you’ll receive a phone call from her sometimes this week.

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