Chicago Marathon organizers stopped the race Sunday at about 11:35 AM, diverting those runners who were at the half-way point at that time back the finish area via a shorter route. Here’s the announcement from the race’s Web site:
Due to the rising heat index and higher than expected temperatures, LaSalle Bank Chicago Marathon Executive Race Director Carey Pinkowski and Medical Director Dr. George Chiampas, in cooperation with city officials, have implemented a contingency plan, as a precautionary measure, to effectively close the Marathon course at the halfway point. Runners who have not reached the halfway point by approximately 11:30 a.m. will be diverted back to Grant Park via Halsted and Jackson. Jackson will be closed to automobile traffic and the participants will be provided with additional support along this route. Participants who crossed the halfway point prior to the shut-down will continue to be fully supported along the standard course to the finish line. Participants are asked to take advantage of medical personnel, cooling buses, runner drop out buses, water, Gatorade and other means of support en route back to Grant Park.
I have not heard of race closures such as this before, probably because I’ve not followed events closely enough to have an exhaustive list of closures. Still it strikes me as odd. As a (former) race director, I understand the importance of ensuring runners’ (spectators’, volunteers’, and others’) safety during the event. If there were a storm with lightning, I’d’ve postponed a race. I guess extreme heat is comparable.
A news story from the Sun Times focused on the death of a runner during the race and reports of other runners having trouble. I don’t think it’s particularly unusual for one or even two runners to die during a large marathon. So, I wouldn’t take that occurence as indicative of extreme conditions. Running a marathon is pretty extreme, all on its own.
There are also complaints about inadequate water supplies along the course. I hope that wasn’t true.
Those runners who were at the half-way mark when they were re-routed would be running a pace that would put them at a 7-hour marathon. That’s something like a 16-min/mile pace, so there probably were not too many of the expected 32,000 participants still on the course.