Stop the marathon

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.

Chicago Marathon Web site. Tribune coverage. Sun Times coverage. Google news search.

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5 Comments

Filed under News, Notes and comments, Running

5 responses to “Stop the marathon

  1. pjm

    An ugly situation for the Chicago team to be in. It sounds like the conditions were as poor as they were in Osaka, *but* with the bulk of the participants *not* being as prepared as the pros in Osaka tended to be.

    I’ve seen reports that as many as 10,000 registered runners simply opted not to start, more than 20% of the field if it’s true. What was it we used to say? DNF == Did Nothing Foolish (or, sometimes, Did Nothing Fatal), and DNS == Did Nothing Stupid?

  2. I agree that the situation was bad for the organizers. I suspect they did the right thing by inserting the detour for those who hit the half-way mark after 3.5 hours.

    The more recent news indicates that Chad Schieber, the runner who died during the race, had mitral valve prolapse; he did not die from the heat.

  3. Another update:

    Eric Zorn of the Tribune has a column about the marathon and there are many comments on it.

  4. John,

    What tough luck they had with the weather. I imagine they’ll go back to scheduling the run later in October. You couldn’t pay me to run in those conditions (or any conditions, for that matter!) — I’m just surprised people kept going. I think it was very smart of the 10,000 or so who decided against it at the last minute.

  5. Yes, Therese, the DNS folks probably made a wise choice (as Parker noted).

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