Reflections on the Chicago Marathon

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This topic contains 34 replies, has 9 voices, and was last updated by  SBSpartan 11 years, 8 months ago.

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  • #6726


    Below is a response I made to someone elsewhere who seemed to be upset about newspaper coverage of Chicago that he felt was questioning the sanity of some of the runners. As I re-read it, I think it's something we can all consider. Mistakes that probably shouldn't have been made were made all around. Hopefully, lessons will be learned and we won't see a repeat.

    Hopefully, I hope I won't be picking a fight by saying this but I have to admit I was questioning the sanity of some of the runners I saw at Lakefront and heard about from Chicago.

    At what point is the marathon just not worth ravaging your body and risking your health and possibly life over? When things are going really bad, when is it time to pull the plug and live for another day? A lot of people this past Sunday seemed to take things beyond the level of just pushing to the limit and to the level of simply being dangerous. Many people who were not prepared to run a marathon in those conditions insisted on trying to do so anyway and paid the price. Add to that the fact that decisions were made for the best interests of everyone, volunteers were simply following orders, and many runners in Chicago were getting belligerent with the volunteers to the point that the police felt the need to step in to gain some order before a riot broke out.

    I know all too well that the sanity of runners is often called into question for no good reason but, in this case, it did seem like people were going over the line. Even further, their treatment of volunteers who were simply following orders that were handed down in the interest of the safety of the runners was simply disgraceful. I would hope for better from the running community. Whatever we think of what we're being told, being abusive toward volunteers who are simply doing what they are told to do and are giving of themselves to make our days better is not acceptable behavior.

    No doubt, the organizers could have handled things better. So could the runners. This event was a low point for both the Chicago Marathon organization and the running community. As members of the running community, we should simultaneously let both the marathon organizers and our fellow runners know that they will be expected to handle these types of circumstances better in the future.

  • #23921

    Which leads one to wonder just how many of the transgressors would actually be identified as members of the “running community”, in the sense that they regularly make meaningful contributions to it and receive guidance from veteran members of it. 

  • #23922

    I have to wonder how some of these people had the energy to be beligerent with volunteers.

      Some runners don't make very “sane” decisions in a race (GTF, be nice  ;)), but now they've had days to think about it and they still are playing the “I was pulled off the course at halfway and I made it there in 3 hours” and posting nasty all over the internet.  Maybe still in oxygen debt.

  • #23923

    I keep thinking about the ING in Atlanta this past spring.  Anyone remember me complaining about some of the same things that went wrong in Chicago when the temp went WAY above normal? 

    There are major differences between the two races though and I think this has a lot to do with what went down on Sunday.

    1 – Chicago is a HUGE race and attacts tons of first timers, casual runners, and many more that will be on the course 5-6 hours. 
    2 – Atlanta was a first time race unlikely to attract many first timers or people our for the “glory” of running one of the “glamour” marathons.
    3 – Because of number 2 things the heat didn't completely wreck as many people as it did in Chicago?  Why?  The main reason is the size of the race and were it is located.  Most of the runners down here (even though we trained in the winter) are very familiar with what high heat and humidity can do to you.  I think this played a big role in people slowing down, then slowing more when water became scarce.

    The more I think about it, a lot of what happened was the fault of the directors (hell I put a lot of blame on the ING staff in GA) but more of what happened is simply due to the nature of the race and the people it attracts.  Experienced runners (even experienced first timers) would call the conditions harsh, inexperienced runners are looking for an excuse as to why things went horribly wrong.

  • #23924

    It is a good thing that I have not seen these “nasty” postings, then, though unfortunately they should hardly be surprising anymore. 8)

    A couple of NYT pieces on the subject:

  • #23925

    I was questioning the sanity of some of the runners I saw at Lakefront and heard about from Chicago.

    These runners must be a different breed than me.  Frankly, I'm concerned about racing and running a fast time.  Simply running through miserable conditions (where there's no hope of a fast time) to “push my limits” isn't worth it for me.  Maybe I'd have a different perspective if I only had a couple of marathons under my belt.

  • #23926

    Zeke, I've thought quite a bit the Chicago experience & wonder what I would do in that situation.
    Part of me would think back to Grandma's a year ago & remember what a miserable experience that was & pass on Chicago.

    Then, another part of me would have a really tough time not lining up at the start. The eternal optimist saying it won't be that bad, look at all the others running.
    Then regretting that decision at mile 13.  🙁

  • #23927


    GTF, I also wonder a bit how many of these people are a part of the “running community” that those of us here are connected with and how many are the infamous one-and-done “marathoners” checking one more thing off their lifetime goals list. However, the way these people are acting is reflecting on the running community whether or not they are really part of the community. Many people are hearing these stories and getting bad impressions of runners.

    SBSpartan, no doubt, a lot of fault lies with the race committee at Chicago. While 1 cup of Gatorade and 1.5-2 cups of water per runner per aid station sounds like a lot normally, that will go fast in the heat. Even if we are to believe the reports that no aid stations ran out of fluids (I'm still hearing conflicting reports) and that the issue was that of distribution, not supplies, then it should be asked whether a better distribution system is necessary. That's just one example. However, I didn't hear of people getting belligerent at Atlanta. I didn't see people still complaining that everything that went wrong was the race organizers' fault after Atlanta. The reactions of the runners was much different and what we are seeing from the runners at Chicago does not reflect well upon runners in general. I think it's past time to quit throwing around blame, stop playing the victim card, have everyone take a deep breath, and focus on how this type of situation can be prevented in the future.

    Zeke, likewise. As with Anne, I'm not sure how I would have reacted to the conditions in Chicago. One thing I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have done was continue to push my limits (unless I felt I could salvage a high placing) there. Would I have started? Would I have DNF'd? Would I have backed off the effort and treated it as a long run with aid stations? I don't know. However, I wouldn't have risked my health over it no matter how well my run was going.

  • #23928

    the situation  in Chicago was without a doubt life-threatening…

    how does it compare to the ING Atlanta? I'm not sure, but did ING pull people off the course?

    'running community'? I'd have to agree that a large potion of the people not making the half at 3+ hours might have been there for the “event”…

    should the RD have done a little less tap-dancing, probably…

    on the subject of the race itslef, I have an friend who ran his first marathon last year (4:30+) and this year (at Chicago, in that heat) ran near to a 3:35, can't remember exactly, but I do remember him joking that it was almost an hour better… why? because he TRAINED…oh yeah, he lives in SC (hilly, hot)… but he bought into the idea (after he ran the first one) that 30 MPW wasn't enough and this year did about 60 MPW with peak week of 65, also did some track work, but mostly hills… so not every one had a bad day out there…

  • #23929


    Rita, indeed, not everyone had a bad day out there. While nearly everybody was off the times they would normally expect, not a big surprise, a lot of people including some I know still got through in relatively good condition (hey, when does anyone finish a marathon in any kind of conditions in anything better than “relatively” good condition). The common theme with those who managed to pull this off? Adequate training. Not that everyone who self destructed on the course was undertrained but, from what I've seen, most were.

    For those who were, at best, minimally trained for a marathon in perfect conditions, the combination of the distance and the conditions made the day dangerous at best. A lot of people recognized that and didn't even start. Not that all incidents could have been avoided but, had more recognized this, the situation in Chicago may have been a lot better.

    Personally, I think it's telling that only 90 miles away, we had a much different story. The weather was virtually the same in Milwaukee, maybe a few degrees cooler. I believe there were fewer aid stations with I believe less water per runner at each aid station. However, Lakefront isn't the big destination marathon. It doesn't attract the same crowd. The results were much different. While people did struggle out there and some did need medical attention, there aren't the horror stories coming out of Milwaukee that there are coming out of Chicago. Yes, the organizers in Milwaukee handled it better, doing things like announcing the course would be open for an extra 30 minutes and encouraging people to take it easy. However, the runners also handled it better, heeding the advice of the organizers, taking it easy, and not getting in over their heads.

  • #23930

    My point about Atlanta was to bring to the table (as other have) that the nature of the participants is more to blame for the outcome rather than the conditions.

    You are right, the course was not cleared in Atlanta.  But it was extremely hot that day (mid 80s) and they did run out of sports drinks and some water stations were dried up too.

    My point is that this race (being new and smaller) attacted a crowd more dedicated to running and thus didn't have people 13 miles in at 3:30 hours thus not putting people in danger.

    Just a theory on non-dedicated runners being the ones complaining the most.

  • #23931

    The best article I have seen on this yet:

    Nobody forced anyone to run
    Marathoners can blame only selves

    Mike Downey
        October 9, 2007

    Hey, don't blame the city of Chicago if you were too tired and too hot Sunday while running a marathon.

    And don't blame sponsor LaSalle Bank if you were weak from thirst and couldn't get enough to drink.

    You've got nobody to blame but yourselves.

    If you are foolhardy enough to run a marathon when the temperature outdoors is up to 88 degrees, then it is your fault, no one else's.

    Nearly 10,000 of the people who filed entries for this 30th annual race were smart enough not to run it.

    It is as idiotic to run more than 26 miles in a brutal and potentially lethal heat as it is to play golf in a thunderstorm.

    No one made you run. No one bought tickets to see you compete, so you were under no obligation.

    This wasn't a football game, where paying customers have a right to expect athletes to play whether it is in 100-degree heat or in fog or snow.

    Of the 45,000 who intended to take part in the city's marathon, only 35,867 actually showed up to run. The ones who did not showed good sense.

    Some of the premier runners needed to go out there because this is how they make a living, competing for prize money.

    Marathon running for them is an occupation, not recreation.

    But thousands of others run because it is fun to run. Or because you train for a race for a long time and you look forward to being there.

    Chicago's temperature soared nearly to a tropical 90, yet those of you who ran ignored the risks.

    You knew the pavement would be sizzling like a griddle. You knew a long run on a day like this would be hard on your feet, legs, stomach, mind and heart.

    You ran anyway.

    The city just as easily on an October morning could have had lightning bolts in the sky, or a torrential rain, or a blizzard. Chicago has had many an October day when the thermometer has read 8 instead of 88.

    On such a day, you would have looked at the forecast on TV or in your newspaper, then looked out your window and said, “Not today, man.”

    Nevertheless, 35,867 of you hit the streets for this race. And only 24,933 were able to finish it because Chicago began running short of drinking water, ambulances, paramedics, doctors, volunteers, good Samaritans and cops.

    There were tragic results. A young man died, an off-duty police officer from Michigan. At least 300 others reportedly had to be rushed to hospitals and first-aid tents.

    “They didn't plan for it,” one runner harped about Chicago's race authorities.

    “They clearly weren't prepared,” another said on TV.


    Totally wrong.

    “They,” the marathon organizers, cautioned runners all week long that the temperature for Sunday was going to be hot. Not “unseasonably warm” — hot.

    They begged runners to take extra precautions. They stocked more than 200,000 more servings of water than usual. They made as many of the necessary preparations as possible.

    But when 35,000 people jump off a ledge, you can only catch so many in safety nets. The rest are going to fall.

    This is a professional competition that the public sometimes confuses with a company picnic.

    The runners who staged a neck-and-neck finish — Patrick Ivuti and Jaouad Gharib for the men, Berhane Adere and Adriana Pirtea for the women — were here to win, not merely to run.

    For the rest of you, did the words “hottest day in Chicago's 30-year race history” not even register?

    How many of you ran at your normal pace or faster, totally at your own peril, caught up in the thrill of the chase?

    Were you among the first to crab later about how the race let you down?

    By the time officials put a premature stop to this 8 a.m. race at about 11:35, had it not yet dawned on you that maybe you should already have walked off the course and lived to run on it another day?

    “They ought to move it to a later date,” one runner whined on TV.

    Yeah, how about November next time? Then you could run it in a blizzard and blame Chicago for your case of frostbite.

    Sympathy for the fallen is fine, but the sponsors weren't responsible for making them run.

    No one stages a 26.2-mile race for 45,000 people and guarantees, “Oh, by the way, you'll all be fine.”

    Marathons are not for the faint of heart. You run in one, you take your chances.

    If the water supply runs short, here's a helpful hint: Stop running. It's just a race. Don't die for it.

    Congratulations to the winners and the survivors. You signed up to be in a long, hard run? You got one.

    [email protected]

  • #23932

    The most interesting outcome of all, we'll have to wait for.  How long will it take Chicago 2008 to fill up?

    Just about any race that I've seen get bad press for decisions made due to weather, and we had a few up here in the last years with Fox Cities pulling people due to lightning, and Madison, Med Cities due to heat.  The numbers did NOT go down. 

  • #23933

    I hope it takes a while to fill-up next year.  I have been wanting to go back but don't like booking it a year in advance.

    That article posted is spot on.

  • #23934


    Very interesting article. Can't argue with it.

    Someone actually said Chicago should hold the marathon later in the year? Is this person not at all familiar with Chicago weather or does the person just enjoy blizzards more than heat?

    I'm with SBSpartan, for completely selfish reasons I'd love to see this cause Chicago to take a hit on registrations. I'd love to run Chicago again but I will not sign up as early as you have to in order to get into Chicago now.

    Not that I wish circumstances that are nearly 100% out of their control to cause them issues but, if Chicago fills up in July or August instead of April or May, is that really hurting them? Meanwhile, it would be a good thing for those of us who want to know we have a reasonable chance of being prepared for a performance that's worth the $100+ entry fee.

  • #23935

    The author is operating on the premise that runners are a sane lot.  😉

  • #23936

    Another piece, this one from the NYT penned by Frank Shorter:

    Op-Ed Contributor
    Running Into Trouble

    Published: October 12, 2007

    Boulder, Colo.

    AT the 16-mile mark of a very hot and humid marathon at the Pan American Games in Cali, Colombia, in 1971, I looked over at my good friend and teammate Kenny Moore and noticed something. “You’ve stopped sweating,” I said, trying to sound calm. Kenny looked at his dry forearms, and then his eyes got very big. Ten minutes later he was in an ambulance, incoherent with heat stroke.

    We had both expected extreme conditions and had prepared accordingly all summer. But it was not his day, and I went on the win the race. (The next summer, Kenny would finish fourth in the Olympic Marathon in Munich, which I won.) In Cali, my genetics had prevailed: some athletes simply handle heat and humidity better than others.

    For many runners — especially non-elite runners who, after all, are on the course much longer — last Sunday’s Chicago Marathon was Kenny Moore’s Cali experience writ large: temperatures in the 80s, dozens hospitalized, one death and the race halted. I was in Chicago, and after watching the elite runners finish, I took off on a 1 hour, 50 minute training run to see for myself what it was like. I think several factors combined to turn the race into a worst-case scenario.

    Lake Michigan was like glass, and I realized early in my run that I wasn’t being cooled by any wind. Even though the temperature/humidity index was in the danger zone, it was the stillness that slammed the door on the runners, and ultimately on the race itself.

    One theory I have is that when your body has to work so hard to get blood to your skin to cool off, the margin of error when you run above your level of ability shrinks substantially. Not being acclimated compounds the problem. Your perception of how much to slow down to avoid an emergency gets distorted. Blood flow that would normally be helping muscles recover from a pacing mistake is instead shunted to the skin for cooling.

    The organizers in Chicago were prepared for a hot race, though not one this hot — no one had expected the record temperatures, not even the top runners, who hadn’t made getting used to heat and humidity a part of their training. (It takes about two weeks to acclimate to hot, humid conditions.) If the runners at the back of the pack in Chicago — whose flat course tends to attract first-timers — were physiologically caught off guard, so were some of the elite runners.

    The weather was unique and dangerous, and as soon as that became apparent the organizers decided to get everyone to safety as soon as possible. To me it was obvious that concern for the runners came first and all other interests second.

    How can marathon participants — runners and organizers both — prepare for such conditions? Some thoughts:

    Make salt packets available at the start of races that are dangerously hot. In this context, salt is a good thing.

    Strip down. At the expo before the Chicago race, I advised men to go shirtless and women to wear as little as possible in order to maximize the refrigeration effect of wind against sweaty skin. (Unfortunately, this time there would be no wind.) The elite runners have learned this. In Chicago, I would have gone shirtless, and explained to my sponsors later.

    Have showers and misters at every aid station. In Chicago, drinking water ran out after runners poured hundreds of thousands of cups over their heads.

    Talk. Run at what I call a “conversational pace.” As long as you can carry on a normal conversation and don’t have to pause to get a breath, you’re getting enough oxygen. This is your only real protection against going over the edge to the point where your body has to recover, because in extreme conditions, you might discover that it can’t.

    Make clear to first-time marathoners what elite runners already know: in certain situations it’s important to back off from the gut feeling to exert yourself more and more just to maintain the pace.

    Change the standard ambulance procedures so that only those truly in danger are transported. Doctors will tell you that dehydration can often be initially handled on the scene, but many ambulance protocols call for sufferers to be transported automatically to the hospital.

    Make dropping out palatable. Runners, especially first-timers and those running for charity, should be given the option of getting their money back and perhaps a guaranteed entry at a major marathon in the near future. Race directors could easily cooperate on this. Peer-group and self-imposed pressure to follow through on months of training should be alleviated as much as possible. Fund-raising groups should underwrite a second try for those giving so much of themselves for the benefit of others.

    If necessary, turn off the clock.

    I hope the Chicago experience results in a more flexible attitude on the part of all race organizers in terms of giving runners the option of saving it for another day, and that inexperienced runners are motivated to learn all they can about what they’re getting themselves into. As for the elite runners — for whom it’s less of a health issue — my advice would still be to think of my friend Kenny Moore in Cali. Because no matter who you are, it just might not be your day.

    Frank Shorter, the 1972 Olympic gold medalist and 1976 Olympic silver medalist in the marathon, was the first chairman of the United States Anti-Doping Agency.

    To paraphrase a responding view that I saw elsewhere and agree with:
    Shorter makes a nice effort to support and defend the organizers and the sport, yet somebody should raise the view that these huge metropolitan marathons are bloated with barely-able participants who are the ones at the greatest risk when conditions turn out to be extreme.  These marathons do not help the sport, on the balance, what they help is those (sponsors and cities) who make money off of the marathons.  It makes a mockery of the sport and Shorter is not exactly helping.

  • #23937

    More, from Philip Hersh in the Tribune:

    A saner, safer race
    Smaller field would avert big problems

    Philip Hersh | On Olympic Sports
        October 9, 2007

    Sunday morning, I rode a bicycle with some friends to the 11-kilometer mark of the LaSalle Bank Chicago Marathon to cheer members of our cycling group who were running. We arrived at the same time as the lead women, whose pace was just under 6 minutes per mile, and we stayed long enough to see the 15-minutes-per-mile people.

    There was a dramatic change in the morphology of the runners as time passed. Nearly all those running from a 6- to 8-minute pace had bodies that suggested distance running — lean and average height. The slower the runners, the larger they were, the more obvious it was many should have chosen not to start in Sunday's extreme conditions — or ever.

    Although they had finished barely one-fourth of the race, thousands of the 45,000 entrants clearly were struggling.

    Many of the slowest are among those lured by the new mantra of marathon organizers, that the idea is not to run a marathon but simply to cover 26.2 miles, no matter how — or how long it takes.

    I decried that philosophy in a column after the 2001 Chicago race, suggesting qualifying standards were needed to “shrink a field (then 37,500) that seems to be stretching medical and other support services.”

    Those services were stretched past the breaking point Sunday. Race officials had no choice but to stop the race for those who had not reached the halfway point in 3 1/2 hours, because most people in that group lacked the experience to make the choice on their own.

    “What you had Sunday in Chicago was a recipe for disaster,” said David Martin, an exercise physiologist with such expertise in this area he is known as “Doctor Heat.”

    “You need to communicate as much as you can that if you are marginally fit, don't run. For all but the elite runners, this is a participating event, not an insisting event.”

    Chicago Marathon organizers had a news conference Saturday to warn entrants of the hazards they could face and offer wide-ranging advice that included: “Wear light clothing.”

    How critical is clothing? Two-time Chicago champion Catherine Ndereba of Kenya said “I wish I could have run naked” after wearing a small singlet and shorts while winning this year's world championship marathon in 90-degree heat with 60 percent humidity. Yet I saw people Sunday running in tights and long-sleeved shirts.

    People dressed that way, among others, clearly would be challenged to cool their race-day adrenaline and make a rational judgment about the dangers of continuing an event with a liability waiver that says it “involves rigorous physical activity and … potentially may be hazardous.”

    At the other end of the preparedness scale was Renaud Longuevre, 36, of France.

    Longuevre, coach of 2005 world champion hurdler Ladji Doucoure and author of a weekly fitness column in a French sports magazine, had run two previous marathons, with a personal best of 3:55.

    Sunday, he filled six bottles with a mixture of grape juice (simple sugars for energy), water (basic hydration) and salt (crucial body salts are lost through perspiration). His wife, Celine, a first-time visitor to Chicago, studied a course map to plan where she could give her husband the bottles and rented a bicycle to get there.

    The plan worked perfectly. Renaud Longuevre realigned his goal from 3:45 to four hours, found his wife at every planned fluid drop-off point and finished in 3:59:50, complaining only of leg soreness all marathoners experience.

    The debate over whether Sunday's marathon had enough fluids for runners less prepared than Longuevre likely will not yield a definitive result. (For a fascinating panoply of opinions, read the responses to Eric Zorn's blog at ).

    “I don't think anyone in the world would imagine a scenario like what happened in Chicago,” Martin said. “It was a one-time set of factors — heat, lack of cloud cover, humidity. You don't have a contingency plan for that, except what they did in stopping the race.

    “You buy paper cups for 45,000 people, but you need cups for 130,000 because people were drinking from one cup and pouring two over their heads.”

    To me, the answer is simple: Reduce the field with qualifying standards, which should mean fitter runners and fewer people to help in extreme weather.

    To the organizers, the revenue from a $110 entry fee is too tempting (Chicago took in nearly $1 million from 9,000 entrants who did not start). But a smaller field should mean smaller expenses.

    And, perhaps, smaller runners.

    A marathon is not for everybody. It is well past the time for race organizers and many would-be participants to realize that. Both sides are equally guilty of impaired judgment.

    [email protected],0,7160901.column

  • #23938


    Very interesting perspectives by Shorter and Hersh. Sure to stir up some controversy but hopefully Hersh's especially won't be dismissed without consideration as “elitist” because it does bring up very valid points (I would be less likely to believe Shorter's would be dismissed as “elitist” but can see the trigger points within Hersh's column).

  • #23939

    Well, what is wrong with “elitism” as it relates to marathon races?  What is the essential premise of a marathon race?  What are the alternatives to “elitism” and what have they really done for the sport of marathon racing?  As pointed out in an earlier column, “[this] is a professional competition that the public sometimes confuses with a company picnic.”  8)

  • #23940

    Well, what is wrong with “elitism” as it relates to marathon races?  What is the essential premise of a marathon race?  What are the alternatives to “elitism” and what have they really done for the sport of marathon racing?  As pointed out in an earlier column, “[this] is a professional competition that the public sometimes confuses with a company picnic.”  8)

    depends on what “elitism” is.  Is it ability or state of mind?    Some elites don't have elitist state of mind imho.  Open up any book they've written and it reeks of “run the marathon effortlessly” or “couch to marathon in 12 weeks”  “you can walk/run your best marathon”  “run your first marathon to finish”.

    Unless your name is Sergei and you run as your occupation, why would you not train and run the marathon at your best.  Sergei might “reel it in” if he has the win, so he can win another next month.  I don't understand why 98% of the people would pay money to walk a marathon…….time after time after…..oh wait……thank you Dean Karnazes for making mediocre praiseworthy.

  • #23941


    Sue, I agree that it depends what “elitism” is but I think I've seen different definitions.

    If “elitism” is celebration of the great accomplishments of the best in the sport, then I'm all for it and I will proudly call myself an elitist.

    If “elitism” is, as some claim, an attempt to negate the accomplishments of slower runners by saying that only the elites are “worthy”, then first I don't think there are many “elitist” people out there and second I think claims against those articles would be false.

  • #23942

    I have run 5 marathons with times from 3:42 to 4:08.  I am not fast but I really don't train to be fast so it's my own fault.  However, I agree with Sue as I do feel a bit like an elitist sometimes and being the only marathoner in my group of friends I get treated with a sense of awe sometimes.  If you ask me I would say you have to have a bit of that in you in order to make it though the mental side of the run.

    Hopefully, I can break my PR in Rhode Island on Saturday.  It's not really my goal but I am in much better shape than I have been for my other 5 runs so I think it will just happen.  If the weather is good and I feel good I think I can do it.

  • #23943


    Is it colder at the Badwater Ultra – are those runners half camel?

    Both the runners and the organizers share fault.  There should be no blaming but that is what this country is coming to – blame then sue.

    When I was in the military if some manuvers failed or a tank crew failed to qualify at any of the tank exercises we didn't run around blaming conditions that existed at the time. 

    We analyzed what occured and planned on how to correct that for the next run (down range).

    This should be a good learning experience for all race organizers and runners alike,

  • #23944

    Is it colder at the Badwater Ultra – are those runners half camel?

    BW135 is usually well above 100F, more like 120F. Runners run on the white line since the black asphalt may melt some shoes. BUT the runners are experienced and have to demonstrate some level of preparation beforehand. They must have a crew, actually 2 vans (one stays with runner and other resupplies ice, etc), I think. Over most of the course their crew provides fluids, food, ice, ice bath (coffin has been used), shade, etc. There's places where the runners can “stake” themselves out (leave stake at side of road where they leave course) to go to a motel for some sleep. They train specifically for this – running or at least staying in saunas for fixed periods of time, gradually building their time in the heat.

    This is true for most of the races that have non-standard weather – whether it's Alaskan / Yukon / MN winter or Sahara dry heat or Brazil's jungle heat. There's a lot of specific training that goes into those races – well beyond just cranking up the mileage. In many / most of them, there may be little to no support (or very widely spaced) provided by the organizers.

  • #23945


    My point was that 90F should not be cause to shut down a race – running out of a reliable water source is good cause.

    Obviously runners were not adequetly hydrating themselves and should have walked or quit if there was no reliable water available.

    As running challenged as I am, I stopped running and started walking on a long run one hot summer day because I had run out of water and started to see some signs of dehydration begining. Sure I didn't pay money for the long run – but needing medical attention AND not finishing the race did not make the entry fee worthwhile.

    If I had been involved and saw water tables empty and were forced to quit (by my own forethought of safety) I would ask for a half refund or free pass for next year due to the lack of water only.

  • #23946


    Ed, we don't know yet that Chicago won't be offering them partial discounts or free or discounted entry next year. People who are all up in arms about “not being allowed to finish” should just relax for a bit and see what happens.

    Also, Chicago probably has grounds to say tough luck, though I doubt they will. Most races include somewhere in their runner packets or waivers that the race has the right to cancel the event due to severe weather.

    By the way, I'm still hearing conflicting stories about some of the aid stations. Runners are reporting that the 6 mile aid station was out but I just heard from someone who was working at the 6 mile aid station that they had enough water left over after everyone had cleared that their water was sent to the finish line area in order to help supply the impromptu aid station. There's some question as to whether one side of the street ran out of water and the other did not or the volunteers couldn't pour the water as fast as the runners were taking it.

    There seems to be no question at this point that at least a few aid stations did run out. However, it seems like others were not out. If runners couldn't get anything at them, it was a distribution problem, not a supply problem. I don't know if this makes the situation any better other than saying there weren't the widespread drastic shortages in supplies that some people have been reporting (though there were still some shortages at least at some locations, not to mention the distribution issues).

  • #23947

    there are lots of issues that all came to a head in Chicago… most have been mentioned already…
    1. race officials getting greedy and taking too many runners to handle in bad logistical conditions.
    2. runners not really being in shape ('only finish' mentality)
    3. oppressive heat
    4. water SNAFU, no salt, not enough gatorade (some friends of mine helped at the aid station in mile 12/13 area)

    but when the guy said 'no one forced you to run' he discounts people who did fund raising and truly feel they have to complete 'for the cause'

    when Frank Shorter said “conversational pace” he couldn't have taken into account the people who would be walking to begin with… and maybe he should have been one person to come out with more of an 'elitism' comment as he IS an ELITE and had been for 30 years… we need people to get back to thinking that not everyone should 'run' a marathon…

    I saw some clips of the race and incredibly there were people with tights, several men who made me look even more flat chested than I am and one guy who had a camelback that said the he had run out of water by the half way point… 50 ounces in 13 miles? was he bathing in it?

    it might seem that they should worry about entries for next year, but I'll bet it still fills up, they might get lucky and have GREAT weather and all will be forgotten…it would be nice to think that the people who run marathons from now on would be better trained, but I doubt it…

  • #23948

    we need people to get back to thinking that not everyone should 'run' a marathon…

    Not everyone should even enter a marathon — the marathon is not for everyone.  This is an inconvenient truth that flies in the face of a much broader societal mindset.  Take a look at what has been happening on Everest, as another example. 
    In all likelihood Chicago will have fine weather next year and for years to come and 2007 will become mostly forgotten, as with most other alleged crises and tragedies.

  • #23949


    I agree –

    The short attention span that Americans have is ridiculous.  All will be forgoten by the time Christmas is celebrated.

  • #23950

    Perhaps nearly rivaled by how prone Americans are to hysterics and to losing sight of a broader perspective?  8)

  • #23951

    Just discovered this item from Running Stats:

    Issue No. 980 – 10/16/2007
    Marathon Global Warming
    Monday, 15Oct07 – Boulder, CO

    An avalanche of material already has been produced following the LaSalle Bank Chicago Marathon, most of it directly concerned with the adverse conditions and how the excessive heat and humidity affected thousands on race day.

    The Chicago weather situation was not unique. Many events over the years have had problematic conditions causing a great deal of participation aggravation, not to mention the occasional heart attack or death that, given the numbers participating in any activity requiring motion, might well occur anyway.

    Historically over time in the development of marathon fields, a transition occurred, reducing the entry requirements and altering the nature of the 26.2-mile race into what, for many, has become not much more than a difficult fun run or walk. Therein lies the first rub. One can easily argue that a marathon was designed to be a running race, not a walk in the park for an hour or so—or for many thousands now completing marathons, a walk of six hours or more.

    But first lets look at the pros and cons of expanding fields indiscriminately to the point that any average citizen, whether fit or unfit, may now pay his or her $60-100 or more to enter a marathon event of 26.2 miles. After all, for an event to continue successfully, it must resemble the human body: all organs as well as extremities must remain healthy to function properly.

    Increasing entries numbers pay more bills in a number of ways. Thirty thousand runners at a $100 entry fee each totals $3,000,000. This is not chump change. Such massive amounts pay not only for elite athletes to provide a locomotive at the front of the train that drives television, internet and newspaper publicity. But as entry numbers increase, so to do cash or in-kind contributions or services from many providers from airlines to hotels, shoe and apparel companies, food and drink purveyors, etc. Economies of scale take hold, and many charities enjoy the largesse of the expanded revenues both from mass participation numbers and corporate and individual sponsorship enlistments by those running or walking.

    Even though legions of semi-fit or unfit runners and walkers are permitted to enter marathons, their entry fees help to defray huge expenses. There is the hope that eventually some percentage of such semi-fit or unfit souls will eventually be inspired to trim their weight, run more miles, become more fit, and take a broader interest in the elite characters whom they may partially attempt to emulate in the future.The sport at the front helps encourage improvements in fitness, health, as well as interest in those who act as zephyr-like bipedal role models.

    On the other hand, in a country where sporting money draws headlines and, say, golf pays 100 deep or more beginning at more than a million dollars for 1st, major marathons often pay only five or 10 deep, with a best of about $100,000.

    Sometimes this is partly due to charities siphoning off a significant percentage of revenues. There can be no doubt that charitable contributions are worthwhile, however, and create goodwill in the community.

    Yet an even bigger reason major marathons offer prize money which hasn’t increased all that much over the past years is that often the sport and events are saddled with paying for international internet coverage when the best television they can hope for is either regional or condensed and delayed national or international coverage. At any rate, the sport, at least in the USA, doesn’t at this point have enough interest to generate being paid by TV for the rights to broadcast their elite contests at the front. A rising tide of talented, animated Americans performing well at these events could over time change public interest. Yet that is another story for another day.

    Weather is a huge factor in an event requiring movement for two to six or more hours. Adverse conditions can play havoc with almost anyone. Hot and humid weather as beset Chicago in early October, for instance, hits particularly hard among the unfit and overweight. The longer anyone is out on a marathon course in the heat, cold, rain, snow or wind, the more their condition can deteriorate through dehydration, exposure, and/or fatigue.

    So what can be done to alleviate such dilemmas as that which occurred in Chicago, where many thousands chose not to start and many thousands more were either unable to finish, or understandably for safety reasons were told because they couldn’t reach halfway by noon, that they could not continue due to danger to their health?

    Distance running athletic agent Brendan Reilly was also in Rotterdam when that marathon event, as well, was forced to shut down. His elite athletes Adriana Pirtea and Daniel Njenga respectively finished 2nd and 3rd in Chicago, and days afterwards in chatting with him, the following ideas were batted around:

    Reschedule date: In response to global warming and perhaps the most crowded worldwide monthly calendar in October, reschedule to November. This probably would not work for Chicago, which could experience winter weather in November and already has announced their 2008 date as October 12th; yet Chicago could eventually move back to the third weekend in October, a period of the month normally cooler.

    Start earlier: Instead of beginning at 8 or 9 in the morning, follow tropical Honolulu’s example: to delay the impact of heat the JAL Honolulu Marathon begins at 5:00 a.m. Mainland U.S. and other international races could consider 6 or 7:00 a.m. Many people would love to have their running completed by noon, so that resting in the afternoon could lead to celebrations on race day evening.

    Check weather web site: Have a pre-race time and designated media location (internet site) at which time and location entrants can check to see if the starting time has been moved earlier due to heat or storm related conditions. To accommodate planning when bad weather is predicted to persist through marathon day, the designated time could even be before the expo begins.

    Add more misting stations: As Frank Shorter suggested in a New York Times piece, provide more misting stations. Providing more cups of water and electrolyte replacement drinks on hot days also makes sense, but it is difficult when each aid station budgets one cup per runner, while each takes 2-4, several of which they pour over their heads.

    Sliding entry fee scale: Have a sliding entry fee scale, according to previous marathon, half marathon or longer distance entry time requirements. To increase the chances that an entrant can go the marathon distance, require that they have completed at least a half marathon. Then use an average finishing time from three (three instead of one to avoid entry time fudging or course cutting to secure same) preliminary events to determine entry category. Say you have a 2:10-3:00 (or combination 1:00-1:30 half marathon & 42:00-1:10 15K, etc.) preliminary average time from three marathons – the entry fee is $60; 3:00-4:00 – the entry fee increases to $100; 4:00-5:00 an entrant pays $125; over 5:00 or for those with no preliminary qualifying times, the price goes up to $150. Why? Because corresponding costs include providing more water, holding police in place longer, closing roads for a longer period of time, keeping volunteers in place longer, etc.

    Slow running and walking—only for marathons or longer, and not for shorter charity runs and walks—should come at a premium. Runners could still enter any shorter distances for a single price without regard to qualifying times or level of fitness. The sliding scale for marathons, however, also would encourage runners to improve over time to lower their marathon entry fees.

    Have event partially match charity donations according to average runner clockings: Charitable funds raised by individual runners with enlisted sponsors could be partially matched by the event according to average finishing times of those runners. Again, this would encourage time improvements by those enlisted by charities to finish a marathon.

    Create marathon weekend shorter event: If a marathon is on Sunday, but any given charity wants to maximize its revenue intake by enlisting runners, create a 10 mile or half marathon event on race weekend Saturday (or could be simultaneously held on Sunday during main event) in which charity runners can participate. The hope would be that running 10M or 21.1K might encourage such shorter race entrants to develop the ability to participate in the longer marathon distance in a future year when they are better prepared.

    Those are just some food-for-thought ideas for general entrants.

    Increase prize and weather-related bonus money: Concomitantly for elite entrants that generate publicity, not only could prize money placings and amounts be increased, but a bonus schedule adjunct more in line with adverse weather for larger races could be instigated as once initiated by the New York City Marathon. The latter bonuses could still be achieved above a certain temperature/humidity basis or when winds exceed a certain average velocity, by changing bonus time requirements accordingly.

    “Another possibility is to remind participants that this is an athletic event and not a charity walk, and a rolling set of cut-off times along the course would encourage people to acquire a certain level of fitness to enter,” says Reilly. “For example, everyone might have to be through halfway in 3 hours, or 20 miles in 5 hours, with the race shut down at 7 hours.”

    Reilly also made a comparison to golf which might be apropos. “You wouldn’t have a pro-am golf tournament where you tell anyone to finish your 18 holes, whether it takes you 200 strokes or 87.”

    After all, a marathon was conceived as a testing athletic contest. Perhaps a gradual return more in alignment with that concept might be good for anyone in the future entertaining participation. “This encourages the charities and their coaching programs to think of a minimum of time goals rather than just to finish in unlimited time, which anyone can do,” added Reilly. “ The event is about more than the distance, it is an athletic event, and time is of much consideration as the distance.”

    Running a marathon indeed remains one of distance running’s most fulfilling challenges, rendering a dramatic sense of accomplishment. As the reading on one’s chronograph over time shows improved results only derived from hard work and a job well done, that sense resonates through other facets of life.

  • #23952

    I like the idea of a sliding entry fee for the BIG EVENTS…sorta splits the marathon into groups: elite, competitive, recreational, walkers… not that I have any desire to run any of the big ones… I'm much more fond of the smaller races that don't seem to have these issues…

  • #23953


    There are a few ideas in there that I really like. The most simple, one I would expect to see in Chicago next year, would be misting stations at the aid stations.

    Having an earlier start time or changing start times could have all kinds of logistical issues. Changing start times for a race like Chicago would require city wide changes that would be difficult to do on short notice. Having an earlier start time would probably work for a marathon like Chicago where they have a relatively convenient staging area but could be difficult in races with staging areas that are harder to get to.

    Personally, I really like the ideas of a sliding scale for entry fees, performance based charity matching, and weather-related bonus money. These three things give nearly everyone who runs a marathon a financial incentive. The first gives everyone who is not getting a comped entry an incentive to run faster in order to save money on the entry fee. The second gives a lot of people who are not always thinking of anything but raising the charity money an incentive to think about their performances. Such an incentive may induce some into more adequate training, resulting in fewer problems on difficult days. The third gives the elites incentives on days when the usual performance incentives may be out of reach.

    The best idea of all, in my mind at least, is including an event of shorter distance. In addition to that, we have to get people back to the mindset that a marathon is not something to just jump into without building up through the shorter races. As mentioned in the time incentive comments, maybe it's time for marathons to require that all entrants have completed a race of half marathon distance or longer within the past X time (maybe 2 years). Before allowing people into your marathon, make sure they have proven that they are ready. For those who aren't ready, offer a shorter alternative. Grandma's does this with great success. In fact, they have the half marathon held in conjunction with the marathon and they also have a 5k held on race weekend. All three races are very popular events.

  • #23954

    The only thing that really makes sense to me is to include a half in Chicago.  It's really a great idea if you want to hit a big registration number because now more levels of runners can have the experience of running a giant event like Chicago and be safe about it.

    Personally I really like Chicago.  Maybe because it was my first race and where I have my PR.  That said, I do really like smaller races on more challenging courses.  While I get a lot of joy out of the “Chicago Experience” and all of the people you get cheering for you, I get just as much from getting up a steep long hill late in a race and maybe not running as fast of a time.

    Sidenote – Rhode Island is a really fun race.  It is very beautiful.  In fact, I can't imagine a more pretty course.  It's VERY challenging though and a small race.  Newport, RI is a really cool little town as well.  They did change the course from previous years from what I heard and they did a lousy job of getting police/volunteer support at intersections and the course was not coned off anyplace.  So basically you were on the side of the road with little room and an uncomfortable amount of traffic.  Not good.  I am sure they will fix that for next year.

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