Monday, October 08, 2007

Humidity and Heat Shuts Down the Chicago Marathon (AP)

Record-breaking heat and humidity forced Race Directors to cancel the Chicago Marathon about 3 hours into the race. Those that hadn't made it to the halfway mark were told to stop (like John Ruberry) - those that had were asked to stop because "we're out of ambulances". I have never been to Chicago when it's 88 degrees and humid, but it sounds pretty bad. But these Chicago runners are tough - of 35,867 runners at the start, 24,933 finished, Kenya's Patrick Ivuti edged Morocco's Jaouad Gharib to win in 2:11.11, and Ethiopia's Berhane Adere (2:33.49) finished just three-tenths of a second in front of Adrianna Pirtea of Romania. You can read more from the Chicago Sun-Times here.

(Chicago firefighters help cool runners, photo courtesy of AP)

Unfortunately, one man died on the course - Chad Schieber, a police officer and father of three from Midland, Mich., who was running with his wife. All my best to his family.

- SD


  1. Well, someone on the ultralist said we need qualifications for running a marathon. I ahven't read a thread on the list, only topic names, and haven't followed the Chicago marathon official report (although did check out female finishing kick - wow!), but 2 things from different perspective come to mind:
    1. people DO need to be better prepared to run a marathon, in heat including. There was VT100 in 2005 at 95F and 90% humidity. there was WS100 in 2006 with temp above 110F (105F official) in canyons. Then there is Badwater. Are we different bread? I doubt so. We are better prepared - yet we fail too, but the race is not cancelled.
    2. since there so no qualifications for a marathon, than as runners pay big bucks, the race officials better handle the fact that there will be casualities. Water and ambulance including. It is not volunteers fault, but surely directors, and they've got enough money to pull things better (they do have it for winning prizes, don't they?)
    I have very mixed feelings about this whole "entering the marathon and beyond" string. I did it at some point. I read gazillion books and trained as those books described, heat and water including. Have some respect for the distance, please. just because we have 5 marathons every weekend and every person jumps in, doesn't mean we should take it lightly. At the same time, I am all for challenging personal limits, getting of your butt and going out there. I am not the one who knows the solution...

    BTW, all of it has nothing to do with a death of one runner - I heard he died of heart condition. Things happen everywhere. Charging in 90F probably didn't help, but it is A case in millions, ultrarunning had those too, and in better weather at it.

  2. I'll start out by saying "Humans can adapt their bodies to run in hot & humid conditions." But failure to adapt does not necessarily result in heat stroke or heat illness. It can make you slow down and really feel like crap, though. I think many of the folks that "needed medical attention" may have fallen into this latter category, and helped to overload Chicago's medical infrastructure.

    There is a wide-held belief that "anyone can run a marathon" with little or no training. "The marathon is the new 10K," and "the Ultramarathon is the new marathon." What people forget is, even "Oprah" trained hard (with a personal trainer) to accomplish her goal of running a marathon safely. People need to respect the distance! Most experienced runners respect EVERY DISTANCE that they run, including 5Ks. If you're running any distance at your limit, you can "blow-up" and keel-over, if the circumstances are ripe for disaster.

    Chicago always attracts tons of marathon newbies. I wonder how many first-time marathoners were at this year's Chicago? Remembering back to my first marathon: I was under-trained and clueless about what I was getting into. I was a totally stupid Newbie. Yes, I finished; but I suffered severely for days, and couldn't/wouldn't run for weeks afterward. I learned from my experience, but I'm still amazed when I talk to some would-be first time marathoners. Many have not trained for the hot/cold or hilly conditions, and some (gym-based newbies) haven't even run on a real surface (outside) before.

    Knowing how ignorant some of these first-timers can be, any organization hosting a non-qualifying long-distance event should be wary. Especially if it is a mega-sized event like Chicago. There were 45,000 entrants signed-up for Chicago. 10,000 didn't even attempt it, and 24,000 finished, but the city's ambulances, etcetera were still stretched to the limit. What if the other 10,000 DNS-ers HAD shown up? When is a race TOO BIG for race management (and a city's infrastructure) to handle? Other major events limit their field. Even relatively "small" events in the Ultra & Tri world limit their size, based on what they can handle. Maybe Chicago should at least consider it.

    Happy trails,
    Bad Ben

  3. I was going to post about this on my blog this morning, but I figured you would do the honors Scott. I agree with Olga that ultra runners are not a different breed, ultra events are just different. No one considered cancelling States in 06, but plenty DNF'd due to heat induced issues. That kind of thing is just expected at an ultra. I think Ben makes a real point when talking about field limitations. You simply have to know as the RD that there will be people in your event who didn't respect the distance to train hard enough. I think it's super important to have these marathons continue to be races that "anyone" can enter (not all becoming elite events that require a qualification) but perhaps that means limiting the field and/or making more effort towards promoting the proper training for your event.
    It's a bummer, but I hope the fact that someone died doesn't spark one of those stupid rampages in the media about how running that far is not good for you. I'm sure the heat did not help that man, but I know it was not the sole cause of his death.
    Anyway, thanks for the posting Scott. This is sure to provoke some good discussion.

  4. I remember my Dad, a doctor, once told me "get any group of 30,000 people together to exercise and somebody isn't going to make it through the day". Odds are at these races is that somebody is going to have their final race.

    Frankly I was surprised it wasn't the RD who had the heart attack! That must have been a stressful day.


  5. I'm an ultrarunner and I also run the Chicago marathon each year. I always carry a water bottle with me which I fill at the aid stations which made a world of difference for this race. It was a combination of the heat and the high humidity which made it so brutal. I've always found the Chicago Marathon to be the best run race of the year for me. It was just an unfortunate series of events. They increased the rations to 50 cups of water and gatorade for each runner - who could have guessed that wouldn't be enough? They didn't count for all the people dumping water over the heads at every stop. I hope Chicago doesn't get a black mark for this race, because it could have happened anywhere.


  6. Hi there - just surfing around on a search for chicago marathon and saw your great blog. I really oughta start blogging about my racing. 2007 WAS my first marathon, and as much as I sympathize with the agony of all the folks who trained hard and couldn't finish or had times that seriously upset them, I personally LOVED it and felt that the heat made it that much more a triumph and an incredible experience. The city was still out cheering in full force after the race was "called off" and helicopters were buzzing us with megaphones telling us to stop running, people were bring us water from their taps, running their hoses out to the street for us, it really brought out a lot of amazing, unexpected volunteers from the woodwork. The euphoria that I hear is a part of many marathons was really in full gear for me, I'll never forget it....and because of the heat, neither will anyone else in this great town! Blessings on the families of the deceased, and on the injured, of course, but for me this race was a triumph, despite my finishing an hour after I'd hoped (5:19 instead of the 4:20 I'd trained at)...I finished a 20 mile training run in 3:50 so I was feeling good.

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