Posted by: Joe English | October 8, 2007

Race Report: Chicago Marathon Heat (Guest writer)

For more Chicago Marathon race coverage, click here.

My friend Megan read my race reporting from Chicago and sent over the following in response. Megan and I know each other from our days when we lived in Phoenix, Arizona. We raced together in the hottest of hot weather – so she knows heat. Here’s what she had to say about the Chicago experience this year:

I ran the race yesterday; and, you know that I know heat, having done most of my racing and training in Arizona. But, I’ve never seen anything like it.

For the slower runners, the only evidence that you were standing in what was an aid station was the fact that there were scores of cups on the ground discarded by the faster runners who had depleted the fluids. We obviously had no hard feelings toward them, although I’ve heard that some of the faster runners are actually were feeling guilty later for taking more than one cup of water or gatorade – but there was no way for them to know that the aid stations would later be so under stocked with cups and fluids.

It was so bad that, during the first 8 miles, runners resorted to drinking out of the decorative fountains in front of apartment buildings and near the zoo. People who had thought to bring money with them went to local convenience stores to buy their own fluids and ice… or those with cell phones and support along the course called ahead to insure that friends and family would have fluids for them later in the race. For those with neither, it was a run and hope situation…

The race organizers did apparently put additional cooling services along the course, but not until miles 20-26. So, for those of us who would be out on the course for 4 hours before getting to that mileage (and had gone multiple miles with no water or gatorade) it was too little, too late. People were falling apart within the first 3-4 miles… I’ve never seen so many bodies on the side of the road or so many people walking (and dejected) so early in the race.

Also, the communication that the race was being closed, or cancelled, or cut short was not, in my opinion, managed well. It started as what was perceived to be a rumor coming from the police along the course, but no one knew what was going on or where they were supposed to go.

I had to make the difficult decision to stop running at the half-marathon mark (among rumors that the course was closing). But, I couldn’t find anyone from the race to inform them of my decision to withdraw. I finally came upon a couple of police officers and asked them what I needed to do to drop out. They told me to just stop running and figure out how to get back to my hotel on my own.

But, KUDOS to the spectators!!! There were far fewer of them than last year due to the heat…but, the ones who were out there were amazing. People of all ages were sharing, or giving away, their own personal water and gatorade. Folks living along the course were out with hoses to cool off the runners. Folks were going into stores and buying cases of water and bags of ice to share with the lucky runners who were nearby when they came out to share it.

Business owners too were helping aid stations and runners alike by providing water (one ran out of cups and started giving out water in bowls instead). It was an amazing series of humanitarian moments in the midst of chaos and mayhem.

Thanks to Megan for sharing her story with us.

Coach Joe English, Portland Oregon USA

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  1. Do we live in the U.S.? The stories I’ve read today remind me of scenes of hungry people when food is delivered. It’s a sad day when races run out of water. It’s making no sense to me at all.

  2. Joe,
    Jeff M. ran it also. He ran 3:22… was aiming for 2:47… he said conditions were brutal. Karla who was aiming for an Olympic trials qualifier, went through half way in 1:29 and called it a day. THIS is smart runnign. I wish more people would do this. They spend 4-6 months preparing for marathons then, leave it to the whim of weather as to whether they run a PR, qualify for Boston or the trials. Why? That is insane thinking. I’ve done this for too many years and I still don’t know why someone puts all their eggs in one basket. I ALWAYS ask (urge!) all my marathoners to have a back up plan. If race day is bad (eveni fit is NOT the weather) cash it in, and DON”T lose all those months of training on a failed effort that will kill you in trying to recover for another race. DNF!!!!! Then you can treat it like a good training run and get ready only weeks later for a full out effort. Karla did what smart runners do. Jeff did what he’s always known…. just don’t quit.. In the end, Karla will be the one who “wins” as well as those 10,000 who decided not to start on Sunday.
    Coach Dean

  3. […] Wild with Coach Joe Race Report: Chicago Marathon Heat (Guest writer)Select photos from 2007 Portland MarathonRaces: Portland Marathon 2007Races: Chicago Marathon 2007 […]

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