Nearly 10,000 of the 45,000 registered runners in this past weekend’s Chicago Marathon chose to not race in the heat despite promises by organizers of a host of mist stations, cooling buses, and water-soaked sponges available all along the route. It seems that they made a wise decision.
Just four hours into the race, organizers were forced to shut down the entire course because of 88-degree heat and sweltering humidity that left at least one runner dead and sent at least 50 more to area hospitals. Emergency medical personnel treated another 250 runners for heat exhaustion and dehydration. Chad Schieber, an experienced 35-year-old runner and police officer from Michigan, collapsed midway through the race and was shortly thereafter pronounced dead by the Cook County medical examiner's office.
At first, organizers hoped those who passed the halfway mark could complete the run. The fire department turned on hydrants to hose people down along the course. But eventually when shortages of water and energy drinks were reported all along the route, runners were diverted by police, firemen, and volunteers to the starting area, where they were provided with medical attention and cooling misters. Helicopters hovered over the race course while police officers shouted through bullhorns to warn runners to slow down and walk.
This should be a great reminder to all of us to pay attention to our bodies, to run smart, and to never allow our goals to get in the way of our common sense. If I'd been in Chicago, I hope that I would have had the wisdom to stop running when I began to seriously overheat--as I most assuredly would have. Sometimes discretion is the better part of valor.