Monday, October 08, 2007
Hot, Hotter, Hottest
I'll get to the LaSalle Bank Chicago Marathon in just a bit. But first: I flew to Phoenix last Wednesday for the SRP [Salt River Project] kickoff to the training for the P.F. Chang's Rock 'n' Roll Marathon and Half Marathon in January. When I stepped off the plane it was about 95 degrees. I know, it's a dry heat! But still, that's HOT!
The kickoff run is along one of the canals that help supply electricty to the city of Phoenix. I'm not a techo-guy, so I don't understand what it is that they do, but it works.
This year's RnR Arizona is going to be the biggest EVER with over 35,000 participants expected.
Unless you've been in a cave you know that yesterday's LaSalle Bank Chicago Marathon was nothing short of a nightmare. The record-breaking heat and humidity turned the race into a dangerous situation for everyone involved.
All of us who put on events worry about the doomsday scenario. We all do our best to look at best-case, worst-case, and doomsday possibilities. I think that yesterday's race was beyond anyone's imagination.
My own explanation is that it was a bit like the Katrina disaster. Yes, the organizers knew that the weather would be a factor. Yes, the organizers did make some accomodations. Yes, they did have more water and Gatorade than normal. But, then things just started going from bad to worse.
I spent all day on the course at various locations. By an hour into the race it was clear that there was trouble. Participants were already complaining that there weren't fluids available to them. By the time I moved from mile 8 to mile 14 the situation had deteriorated to the point where volunteers were filling empty water jugs in restaurant bathrooms just to try to give the runners some relief.
By the time the race was "called" and the clocks stops, many of the participants were already in trouble. We diverted those that hadn't passed the 17 mile mark directly back to the start/finish area. At that point I went to mile 25 1/2 to try to help with those folks who had somehow managed to finish.
A couple of thoughts. One, I was extremely pleased and proud of the reaction the Chicago Police, Fire, Emergency Medical, and Transit Authority. With very little guidance, in a circumstance that one officer described as "pandimonium", they worked together to find ways to help the participants. They opened hydrants, cared for downed runners, kept the traffic a bay, brought in extra buses, and more. It was fantastic.
Second, although the event organizers will certainly have to take some responsibility, this truly was one of those situations that is so far beyond anyone's imagination that I'm not sure what more could have been done.
I'm off to San Jose on Thursday [sing along: do you know that way to San Jose?] I'll be back with you from there.