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Monday, October 8, 2007

More on Chicago

Read some of the debate on the Chicago Marathon...

Let's talk about this some more.

Without a doubt, the marathon was a disaster. So, was calling it off the right thing? Yes, I think so. At that point, everything had gone too far downhill. They were at a point where the marathon organizers, LaSalle Bank, the City of Chicago, and everyone else involved were risking lawsuits. As much as I'd like to agree that runners should be able to decide if they go on or not, the fact of the matter is that we sue in this country too much and that just feeds more and more the idea that companies and organizations have a responsibility to protect us from ourselves and our own stupidity. Plus, someone who has just run 16+ miles in 88 degree weather and is suffering from hyperthermia and dehydration is unlikely to make a rational decision either - especially when they've been training for 5 months. You get taught to run through everything, keep going even if it hurts, so you do. It's that simple. I can't even say with accuracy if I'd have stopped or not.

Chicago, New York, Marine Corps, Boston and all of the largest marathons in large cities should really think about this. There should have been a lot of ways to prevent a screw up like this. Yes, weather is unpredictable, but it's not unpredictable days in advance and enough water should have been brought in. As much water as possible. There should have been more volunteers, and attention should have been given to the back of the packers, who are out longer and face a much larger danger of dehydration and heat exhaustion. You ALWAYS want more water than less, because you can't get the water to the water stops during the race because the roads are closed. There should be contingency plans, and um, they should work.

Some suggested starting the race earlier. Well, if you make that a regular thing, you risk evil Chicago wintery weather that could be just as miserable. Changing the start time a day or two before the race is more difficult than I think people realize. It's not just getting word out to runners, it's coordinating an entire city and a ton of volunteers - not everyone can just up and change their plans and changing the start time might have resulted in less volunteers and therefore less water. Although it would have helped... this year... if it were possible.

Disney can do things a little easier, since they're on Disney property, most of the volunteers are Disney castmembers, and they have access to a lot of bottled water and beverages just for the parks. And, well, they're sort of good at managing crowds. It's what they do. I don't think the other cities have the same ability to manage 30,000 people who are out doing one of the world's ultimate tests of will. Every single person puts themselves in some sort of danger when they choose to run a marathon. What to do when circumstances happen and those 30,000 are taking even more of a risk? Chicago and New York are always challenging each other to see who can have the title of largest marathon. Maybe, in the interest of safety, we should think about reducing those numbers a bit.

NOTE: For the record, Baltimore had water troubles in 2005 and they're a much smaller marathon - the city's residents stole the water. Get my hands on those guys.

Who knows. Hindsight is 20/20, but I do think that race organizers should pay close attention and do something to make sure that there isn't a repeat of this. It's only going to get hotter, guys.

1 comment:

Mary said...

I agree with you; the easiest possible thing they could have done to prevent the problems was to make sure they had more water and it doesn't seem that was done. I've also heard that the Baltimore Marathon, after 2005, now sends armed police officers to guard the water supply the day of the race.

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