Chicago Marathon Runners, Organizer At Odds Over Race Preparation

Tuesday, October 9th 2007, 7:40 am
By: News On 6

CHICAGO (AP) _ Chicago Marathon organizers defended their preparation for a brutally hot marathon as runners told stories of fainting or vomiting by the roadside and of angry participants detouring into convenience stores in search of the hydration they say they couldn't find along the course.

A 35-year-old Michigan man who had a heart disorder died and scores went to hospitals during the 26.2-mile race, which organizers halted about 3 1/2 hours after the start because of fears of heat exhaustion.

``I ran six days a week for 10 months so they could not provide water?'' said Brian Mabee, 43, of Shelby Township, Mich., who waded into a public fountain to cool off. ``I thought if I could prepare, they should be able to do it, too.''

Organizers insisted Monday that they adjusted their plans for the heat and boosted the number of drink servings at the race's 15 aid stations to 1.8 million from 1.6 million, as well as adding misting areas, extra ice and water-soaked sponges for the 35,000 runners.

``We did feel we had more than adequate water supplies out there,'' said Shawn Platt, senior vice president of LaSalle Bank, the marathon's sponsor.

Platt said planners did not anticipate runners would use drinking water to cool themselves when misting stations and sponges weren't available. He acknowledged many stations were set up toward the end of the route instead of early on when runners first started showing signs of fatigue.

``Probably we should have been a little more proactive about that,'' executive race director Carey Pinkowski said.

Signs of trouble came early.

``By the first or second water station, they were out, and they were apologizing, saying, 'Just run a mile or two and there'll be more water,''' said Merrie Ann Nall, 59, of DeKalb.

There was speculation the death of 35-year-old Chad Schieber, a Midland, Mich., police officer, was due to temperatures that reached a race-record 88 degrees within two hours of the 8 a.m. start.

But Schieber, whose wife also ran Sunday, had a condition known as mitral valve prolapse and did not die from the heat, according to the Cook County medical examiner's office.

``It sounds like he lost his pulse very fast and died on the race course,'' George Chiampas, the race's medical director, said Sunday.

Hundreds of others were treated along the route for heat-related ailments. Organizers announced they were stopping the race about 3 1/2 hours in, even though hundreds of people kept running for several more hours. Runners who had not passed a certain point were barred from going further and directed to buses traveling back to the starting area.

Organizers told participants who had gotten further along the course they could continue _ walking _ to the finish line.

Helicopters with bullhorns blared out instructions for runners to stop. Some refused to heed the warnings and kept running.

``Runners are a very unique breed and they're very determined and they want to push themselves because of the all the time they put in preparing for the race,'' Platt said.

Organizers of Chicago's Olympics bid said the problems should not hurt the city's attempt to host the 2016 Summer Games.

``The very unusual circumstances around the Chicago Marathon were unique and unfortunate,'' Chicago 2016 spokesman Patrick Sandusky said Monday. ``It is important to note that the Olympic Games' marathon, with fewer than 200 elite athletes, is a very different event than yesterday's race of nearly 40,000 runners.''

Five people remained at Northwestern Memorial Hospital on Monday evening, all in good condition, a hospital spokeswoman said.