Monday, October 08, 2007

[Chicago Tribune] Man dies in heat-shortened (Chicago) marathon

Chicago Tribune article

My sister sent me a text message yesterday letting me know that the Chicago Marathon was shortened. Other than my general interest in running marathons, I did try to enter this one back in May, but it was already full.

So, the issues, other then the obvious. Actually, one person dieing is not enough cancel an event like this. Or even to dissuade potential participants. People participate in physical events because of the harsh reality that they represent. Most people live in worlds that are governed by perception, not reality. Activities in the physical world such as running, bicycling, backpacking, etc. are a forum where reality and truth are incontestable, and the laws of the natural world provide a court that is often without appeal. And the grim fact is, you need to acknowledge this on the course. (this does not really apply to school athletic teams. For high schools and colleges, part of what the kids are learning are these very limits, and coaches are supposed to be teaching this, and about other aspects of the realities of life.) Those who can't or won't acknowledge this, suffer and sometimes die.

But the bigger issue is what is going on outside the race. Reports are that 315 runners were removed by EMTs for heat-related conditions, and 146 people were taken to hospitals. That many hospitalizations due to a single event is known as a disaster. The American Red Cross of Greater Chicago activated the patient connection program, which is usually done for major disasters. And realizing that it was going to get worse, as the morning went into early afternoon, turning off the clocks and telling people to walk was acknowledging reality as emergency rooms throughout the city and suburbs took in patients.

No doubt that this as well as the Rotterdam (?) marathon that were cut short earlier this year will be case studies for all those who organize these types of events. One thing I've been learning as I get older, and see these events from the points of view of participant, organizer, emergency support, communications, etc. is seeing how all these different priorities are balanced out. And how people make tough decisions.
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