Monday, May 21, 2012

Heat: A reason to end the race?


Today I ran 8 miles with an overall pace of 7:11. While out on my run I swear I saw some dude with horns running after a guy with a pitchfork.  Seriously, it’s HOT out there!  I forgot to look, but I’m pretty sure the low temperature today was 75 and I know the high is supposed to be somewhere between 108 and 111.  In fact, I heard a guy on the news say that the cool down that we’re supposed to get at the end of the week might be one of the last times that we have highs in the 90s for a while.  Lovely.

But, running in the heat is just the price I pay for living with as much sand in my teeth as I can handle, lips that are constantly chapped, and wait...WHY do I put up with the heat??

Honestly, as long as you plan and prepare, running in the heat is something that can be managed. Extra water, extra time (slower running), and some other small changes (light clothing, a hat, a shady route) will have you getting in your workouts regardless of what Lucifer offers to give you for your soul.  (I asked for a BQ marathon.  Weeeellllllll, about that.....  WORTH IT)

Unfortunately though, some people often times throw caution (and frequently their health) to the wind and push beyond their limits.  All for a few less clicks on this:


This weekend the Green Bay Marathon was canceled after only 2 hours and 35 minutes had passed on the clock.   As a result, the race has a whopping 10 finishers. That means that you could have been a female and qualified for the Olympic trials (sub 2:39) but not had an official time. That also means that exactly 10 people can use the Green Bay marathon this year as a Boston Qualifier.  Loads more details here: http://www.greenbaypressgazette.com/article/20120520/GPG0101/305210048/Cellc 

Keep my A goal in spite of record temps?
Yeah, I got this....
I have plenty of mixed emotions here.  On the one hand, the Race Director’s primary job is the safety of the runners. If he felt that it was too hot then he and he alone should be the one to pull the plug. It was 70 degrees at the start and crept to the upper 80s near the time that the race was called.  At the time of the race, there were reports of the medical personnel being overwhelmed by the number of runners needing assistance and hospitals turning away patients.  BOTH were found to be untrue on Monday with both groups saying “uhhh, whatha talking ‘bout? We had it under control??

On the flip side, at what point do we (as runners) hold ourselves accountable to throttle back on the speed and drink more when we start to see spots or things like Marky Mark trying to sell us a ticket to the Chocolate Factory?

Personally, I get very frustrated when things like this happen. Part of it is frustration at the proliferation of litigation, but a lot of it is that a few people ruin the bunch.  In fact, marathoning is almost the only sport that regularly freaks out about high temperatures.  Most people who have finished an Ironman would consider you a wuss if your race didn’t have 80 degree temps - same for most ultramarathons in the Midwest.

But, no one died during the race and who knows what would have happened if it would have gone on for the full 6.5 hours?

So, what do you think? Should the marathon have been canceled? Should the race director had more medical staff on board?  Had a machine to control the weather?

31 comments:

Sweet and Savory by Sarah said...

I live 30 min. south of GB so there is lots of footage I have seen about this. The one biggest moment that pissed me off is when the news showed how the race officials literally gated off the finish line. People were running at it and they stepped in front of them and closed it off. Obviously they got lots of boos and pissed off people and the runners were jumping the fencing just to finish. Eventually the pulled them away because they realized that wasn't going to work. I do not think they should have cancelled it. I think people need to slow down and give them the option to quit obviously. I know a few people that kept on going just to finish. They made it and had a great time and said if it weren't for the people living in the areas they ran, they wouldn't have finished. They were no longer serving water, or anything so they relied on strangers to give them water and snacks.

Haley @ Climb Run Lift Mom said...

Ideally, I don't think it should've been cancelled. I think it comes down to people using their judgement. I used to live in WI so I know w/ the humidity when it's 80 it can feel a hell of a lot hotter. People just need to use common sense and know when to stop.

Unfortunately there is way too many stupid people who have no common sense so the RD probably made the right decision.

Out of curiosity how are the medical staff paid at races? Are they volunteers, or is their charge part of the race entry fee? Or is it local ambulance/emt services.

Beth (i run like a girl) said...

I have very strong feelings about the direction our sport is taking. (I just posted about the "blame game" myself...)

Short version: It is the race organizer's responsibility to provide adequate information, course support, WATER, etc... But it is the RUNNER's responsibility to know their own body and not take stupid risks.

PS - As a fellow hot-climate resident, I know exactly what you mean about AZ. If FL races cancelled every time temperatures were in the 80s, I'd never run again. ;)

Gracie said...

How cute. Those people in Green Bay think 82 F is hot. That's adorable.
Signed,
A New Orleanian

Sue's Ramblings said...

Running in the heat - looks like you're training for next year's Boston (if the weather is the same as this year! I hope not though.)Back to your Q - I think both parties are equally responsible, more so for the runner since you know yourself best. It's a judgement call for the RD - I mean at which point do you draw the line? 70? 80? 90? 75? 85? etc

Detroit Runner(Jeff) said...

I think the key different in the Ironman and Ultra's is that most people do these are conditioned to be out there in the heat and for that long. Too many marathoners go out and do the event to finish and have not trained properly for that kind of heat. Unfortunately, we need the race staff to tell us we are stupid for running in those conditions to protect ourselves. Cinci was hot this year - 80 near the finish - I think I would have done better in this race except I did not really have much running in warm weather. Had it been a Sept/Oct race, I would have been better prepared for the heat.

Meghan said...

RUDE!

Shannon @ Tales from an Average Runner said...

I live pretty close to Green Bay and had friends running the race,.... half of them took the shuttles to the finish when directed; half pushed on and finished despite being told to get out of Dodge. I think runners need to be responsible for themselves. They have to listen to their bodies and do what is right for them that day.

That being said, it seems we can't really trust runners to do that. Personally, I think they should have let the race continue but been more prepared with medical personnel, etc. Of course, I am not the one who is going to be sued if someone dies from that decision. How's that for a wussy, non-committed answer....

I will say - from attending regional races - that Sean Ryan is an awesome RD, and I don't think he would have called the race if he didn't think it was necessary.

Andrew Opala said...
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Andrew Opala said...
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Andrew Opala said...

@Gracie, all of Canada thinks 55 is hot!

Anyway what was Boston this year? I think it was pretty hot.

BTW, RD if you know the average temperature and humidity for a day in the future, you align your medical staff for it. Then when the day approaches you beef up the staff to match harsher conditions. I think this is poor planning. Medical crews follow the race and pull people out when they are bad in every Marathon.

Meredith said...

I did (well, tried) Ironman Louisville two years ago when the temperature was around 96 degrees when I STARTED the running portion. I didn't see anyone stepping in to call that race. Personally, we sign a waiver that says we accept responsibility of what could happen out there. Let the race go on.

Christina said...

You have to hand it to the race officials for learning from Chicago. BUT they could have put more water out on the course(problem at Chicago) and kept the race going. It is the runners responsibility to be smart and stop if needed. Either way the race officials were going to get negative comments. Keep it open- they would be criticized for not stopping it. Stop the race and be criticized for not keeping it going.

runnerwannabe said...

I definitely think the RD should have had a weather machine. I mean, what kind of RD were they to not be prepared with that? I agree that they were darned if they did and darned if they didn't. The few people that sue for something they could have stopped (by knowing their own limits) ruin lots of things, not just races.

SlimKatie said...

I ran my first marathon on Sunday (not GB, it was in Cleveland), and the temp was 86. It kind of irritates me when people call me a baby for thinking 86 is "too hot". I'm from Michigan! I trained during Michigan winter. It was miserably hot on Sunday, and I finished a good half hour later than I had planned on. There were a LOT of people who needed medical care, and I lost count of the ambulances that passed me on the course.

That said, however, I do think that runners need to be responsible for themselves. I was grateful for the "red flag" warning, because it made me feel like it was OKAY to slow my pace way down and take walk breaks as needed... if they hadn't issued that warning, I would have thought I was just "being a baby" about the heat and possibly not changed my plan. I think runners should get to make the final call whether to finish it out, but I do like that the heat is taken seriously by race directors.

Steph said...

I honestly don't agree with the cancellation. People need to be responsible for themselves and know their limits. Frustrating situation for sure

Jamoosh said...

For the record, I have run in and finished a marathon where temperatures went well above 90 degrees.

Charles Baisden said...

I think... there is no such thing as bad publicity. What better way to put your marathon on the map, and get hundreds of thousands of runners talking about a marathon that many (like me) had never heard of before today?

Now the GB marathon has been unofficially branded as a "tough" marathon because of the weather.

And let's face it - runners like a challenge. I predict registration soars next year.

BabyWeightMyFatAss said...

hmm well I don't think from what I've been reading they gave sufficient time for those on the course. I'm not a RD but it's almost a damned if you do/damned if you don't kinda of thing.

Obviously it was a bit cooler up in GB on Sunday but down here in IL it was pretty damn hot. We've had a weird couple months of weather from 80's in March to cold temps in April so I'm not sure if they didn't plan well or had a lack of communication about what was happening in med tents or at the hospital.

I just kinda know with incidences 2 years in a row (last year course was 800 feet longer I believe) it will make it unlikely a race I want to do ever.

Elizabeth said...

stupid. agree with other comments-especially those of us that live in “real heat.” if atlanta can handle 60,000 people on July 4th, green bay should’ve been able to handle this with ease. as runners we sign waivers and SHOULD know our own bodies and limits. if it’s going to be hot-the RD usually sends out daily emails with warnings and has info at packet pickup about running in heat. sadly, they just ruined that races reputation. i wouldn’t sign up for it after reading about this.

The Slow One said...

And I thought it was hot here in Georgia. Yikes!

Kathy said...

Frankly, it doesn't surprise me at all. It seems like folks in the US need someone holding their hand from cradle to grave. Honestly, I'm not sure if it is from living outside the US this long or what. the last HIM I did had forecasts of 42-46C (wide range, I know, but it lasted from dawn to afternoon, and that is 107-115F for the Luddites). They had the fire department at one end of the run course and a misting tent at the other (and the run was 21K 2 loops so you were 5k from each "dousing") and at each aid station (every km) you were doused with ICE WATER. Not one person taken away in an ambulance in the entire HIM AND if anyone had been, they would not have blamed the event.

OTOH, you are SO on your own here that you don't even return items to the store (it just isn't done, even when broken) because it is your responsibility to make sure it is working before you buy. So you can go too far the other way.

But dayum, 75 is long sleeves and jacket weather here. Seriously.

Cathy said...

I ran a 5K on Sunday in Milwaukee and it was about 75-80 degrees and humid. Last year at the same race it was about 55 (more the norm at this time of year). The issue was that most people in WI have been training in 50-65 degree weather and were not acclimated to the hotter temps yet. Obviously it gets a lot hotter in Wisconsin than 80, but not (usually) in May.

Anyways, if I had trained for the marathon I would have been disappointed that I did not have the option to finish. Though I understand the need to protect people from themselves.

Mark Matthews said...

I am running a marathon in Ann Arbor on June 17th in Michigan. The temps are already well past the 80's here. If somebody tries to stop that race, i will go nuts. I have trained for this, tapered for it, laid off of so many runs to honor the taper, so... cancel the race, and I will run naked, grab water from the sewers or local gas stations, and use other peoples Bile for Gu. I'm doing 26.2 that day, darn it. We should be smart enough to know to slow down, drink a ton and add electrolytes, and be in tune with our bodies. If not, don't sign up. This is a dangerous sport, and we wouldn't have it any other way. ((of course, if I fall in the heat and die, then please sue the hell out of the race director who refused to use enough common sense to cancel this race.))

Mike said...

I don't think they should have cancelled it. I'd hate to see the day come when only racing in nice conditions is allowed.

quix said...

Call the race before it starts. Don't call it in the middle. That's just effed up, because most people are going to finish anyway. And my first half marathon was done in the upper 80s with wicked humidity (late June in San Antonio).

Anonymous said...

I chose to complete the race....yeah, it took me 45 minutes longer than I planned, but that was better than being told to get on a shuttle bus. I felt fine the entire race....hit, but nit in trouble ever.

Not So Doomed Runner said...

It's a race in spring, close to summer... heat seems like an assumed risk. And 82 is not terrible. But this is a function of our society, insurance, lawsuits, and that sort of thing I guess... and wimps.

Missy said...

I think he did the right thing, given he was told that the medical services were overwhelmed, which would mean people were dropping like flies. To bad the info was false. He needs better communication. I do think that since we live in AZ we balk at those temps but to the majority of those runners they probably never run when the temps are above 80.
Some of my runner friends back home(South Dakota) hit the treadmill when temps hit the 80's, no joke. SO they would be at risk for getting sick running 26.2 on an 80 degree day.
Do I think it sucks huge that the race got cancelled? Yes,I would have been super bummed.
But I think he did the right thing because he thought people were getting sick.
Can you imagine the back lash if he didn't and lots of people got really sick or worse?
Vegas supposedly handed out bad water and miss handled the race finish line, creating a huge cluster. Look at the repercussions of that misstep.
It is a double edged sword.

Jeff said...

They are just responding to their customer base. The fastest growing segment in marathon running is a more casual runner who is unlikely to be willing/able to react to less than ideal conditions appropriately. This is the person whose theory is "the race director would not put me in danger". On the margin, marathons need this customer to maintain full/sellout crowds. They need them more than they need the more serious runners hoping to BQ or achieve a very fast time; these people will always make up a tiny fraction of runners (because the BQ time will be refreshed over time to make sure it includes only a small fraction of all marathon runners).

Laura said...

This probably sounds horrible, but I just wish the waivers counted for more. It is NOT the race director's fault if they don't call the race and then someone gets hurt. That is YOUR choice to run. Even if the race runs out of water (I've been in an 80F + race where that happened), it is YOUR responsibility to stop running when you feel it's unsafe. If you want to ask for your money back later because the course wasn't well-supported, absolutely, go ahead, but it is still YOUR responsibility to stop when you do not have what you need to take care of yourself.

In short, I don't think race directors should ever close the course. They ought to warn runners of the dangers and let them runners decide for themselves whether to take that risk.

(In practice, I'm sure insurance prevents that, which sucks.)