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The heat didn't take a toll on 2010 marathon

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Runners head out at the start of the 2010 Chicago Marathon. (Stacey Wescott/Chicago Tribune) | MORE PHOTOS

3:10 P.M. -- Outside of repeat champions Sammy Wanjiru and Liliya Shobukhova, the 33rd Bank of America Chicago Marathon was uneventful despite temperatures that climbed into the 80s, organizers said.

About 65 runners were taken to area hospitals Sunday for heat-related and "typical marathon-type" issues, on par with the 2 to 3 percent of runners in a typical year, said Medical Director Dr. George Chiampas at a post-race press conference.

Chiampas was not aware of the condition of those hospitalized athletes.

Elite runners like Wanjiru finished the race before 9:30 a.m., when officials first raised the hazard level on the event's color-coded warning system from green -- "good conditions" -- to yellow, "less than ideal conditions."

Shortly after 11 a.m., the level was raised again to red, "potentially dangerous conditions," as temperatures spiked before declining during the afternoon, Chiampas said.

Marathon Executive Race Director Carey Pinkowski said a record 38,132 runners started the race and that it appeared the race would also have a record number of finishers despite the warm temperatures.

Despite warm temperatures in three of the last four years on the marathon's traditional Columbus Day weekend schedule, Pinkowski was noncommittal about whether organizers would consider moving the event to another date.

2:22 P.M. -- The crowd lining the Chicago marathon route is a sea of signage, poster board sheets that celebrate causes like autism research, a survey of cancers and diseases and animal shelters.

Safe to say, Carla Chen's handmade sign is the only one along the 26.2-mile course protesting the cancellation of ABC's Generation Y drama "My Generation." Chen and her family are devoted fans of the show, which got the ax from the network last Friday.

In between marathon training sessions, until last week, her 25-year-old daughter, Cortney, was a producer on the show.

"Some people are here for cancer or whatever. My cause is getting a job," said Chen, holding a sign that read "Bring Back My Generation on ABC."

"She trained in 100-degree heat in Austin, where the show is shot," said Chen, a Pittsburgh resident. "Then she did 80-hour weeks on the show, and they canceled it."

11:54 A.M. -- Race officials raised the color-coded race alert gauge from yellow to red, meaning conditions were potentially dangerous.

According to the marathon's recommended actions for those kinds of conditions, they ask runners to "slow down, observe course changes, follow event official instruction, and consider stopping."

The Chicago Fire Department said that it has sent 10 ambulances to U.S. Celllar Field as a precautionary measure as they expect a surge of runners to come through in the next hour or so.

As temperatures climbed, runners began to fall. By 11:30 a.m., near-80 degree temperatures and plain exhaustion had begun to claim runners at the medical station near mile 20 in Pilsen -- regarded by many marathoners as the Rubicon of fatique.

"I started to feel nauseous and I thought, I want to see my grandkids, I better stop," said Nancy Schrader, a 56-year-old from Indianapolis as she sat behind the aid tent.

Schrader blamed her symptoms on bronchitis medication and intended to finish the race at a walking pace. Schrader, who has run two other marathons, said there was a factor unique to Chicago that may have contributed.

"Other places, you see gaps (in the crowd along the race), and you say, 'OK, I'll walk there,' " she said. "Here there are no gaps. Its all people."

9:51 A.M. -- Another defending champion won the women's race, Liliya Shobukhova of Russia. That gives Chicago back-to-back men's and women's titles for the first time since the race began in 1977.

Shobukhova's time, 2:20:25, was the fastest in the world in two years. Astede Baysa of Ethiopia was second, more than three minutes behind.

For more details on the winners -- and what they won -- go to

9:42 A.M. -- Temperatures have reached 73 degrees with sunny skies, below the forecast high for Sunday of 80 degrees. The high would be the warmest marathon since 2007, when temperatures reached the 90s and a 35-year-old running with a heart ailment collapsed and died and hundreds of runners were hospitalized with heat-related illnesses. Race organizers today had reported eight injured runners and one hospitalization as of 9:30 a.m.

9:37 A.M. -- Defending champion Sammy Wanjiru of Kenya won the men's race in 2:06.23, passing Tsegaye Kebede of Ethiopia in the final mile. Ethiopia's Feyisa Lilesa was third.

9:31 A.M. -- At the two-hour mark of the race with temperatures rising, officials raised the color-coded race condition gauge from green to yellow, meaning conditions were less than ideal. They urged less-experienced runners to slow their pace and be prepared for worsening conditions.

9:06 A.M. -- In the 20th mile of the men's race, Tsegaye Kebede surged with a 4:40 mile. The leaders were down to three: Samuel Wanjiru, Feyisa Lilesa, and Kebede.

8:44 A.M. -- Legendary Swiss wheelchair racer Heinz Frei turned his Chicago Marathon debut into victory.

In the women's race, Astede Baysa took the lead by herself in the 16th mile. She won this year's Paris Marathon in 2:22:04. Although only 23 years old, this is her 14th marathon.

Reigning Boston Marathon champion Robert Kiprono Cheruiyot fell off the lead pace in the 19th mile of the men's race.

8:40 A.M. -- In the women's race, Mamitu Daska and Astede Baysa moved away from Askale Magarsa as they reached the halfway point in 1:09:45.

8:26 A.M. -- The men went through the halfway point in 1:02:35, with all the top pack of eight including all the contenders.

In the women's race, Askale Magarsa, Astede Baysa and Mamitu Daska of Ethiopia were running together at the lead through the first 10 miles, with defending champion Liliya Shobukhova of Russia hanging about 10 meters back.

7:56 A.M. -- Despite the heat, the elite men's pace began to accelerate dramatically in the 5th mile, which they covered in 4 minutes, 40 seconds, and the 6th, in 4:39. It was projecting to a 2 hour, 4 minute, 27 second finish, which would match the third fastest marathon ever.

The expected contenders, including defending champion Sammy Wanjiru of Kenya and four Ethiopians, all were in the nine men running at the lead after 6 miles.

The women's race shook out earlier, with a group of four moving into the lead.

With little cloud cover and little shade, the fast early pace was unlikely to continue.

7:36 A.M. -- Temperatures hovered in the low 60s as the first runners spilled out onto Columbus Drive at the north end of Grant Park at the start of the 2010 Bank of America Chicago Marathon.

For the third time in four years, the race began in unseasonably warm temperatures.

The forecast for today is for temperatures to peak in the mid-80s, the warmest weather for the marathon since 2007, when temperatures reached nearly 90 degrees with high humidity and the course was closed after 3½ hours to those who had not reached the halfway point.

Another significant difference between Sunday's race and the heat disaster of 2007 was humidity and dew point. The humidity was considerably higher in 2007, when some 300-plus runners were treated for heat problems.

The course this year features six more aid stations than in 2007, and race planners have adopted a colored warning system for runners.

The 2010 marathon promises to be the most competitive in the 33-year history of the event, with three of the top runners in the World Marathon Majors standings competing in the men's field. Defending champion Sammy Wanjiru of Kenya and 2010 Virgin London Marathon champion Tsegaye Kebede of Ethiopia are tied in the marathon series point standings, and a victory by either could seal the WMM title and a $1 million season prize.

Also in the field is Robert Kiprono Cheruiyot of Kenya, who is competing in his first marathon since breaking the course record at the Boston Marathon by 82 seconds this spring.

Defending women's champion Liliya Shobukhova of Russia, who won the Virgin London Marathon in April with a time of 2:22, leads a strong women's field that includes 2009 runner up  Irina Mikitenko of Germany.

But the overwhelming majority of the 45,000 runners registered for the race will be happy to navigate the winding 26.2-mile course in double or triple the time of the leaders. Only 12,000 runners qualify to run in the seeded "corrals" of experienced runners who can prove they have finished a marathon in four hours or less.

"I'm hoping to finish before they turn the timer off, maybe six hours," said Matt Covington of San Luis Obispo, Calif.

At 295 pounds, Covington is some 30 pounds lighter than when he started training three months ago, after a co-worker convinced him to run to raise money for autism research.

"People keep telling me you get a second wind and feel great, but I've hated every minute of it. But I signed up and I don't want to let anbody down."

For Chicagoan Sue McGrath, there was no better day to run her first marathon.

"It's 10-10-10, what better day to do it than today," said McGrath as she walked to the starting corrals around 7 a.m.
-- Andrew Grimm and Philip Hersh


non-global-warming heat

Nice that lot of local ran this marathon.But what's the point?The "Elite" runners usually win,and get the prize money.

It's like playing the lottery,only to have Donald Trump win it instead of some man or woman that could use the money.

Nice efforts folks,and they were lots of cheering sections for the locals.But once again,it's like a little league team playing against the Yankees,nice effort,but no shot of winning.

Carolyn Irwin on October 10, 2010 11:54 AM

Three of my chilren are running first time...Two sons and a daughter...two in their early fifties and one in his forties. All three from different states. It has been a journey for them. One bib number is 12719 K Bilderback from Boston is running and a brother K Bilderback from St. Louis is running and a sister from New Jersey is running. What an experience and a journey.

Martha from the American Red Cross on October 10, 2010 12:49 PM

Hi everyone,
The American Red Cross of Greater Chicago ( is helping to locate runners who may have been taken to area hospitals as result of heat exhaustion or other marathon related injury. If you're looking for a loved one and believe they may have been taken to a hospital, call us at 312-729-6200 and if we have information on your runner we'll work to connect you. We've already reunited 30 families with their loved ones this morning and want to continue to help.

Here's how it works

The goal of the American Red Cross Patient Connection Program is to assist the American Red Cross in reuniting people injured in disasters and allow medical facilities to focus their energy on client care in times of disaster. The program is unique to the Chicago area.

When ten or more patients are received at a hospital due to a disaster, the Patient Connection Program is activated and vital patient information is shared with the Red Cross. The Red Cross then begins working to reunite affected families and to provide mental health support to those affected. Releasing patient information to the Red Cross is in full compliance with HIPAA. In fact the Red Cross is the only national community organization written into HIPAA legislation. Nearly 100 hospitals in the Chicagoland area are participating members of this system.

Huh?...You must have little exposure to any competitive running or marathons in general. 99.9% of people who enter this race are not entering to win or compete. They are entering to accomplish completing a physical and mental feat of a marathon and whatever person goals that go along with it. There is always a competitive group in a running race, but that's not the point of Chicago hosting the race. Perhaps you were just going for humor.

Hey Huh! I don`t want to be mean or anything but it`s not about anything to most people other than finishing the race. Some of the locals are good runners but it`s a proud moment when they finish running.

Hottest since 2007? It is pretty damn hot, but remember 2008? It reached 85 degrees that year.

"Defending champion Sammy Wanjiru of Kenya won the men's race in 2:06.23, passing Tsegaye Kebede of Ethiopia in the final mile."

Did this really surprise anyone?

@John: It's not rare to have 80-degree temperatures in October. If you check the weather records back 130 years, you'll see there have been plenty of warm days in October...even in the 1800's, long before the onset of your so-called "global warming".

Betty Miller on October 10, 2010 1:31 PM

Where might I find the times of my son and brother who ran this morning?

Race date needs to be moved back to last weekend of October to guarantee cooler weather. Not sure why the braintrust running this race hasn't figured this out.

Hereafternow on October 10, 2010 2:59 PM

@joe The temps have been steadily increasing over the last 50 years. It is now the warmest it's ever been in human history. A little CO2 has easily been demonstrated to raise the temp of a small amount of ordinary air in simple experiments. Consider that billions of tons of CO2 are released into the air every day for decades and it would be unlikely that it would have no effect. Jury's only out for the unwitting or those with an ulterior motive.

Martha, that is nice and all that you're helping people locate injured family members. But, I have to point out the obvious. These injured runners brought this on themselves. They are willing participants, not victims of some natural disaster or other cause outside of their control. Why in the world is the Red Cross using their resources for this? As someone who has donated to the Red Cross many times in the past, I'm going to think twice about donating again. I want my donations used to help people who really deserve help.

Whomever came up with the headline that the heat didn't take a toll clearly did not talk to any runners. I didn't run in 2007, but I did in 2008 when it was just as hot as today. Today was just as brutal as 2008. I finished 30 minutes over my goal time and seriously considered dropping out at several points. I talked with one guy afterwards who is normally a 4:00 marathoner and he finished in 5:30. Almost everyone around me was walking the last couple miles up Michigan Ave.

Plus, I do not feel like they were as prepared for heat this year as they were in 2008 (in the immediate aftermath of the 2007 disaster). I ended up finishing around 5 hours - so there was at least an hour and a half of runners after me. Several tables I passed, while they were not out, seemed very low on Gatorade. The first table of bananas was already out. There also did not seem to be enough volunteers at some tables as we had to wait for glasses to be poured - they couldn't keep up with demand.

I also thought it was ridiculous that they did not raise the status alert to yellow yesterday. Even though it was fine at the start, the weather forecast was clear that it would be getting into the 80s - definitely far from ideal marathon conditions.

I'm also watching Fox News right now and their lead story is "Dangerous Heat Creates Tough Conditions for Chicago Marathoners."

I agree with Katie it was tough out there especially because there were so many people. I'm usually a 9:30 and I finished just before 5 hours.

Martha - I stopped at a Red Cross booth for help at about mile 17 because I was over heating and your volunteers were just chatting and sipping water around the Gatorade cooler. I had to yell for help and they were just steps away. It was disappointing.

Huh? - I'm sorry you feel that way. Many us are up for the challenge and know we've missed our chance at the Olympics; however there's a whole series of races that you have to earn a spot in by running a certain time. The Chicago Marathon is among the elite series of world marathons which many run to qualify for Boston.

To state that the heat did not take a toll on the runners is simply not true. Ambulances, both from Chicago and the suburbs, were running constantly and even they do not reflect the number of runners who dropped out because of the heat or who literally collapsed near the finish line in Grant Park or needed assistance to get home or to their hotels. The early finishers escaped the severe sun and heat, especially along Adams and Jackson where there was no shade. But the later runners were in the heat of the day...and it was heat, well over 80 degrees in the sun. Fortunately, people in many neighborhoods came out with garden hoses to spray the runners and offer them water. The water stations were well staffed and the people very kind. Thanks to them all.

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