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Chicago Marathon Disaster - One Dead - No Water!

Oct 7, 2007

Runners Relive Their Experience In The Hot Race

First-Time Marathoner Collapses And Dies


CHICAGO Many of the runners in the LaSalle Bank Chicago Marathon say they were promised extra hydration along the course, but they didn’t get it. As CBS 2’s Pamela Jones reports, those folks want to know why and CBS 2's Katie McCall reports on the marathon aftermath.

"About mile 20, mile 21, I started to feel basically heat illness,” said runner Ross Tannebaum. “I thought I was going to pass out."

There were those who walked away from the end of the race and those who camped out on the concrete.

"After a while, my hands and my legs went numb -- so that wasn't a good sign,” said runner Doug Deram. "This is just the worst running experience I've ever had.”

He laid down exhausted from the heat like many other Chicago Marathon runners.

"I think the heat, and I don't want to knock the race organizers, but there was no where near enough water for how hot it was,” Deram said.

Most of the runners CBS 2 talked to were let down by the early ending to this year’s Chicago Marathon.

"I'm a little disappointed because I was looking forward to completing the marathon, but you know safety first,” said runner Alfreda Scott. “I want to finish it without hurting myself. So I've gotta do what they say."

At 11:30 a.m., runners were turned toward Grant Park after the half-way mark and told to walk. It was a situation blamed on the heat.

"Probably at about the fifth mile, it started kicking in - the heat,” said runner Brian Lemmon.

"Towards the end of the race, I mean it looked like a war zone to me, actually,” Tannebaum said. “I mean I saw a lot of runners just being carried off. I heard people calling out medic, we need a medic.”

Marathon officials used 30 ambulances from the suburbs to help transport runners to area hospitals like Northwestern. Most of the 320 runners that were treated, suffered from heat-related illnesses.

When the day started, they had no intention of canceling the race, but marathon officials say 3.5 hours later, with runners collapsing, they had no other choice.

“There's a lot of people who are upset with me and the decision that I made to stop the race,” said Carey Pinkowski, marathon director.

One marathoner wrote an e-mail to CBS 2 stating: "this debacle of a marathon is the worst for a first time marathoner." Her friend raised over $10,000 for the American Cancer Society in her father's memory and she was pulled off the course at mile 16.

"I think for her and the runners just like her, this was a travesty," said Christina Matulis. "I think the Chicago Marathon planners need to issue and official apology. They need to send out and email with the marathons still planned from now till the end of November and they need to assist in paying the entry fees for these people who were pulled off of the course. I know that I will not run the Chicago Marathon again after this experience."

Many runners also believe the water supply, dried up. Critics say organizers were ill-prepared, and there was a lot of confusion.

“Some guy came down the street in the opposite direction saying the race was cancelled which we didn't believe,” said Diana Mulka.

“Some people were saying the race had been canceled, then others were saying you could still run and do your time,” said Russ Schaefer.

"I'm a bit disappointed, but I don't think they had enough water and Gatorade knowing how hot it was,” said runner Diahn Allen. ”They were kind of ill prepared for that."

“I actually had to take a dirty cup from the ground to get some water or I’d be dehydrated -- it was horrible,” said runner Gerri Korblut.

“We would have to fight through the crowds to get someone to fill our water for us,” recalled runner Mary Rogers.

Allen said she and her friend couldn’t have made it without help from friends on the sidelines.

"It was no tables, or you'd get to a table and there would be no Gatorade,” she said. “And you know with the heat, you need to replace your electrolytes."

But some say they understand the difficulty of keeping the huge crowds healthy in such heat.

"I think that they tried the best they could,” said runner Janice Karosas. “Yeah they ran out of water, but people were squirting water on their heads and that's how they ran out. You see people taking two or three and they were just trying to be cool."

Spectators tried to help, bringing water and Gatorade. Debbie Guilfoil was waiting for her 35-year-old daughter who was running. She said she was sent to the store to get some drinks for them.

But for some it wasn’t enough. Chad Schieber, 35, of Midland, Mich., collapsed at 1500 S. Ashland Ave., on the latter part of the course. He was pronounced dead on arrival at Jesse Brown West Side VA Hospital at 12:40 p.m., the medical examiner's office said. He was a first-time marathoner.

An autopsy on the man is scheduled for Monday.

"Obviously very sad news, and our thoughts and prayers are with the individual's family," said Shawn Platt, senior vice president of LaSalle Bank, the marathon's sponsor.

George Chiampas, the race's medical director, said witnesses reported seeing Schieber collapse and become unresponsive.

"It sounds like he lost his pulse very fast and died on the race course," Chiampas said at a news conference after the race.

The father of three was just named Police Officer of the Year in his hometown. His wife and brother ran the marathon with him, but had no idea he died until they went back to their hotel. His family says he had no known medical problems.

“I think what my sister feels, so I'm going to say it from her perspective is that this is the day Chad was called home,” said Krystn Madrine, Schieber’s sister-in-law. “It is a horrible tragedy and it is a horrible thing that this marathon was handled the way it was. But if this was the day he was called home, this was the day and it could have happened in any other way.”

Marathon deaths are not unusual. They occur in about 1 in 50,000 runners. The last death in the Chicago Marathon was in 2003.

Race officials are going over what they could have done differently, but defended their plans, which included 18 buses to transport runners and 205,000 additional servings of water.

“There was never a point that they didn't have water to distribute to participants,” Pinkowski said.

The Chicago Fire Department rushed dozens to get medical attention. Not a surprise for spectators who get cell phone calls from runners asking for more fluids.

The American Red Cross of Greater Chicago activated its patient connection program Sunday afternoon to help relatives locate runners who may have been taken to a local hospital due to heat exhaustion or other injury during the marathon. It’s a system that goes into effect whenever a hospital gets 10 or more patients from a disaster. At the end of the day, the American Red Cross said they had connected more than three dozen runners with family members and loved ones.

Some runners took advantage of the cooling bus. Still many of the others, dripping with exhaustion, completed the course, stating it would be almost impossible for race coordinators to predict how many the heat would harm.

Runners' need for fluids is actually backed up by science. A study published by the American College of Sports Medicine, reports as the heat and humidity rise, their performance drops. And slower runners have a harder time.

Before the race was cut short, Patrick Ivuti of Kenya won the men's race in a photo finish with the next closest contender, the women's finish was just as dramatic and about an hour after the winners in the men's and women's races crossed the finish line.

Ivuti, 29, was running alongside Jaouad Gharib of Morocco as they crossed the finish line nearly at the same time. Ivuti edged Gharib by 0.05 seconds with a time of 2:11:11.00 to Gharib's 2:11:11.05. It was the closest finish in marathon history.

Ivuti earned $125,000. Gharib receives $65,000. Gharib has won two world titles, but has yet to win another major marathon.

The finish on the women's side was equally shocking. Adriana Pirtea of Romania was running her first marathon ever, and for a long distance toward the end of the race was far ahead of all her competitors. But barely short of the finish line, last year's Marathon winner, Berhane Adere of Ethiopia, overtook Pirtea and won. Pirtea waved listlessly to the crowd as Adere passed her and crossed the finish line.

Ivuti becomes the fifth straight Kenyan to win the Chicago Marathon.
 






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