Thursday, October 11, 2007

Chicago Marathon - The start of a new era?

I threw out some questions for my running email group, and thought I would throw this out there for anybody fishing this topic.

After reading countless race reports, and reading many media reports, I have come to these conclusions about Chicago (and big fanfare marathons).

1 - The race director for Chicago bears the responsibility for what happened there on Sunday. They willingly accepted 48,000 entrants (although they only admit to 40,000) at $110 each. At 40k, that is 4.4 million dollars. A minimum expectation for any race is that the course is marked, there is some method for official timing, and the advertised aid stations are sufficiently stocked. The rest, in my opinion, is non-essential. At $110, there is no excuse for running out of water.

The race director claims this did not happen, but also says the runners took more than expected water (for showering themselves), depleting stations. So which is Mr. Pinkowski? Did you or didn't you run out of water? There is enough evidence that they did.... big time.

2 - This was bound to happen eventually. This event has been marketed as a spectacle ever since LaSalle Banks purchased it (and saved it) in the 90's. Their goal has been to be the biggest, fastest, and most prestigious. They still might have the first two, but it will be a long time before they claim (or reclaim) the third.

With this many runners, they need more than just elite and seeded bib starts. They should have a wave at least every hour (2-3 hour pace wave, 3-4 hour, 4-4.5, 4.5-5, etc.). Qualifying for each wave would be a necessity. This would not only spread the race out, but make it quicker. When I ran it in 2002, I ran a sub 7 min. pace, and was still passing 9-10 minute milers at mile 7. This messes up the fun of the race, as well as the aid station flows. This would help them stage the aid stations better. (a 5 hour runner will consume more water at mile 20 than a 3 hour runner)

3 - With qualifying waves, possibly have a color for "never run a marathon before". These runners would be more subjected to EMT's pulling them off the course, removing their chip and bib. This way, if they have pushed themselves past a realm of physical safety, it is easy for race officials to fix it, instead of spectators encouraging them to keep going and telling them it is only mental. I.E., if you puke, and you are wearing that bib, you are done. EMTs teams maybe should cover a mile each.

4 - If it is warm, have shower apparatus BEFORE the aid stations and immediately after. This will discourage aid station showering. If it is going to be warm, have sponges and ice.

5 - Instead of letting a lot of the silly stuff be showcased at the expos, ensure there are products like Succeed! (s-caps) or Hammer Nutrition (e-caps). These would have prevented countless "runners down!" if used properly. (in conjunction with the missing Gatorade).

If the running community is not careful, the sport will be hijacked by the same people who cancel ice fishing events when it is too cold, canceling cross country ski events because of snow, and recess when it is windy.

The new era quite possibly could prevent people from exploring the outer limits of their physiology which they may have never experienced.

My thoughts anyway.


keith said...


You raise some valid points there...All good reasons to do more trail running.

I'd like to hear more about your training philosophy. There's a good blog post for ya.

See you on the trails...

northwoods bryan said...

I ran my first marathon that day at Twin Cities, and I would have felt pretty jipped if they'd called things off in the middle because they didn't have enough water. I think you're right, there's no excuse for not accounting for the possibility of heat a couple sigmas above the mean and preparing to deploy sprinklers at the aid stations if needed.

There were so many spectators along the route at Twin Cities who had set up their own hoses, sprinklers, or spray bottles, they were a lifesaver - and if a bunch of ordinary people could do that on their own, a marathon administration with a budget of millions could certainly manage it.

Ben, aka BadBen said...

A very good post.