Proto-clydesdales like myself have a hate-meh relationship with the Boston Athletic Association, which puts on the annual Boston Marathon. It’s been a contributor to a polarization within the running community, a division between elites and turbo-stragglers. The former — runners fast enough to actually qualify for Boston — think that the latter — turbo-stragglers, average people like myself who can complete a marathon but commit the sin of taking twice as long — are ruining marathons for the rest of them. Specifically for the Boston Marathon, I’ve heard several stories of the “real” runners bitching about entries being taken up by charity entrants, people who earned a spot at the start line through fundraising. And the focus that BAA does on the elites allies them against the charity runners.
Despite the above, the BAA did a good thing today by warning runners to expect extraordinary heat at Monday’s race. They deserve kudos for not only getting the word out early, but also applying this warning across all classes:
We are now making the recommendation that if you are not highly fit or if you have any underlying medical conditions (for example-cardiac disease, pulmonary disease or any of a number of medical problems), you should NOT run this race.
- Inexperienced marathoners should not run.
- Those who have only trained in a cooler climate and who may not be acclimated (for at least the last 10 days) to warm weather running conditions should also consider not running.
For those very fit athletes who decide to run, you should take significant precautions:
- Run at a slower pace and maintain hydration.
- You should frequently take breaks by walking instead of running.
- This will not be a day to run a personal best. If you choose to run, run safely above all else. Speed can kill.
Even the fittest athletes, that take precautions can still suffer serious heat illness. Recognizing symptoms of heat illness in yourself and others is critical , this may include headaches, dizziness, confusion, fatigue, nausea and vomiting. If you experience any of these, stop running immediately and if symptoms persist seek medical attention.
In three of the past four long-distance races I’ve done (half-marathon or greater), it’s been scorching hot and/or humid. And in those four races, three people died, two of which can be described as something more than weekend warriors. Such experiences are not limited just to me — I’ve heard of similar tragedies at other races such as Chicago (twice in recent memory).
In addition to the above warning, the finish line will stay open later in anticipation of runners who slowed down. Also, a deferment policy was put into place, allowing this year’s entrants to skip the 2012 race and instead run 2013 without having to re-qualify.
For me, this goes a long way towards regaining my respect for the BAA and the Boston Marathon. I hope that other races learn from this example and institutes such changes.