I spent this past weekend in the great city of Chicago cheering on my wife and our friend in their running of the 2007 Chicago marathon. We had a bit of a challenging start to the weekend (flight delayed, missed dinner with friends, long lines at every turn) that served as a foreshadowing to what was in store for them later on Sunday.
If you're not living in the midwest, let me give you an idea of the weather this past weekend. It was FREAKING HOT! So hot that you didn't want to go outside and this is not normal for this time of year. It should have been 55 degrees and it was 85. So translate those temperatures to trying to run 26.2 miles in the middle of the day. A recipe for disaster.
The race started great. 35,000 people shuffling over the start/finish line meant they didn't get into their normal stride until 20 minutes after the leaders started. That's a LOT of people. A group of friends and I stood at mile three to cheer them on. Everybody looked good for the most part, but that didn't last long. We didn't see them again until the 12 mile marker and they looked strong, but definitely feeling the heat. People started falling and sitting down. Only later did they tell us that there was no water until the fifth mile. That's a long time to be running in 85 degree weather. 300+ people were taken to hospitals and 1 runner tragically died.
Needless to say (if you didn't know) they cancelled the race at the 3 hour 30 minute mark. My wife and friend made it to the 18th mile and they were told to start walking back to the start/finish line. There was a lot of confusion and some people kept going (without medical or water support). They got their medals, but felt cheated as they were definitely strong enough to keep going. I am super proud of them both for running strong and dealing with the situation better than I would have.
Race directors denied the fact that water was a scarcity. They claimed that there was plenty of water along the way and all stations were well staffed. But I saw something interesting watching the people run past me. Some carried cameras. They were documenting their runs along the way. Taking photos and videos of the crowds, the empty water stations, people standing in line at gas stations buying water, begging spectators for their water and the neighbors who came to their aid. Kudos to the people of Chicago, but shame on the race organizers.
Here are some of the videos from YouTube:
I find these videos, photos and blog entries really compelling. You can see the frustration on the faces of people who trained for months only to start running with a lack of support. This situation is playing itself out in other events, in stores and on the street.
Who do you believe? The race organizer or the runners with the cameras? Who will you believe, your customer with the camera or the store manager? This is a movement that's just getting started.