Blagica Stefanovski, NBC5 Street Team (Video)
I love my yearly Chicago Marathon Sunday Rituals. At 730, I started watching the live broadcast. At 8 am, I packed up my backpack with magazines, water, coffee, food and a camera. I threw my new $9.99 Walgreens issued American Flag fold-up lawn chairs over my shoulder and heading down the street to Roosevelt and Michigan. Jessica was already at our designated meeting spot east of the Roosevelt bus stop. It was going to be an exciting day. This year, I threw sunblock in with my Marathon goody bag. ‘Twas gonna be a scorcher.
We settled in for a day of cheering, rooting, yelling, clapping and sharing moments with the runners that zipped passed. I saw the elite runners shoot past me, the awe-inspiring wheelchair group brought tears to my eyes, but moreso ignited a fire that reminded me that anything is possible. The first female runner to glide passed up received a great ovation, but we all knew what was next: the family and friends we were camping out to see.
I knew my voice would go, so Michael brought the tamborine that I have sitting on my shelf back home. I hit that thing against the barricades as hard as I could and shouting things to runners that reminded me of my track days. ‘Dig!’ ‘This hill is nothing!’ ‘Don’t let this race conquer you!’. In the back of my head, I knew these runners were responding different to the yells. It was unbearably hot for their run.
At about noon, I saw the first batches of people crossing Mile 25 and needing medical attention. We began hearing murmurs from the crowd about lack of water, people not finishing the race and the city’s concern for running out of ambulances. My mind was on four friends, Mike F., Woody, Michael D and Carolyn T. I was getting split times, so I knew things were OK with them. (image via AP)
Mike F. crossed the line and I didn’t get a chance to see him in the race. Woody came around the bend and his yellow shirt glowed and he looked unbelievably good. He smiled, hugged us and kept creeping up that hill. We were so proud of him. Before Woody strolled in, Carolyn called. The race was canceled. She was passed the halfway mark at 11:30, yet she was told to stop running? The confusion intensified. I noticed a massive waterfall on Michigan Avenue put on by the fire department. Where were they earlier?
As we waited for Michael D. to come near us, the sun and heat started to affect me. I was at my spot for 5.5 hours yelling for runners, loving every second, but remembered that I had a tendency to faint in weddings I’ve stood up in. I started to weave and was instructed by my best friend to go sit under a tree. I never got the chance to see Jessica’s hubby, Michael D. cross our viewing area. I apologized to her and headed to a local watering hold to catch my breath and drink water. All the while, the controversy of the race started to cloud the afternoon.
I spoke directly with Woody and Carolyn.
Woody thought there was plenty of water, but the runners that used the water weren’t drinking it, they were pouring it on themselves. In addition, some of the younger volunteers seemed so out of sorts with trying to fill up water cups, that runners didn’t get the relief in time. Woody was lucky to have officially finished the race in 5 hours – it was his first marathon.
Carolyn’s story really upset me. This was also Carolyn’s first marathon. She was training all spring and summer. Her parents flew in from San Diego to see her. We spoke about her experiences and they seem to echo many of the other runners.
- She ran a steady 12 mile pace to conserve energy in order to FINISH the marathon. Carolyn had plenty of steam left to finish. She was taking her sodium packets when needed to conserve energy
- Carolyn did not see ANY water stations for miles. She applauded some Chicago cops that got OUT of their cars to help pour water while other offices did nothing.
- She was AT the halfway point at 11:30 and the race was cut off. Race officials say things were cut off at noon.
- For the 25,000 folks the race officials mentioned finishing the race, it wasn’t official time. The race was RE-ROUTED.
- Carolyn never saw one cooling bus
I don’t know, folks. I was only a spectator at Mile 25. I think the majority of us would like a simple apology from the race officials. Other participants that I spoke with think the whole thing is being spun for the media. Yes, it was hot, Yes, certain measures needed to be taken, but why couldn’t things have happened earlier? For those folks that felt OK, why couldn’t they finish? What was the difference in the temperature when the elite runners finished around 10/1030 to the time the race was officially cut off at noon?
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