Race directors are notoriously competitive with one another, yet just as quick to lend a helping hand in times of trouble. So when the conditions for Monday’s 116th Boston Marathon became fixed at red-flag levels by meteorologists, race directors on hand willingly stepped up to offer assistance in any way they could. Chicago Marathon director Carey Pinkowski was especially forthcoming, having gone through a similar hot weather nightmare of his own in 2007 when he had to actually close the Chicago course after three hours when temperatures rose to dangerous levels, and medical contingencies, he feared, would be inadequate to handle the surge of potential patients.
In Boston this week, Pinkowski offered to fly in any extra equipment from Chicago that the Boston Athletic Association might need to address the severe weather ahead.
“That is true,” confirmed Boston Marathon race director Dave McGillivray. “We didn’t end up needing it, but they were VERY GRACIOUS to offer. We are all in this thing together.”
With ambient air temperatures actually higher in Boston 2004 than last Monday, there seemed to be something of a disconnect between the faster finishing times in `04, when the race was still staged at noon versus Monday’s lower temperatures with its 10 a.m. start.
The key difference was clouds versus sun. In 2004 the 83F starting temp in Hopkinton, Mass. was ameliorated to some degree by a high overcast. Monday’s 70F start temp was exacerbated by a bright yellow sun and open blue skies. With cloudless conditions, the ground temperatures soared well into the 90s. In fact, many of the pro runners complained that their special fluids and the regular water stops had warmed up considerably by the time they reached them.
Defending champion Geoffrey Mutai’s demise began when he missed his own fluid bottle at 25K and substituted a warm Gatorade drink in its place. With the unfamiliar liquid sloshing around in his gut, he experienced stomach problems just as he was answering the surge of Matthew Kisorio and Levy Matebo as they began the push which separated them and Mutai from the pack.
By 30k Geoffrey was on the side of the road throwing up. 2011 had all gone so flawlessly for Mutai – wins and course records in Boston and NYC – perhaps we should have expected the marathon gods to exact a little pay-back in 2012. Continue reading