Heat forces Boston marathon, runners to adjust

Print Print
Associated Press
Monday, April 16, 2012
— As the prospect of 80-degree temperatures looms over today’s Boston Marathon, race organizers are hoping the heat will forge a classic contest to rank among the legends of the event’s 116-year history even as they prepare for a potential medical crisis if runners wilt under the scorching sun.

The forecast forced organizers to offer a largely unprecedented deferment to the entire field of 27,000 that had spent the last year qualifying, registering and training for what is often a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

“We’re asking runners who haven’t run previously to think about tomorrow and maybe coming back next year,” Boston Mayor Tom Menino told those at the traditional pre-race pasta dinner on City Hall Plaza on Sunday night. “We don’t want to have any accidents out there, or anybody overtaken by the heat.”

Boston Athletic Association co-medical director Pierre d’Hemecourt warned runners with underlying medical issues, such as a cough or a cold or a recent stomach virus that left them dehydrated: “Please don’t run the marathon on Monday.” Those who have not run a full marathon before, or who have not run in the heat, should also sit this one out, race organizers said.

“Only the fittest runners should consider running. The risks that you’ll see tomorrow are simply greater than normal,” B.A.A. executive director Tom Grilk said, advising runners who do line up at the start to slow their pace and focus on finishing rather than a fast time.

“You should adopt the attitude that this is not a race; it is an experience.”

One year after cool temperatures and a significant tailwind—perfect running weather—helped Geoffrey Mutai finish in 2 hours, 3 minutes, 2 seconds for the fastest marathon ever, the heat has elite runners preparing for a slower pace and the recreational runners trying to figure out how to finish at all.

Forecasts call for 73 degrees at the 10 a.m. start in Hopkinton, 80 degrees at the halfway point in Wellesley by 11 a.m., and 82 degrees at the Back Bay finish line at noon. For the recreational runners expecting to be out on the course later that afternoon, temperatures are expected to peak at 84 by 3 p.m.

The Boston Marathon has had its share of hot weather, with the thermometer hitting 97 degrees during the 1909 race that came to be known as “The Inferno” and the 1976 “Run for the Hoses” that started in 100-degree heat and finished with spectators sprinkling winner Jack Fultz with garden hoses to cool him down.

The last on-course death of a Boston Marathon participant was in 2002, but the Chicago Marathon stopped its 2007 race after 3 1/2 hours when a runner died after temperatures climbed to 88 degrees.

Last updated: 8:08 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

Print Print