Organizers say marathon went smoothly; biggest issue was the cold

Organizers say marathon went smoothly; biggest issue was the cold

Organizers of the fourth running of the Christie Clinic Illinois Marathon are declaring it a success.

Changes made to the way the racers started and a slight tweaking of the course route seemed to help with congestion among the runners and motorists trying to avoid them.

And Saturday's cool damp weather meant mostly muscle cramps for the medical folks to ameliorate.

"It actually went better than planned Saturday. We had a few struggles Friday night with traffic at the start of the 5-K," said Scott Friedlein, emergency services coordinator for the event.

Friedlein was working as a paid marathon employee this year instead of as a Champaign police officer, having retired from the force in January.

"What I was getting from the person in the air was that even from above it was very evident there were not many traffic backups. They were relatively minor when they did occur and cleared up soon," Friedlein said.

Race timer Anne Gault said approximately 11,200 people started races on Saturday. On Friday, about 5,100 ran the 5-K.

On Saturday, only four people were transported to area hospitals — two from the field and two from Memorial Stadium.

Champaign physician Dr. Thomas Scaggs said most of the medical complaints were related to the cold.

"Ironically, all of our planning occurred in March when it was 85 degrees. We were ready to treat possibly for cold but more for heat," he said.

While dehydration from the heat has been a bigger problem in the previous races, this year's complaints were mostly muscle cramps and body temperatures down to 93 degrees.

"When you get below 90 is when bad things happen," Scaggs said.

Of the four runners who needed to go to the hospital, none had apparently serious problems. One was a diabetic, another had chest pains, another had low blood pressure.

In the medical quarters set up under the horseshoe in the south end of Memorial Stadium, the blanket warming machines were running at full tilt. Just getting runners' body temperatures up cured a lot of their complaints, Scaggs said.

About 40 to 50 runners asked for medical help.

Four physicians, 16 registered nurses and two mid-level providers were on hand to help. There were also six aid stations on the course staffed with registered nurses and paramedics.

Scaggs said the most medical calls happened at the end of the half-marathon — as is usual — "because they haven't trained like they should."

Moving the first-aid area to under the horseshoe was just one of the changes that happened this year.

Marathon Co-Director Jan Seeley said another change that seemed to help was starting the Saturday runners in waves based on their previous running times. The purpose was to reduce bottlenecks of faster runners in some of the narrower areas.

Organizers also moved a portion of the marathon route off Lincoln Avenue in Urbana and over to Fourth Street in Champaign, which reduced vehicle traffic problems in Urbana, Friedlein said.

They also widened the finish line inside Memorial Stadium and gave marathoners their own clearly defined lane to come down prior to crossing the finish line.

"We are always trying to make the experience better," she said.

On Seeley's things-to-buy list will be a whole lot more of the wraps that look like aluminum foil to keep runners warm. There were only 1,000 available and they went fast.

"We really need one for every runner," she said.

"I think we're going to consider this a really good success," Friedlein said. "But we'll still be looking for ways to improve it."

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