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The Last Thing I Needed was a Mylar Heat Blanket

By now everyone has heard about the heat and humidity that brought runners and the marathon to their knees yesterday in Chicago.

My race report is simple.  Race temp at start was 76 degrees. It felt hot and sticky from the first moment when the gun went off and only got worse.  I aimed for 8 minute pace and held if for 12 miles.  After that, I knew my organs and systems were revolting and slowing me down, which turned out to be a blessing.

Snapshot_20071008_080512_2 We passed a bank time and temperature sign that said 90 degrees at mile 17 and then another that read 95 degrees at mile 23.  But that was long after we were already suffering from the 86% humidity.  I shuffled in finishing in 3:53.  But the conditions and the brutal experience outweigh any emphasis on finishing times

Every inch of my body felt like it was sealed with Saran Wrap.  The typical challenge of straining, cramping muscles didn’t hit because I was reduced to taking small gliding steps.  Nobody around had a full stride, just a pathetic wobbly stagger.

I’ve never seen so many runners walk, stop, or quit.  In the later miles, race officials put up “Drop Out” Tents where runners exited the course in droves.  We’re talking very fit, athletic runners who looked like they are probably local champions and standouts in their communities, rendered helpless.  As runners still on the course we kept our eyes peeled for wilting, staggering comrades around us, and it seemed on every block a runner or spectator would shout, “Runner down.”  The victims lay limp on the sidewalks.

After the race, experienced runners of ultras, and even the Death Valley run said the race was the hardest conditions in which they’d ever run.  The common question thrown around was how much did the weather affect the marathoners’ goals, and the common answer ranged from 30 – 60 minutes.

My sympathy goes out to the family of the marathoner who died.  Further, I can only imagine the enormous disappointment for all those who were required to stop running when officials halted the race.  So many of you trained in equally or hotter conditions, invested your money and time in traveling to Chicago where you hoped the race would produce cool race conditions.  And I know several of you were not able to complete your race.  I’m so deeply saddened for you.

Marathon_weekend_balling_047_2 I’ve read dozens of blog posts and articles both praising and criticizing the decision to stop the race.  I side with the good judgment of the officials as there would only have been more casualties.

My marathon weekend was still highlighted with great experiences, including daughter Laura joining me, seeing friends and family, and taking in the great Expo and the dedication and hospitality of the Chicago Marathon race organization.

My goal for running and occasionally racing is to make it make the most of the running momenst and to accumulate a storehouse of memories.  There are no shortage of ’07 Chicago Marathon memories.  The pic to the right shows my daughter Laura and nephew Ryan.

I'm eager to read of others' Chicago Marathoners' experiences and also others' viewpoints about the drama in Chicago even if you didn't run it.

The Chicago Tribune blog has a long list of opinions and comments on the matter.

Thank you, family, friends, co-workers, and BRFs, for all your encouragement and suppport!


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I was not able to finish...they rerouted us as I passed mile 17. I am so bummed. I feel like a bride who has been left at the altar.

I need to find another race so as to not waste all this good training.

The lack of water and gatorade by Mile 4 was scary and surreal.



Very moving post! And a great finish! To all the marathoneres who weren't able to finish - It makes me just want to scream out - come to DSM to run the marathon here in a few weeks - you can stay at my house!

Lisa - The Detroit and Grand Rapids Marathons both look good! Sorry that you didn't have a chance to finish!


Oh Tom - I was clinging to the computer for most of the day. I am so glad you are safe and were able to make the most of it. I can not imagine running in these conditions and what you saw. My heart goes out to everyone there, people who couldn't finish, first timers, veterans, and all the volunteers who I'm sure tried their best to help. It seemed like a nightmare unfolding before our eyes. The disappointment is great for many. I only hope they can perservere and remember that they are heroes for their training and for getting themselves to the starting line. They are all marathoners to me.

Be safe and recover well, Tom.


Congratulations Tom!!

My opinion is that coordination of the race was terrible. I think the call was right to cancel it - when there are no more ambulances in the city, it was the only thing to do.

However, to not have enough water? The officials stating there was plenty of water makes me want to scream. There was NO WATER OR GATORADE at the second aid station, and many more past that, and at that point I was with the 4:30 and 4:45 runners.

Also, to so poorly coordinate the cancellation of the race was ridiculous. No one knew what to do. I think I barely made it past the 17 mile mark bbefore people were rerouted, and I finished. But at mile 20, first we were told the race was over and we should walk back to Grant Park. Then we were told we would be bussed back. Later we were told the course streets were closed ahead. We were told there was no more water ahead. We were told the clocks were stopped. None of this was true. No buses to take us back materialized, there was plenty of water at the last aid stations, and most of us didn't know the best way to get back to Grant Park without taking the course route. (I live in Chicago, but was not going to try to take a shortcut through the south side. One block in the wrong direction and we're talking ghetto.) I realize they weren't planning to cancel the race, but it's called a contigency plan.

I was glad I was able to finish, and I actually had a great race. But the marathon organizers did not do a good job, given a full week's knowledge of the weather. It was exactly as forecast.


I'm with Nancy. I stalked you all :P I didn't realize how brutal the course was until after the Chicago site had put up their "calling off the race" note in the afternoon. Even with the bad conditions you are a speedy, speedy man. I didn't realize you ran so fast LOL

I feel for those who were not able to finish, and my deepest sympathies for the family of the man who lost his life. I hope all the RBF's are all well. I'm like a typical worrying mother over here.

pat monahan

glad to hear you are safe and sound. I'm glad they stopped the race. It seems like the right thing to do. Hopefully, most of the runners had their own back up plan. This is one reason all runners should carry cash and a cell phone.


Tom, Glad you are ok. Sounds brutal and rather mayhem-ish... I think calling it off was the good idea.


This race serves as an example that ALL races need practiced and well thought out disaster plans. I'm sure officials did what they thought was right, but define "right." I ran a race yesterday in some awful (but not quite as bad) heat and NOBODY suggested taking it easy or cutting it short or using aid stations. I hope in my marathon (Richmond), officials learn from Chicago's mistakes. Congrats on finishing by the way!

The Running Laminator

Glad to hear you are well, Tom. Congratulations on finishing your race in such brutal conditions. You should be very proud of yourself. I think all marathoners can learn something from yesterday's race.


Nice to hear you run a good, smart race and finished strong. Way to go! I was not so lucky. I did finsh though and that is something. Congratulations!


Congrats Tom on your marathon finish in horrendous conditions. Thanks also for the personal post that sums up everything I've read over the past 24 hours.

No marathon is ever easy, but when mother nature is against you, there's not much you can do. I feel bad for all the runners forced out of the race, but applaud the organizers for their brave decision to abandon the race.


Runnin' Ragged

I am glad you made it through the run ok and happy to hear that it did not dampen your spirits! :)


i am so happy to hear that you finished & in one piece - you are indeed speedy, tom. i never would have guessed from your humble posts that you were planning on 8 minute miles! it is so sad to think about all those who trained so hard - in the summer heat no less! only to have their marathon dream thwarted -- by poor event planning (or disaster event planning as it were) & mother nature. can't do anything about mother nature, but surely, there could have been a better, more organized "plan b" in case of disaster - especially when the weather was not a surprise.


Thanks so much for sharing your firsthand experience. I've heard so many from yesterday and the stories are all different like most races but also, this time have this one common thread. I'm glad you were safe and knew what you were capable of doing out there.

Though I was not there, I do tend to side with the officials. As much as it is their responsibility to put on a great race a runner can be proud to finish, it is also their responsibility to keep runners safe. I think that was the right decision, above and beyond personal disappointment.


Tom, I'm so happy to hear you survived the brutal conditions and finished the race with your head held high. Thank you for sharing your report, take it easy for a few days!


You can add me to the list of people who were worried about you. I am so happy to hear that you're okay.


Congratulations Tom - what a race day! Glad to hear you made it through unscathed!


Whoa, now that was one I haven't had to experience yet: heat. That and rain are the two that I have been waiting to have to endure through, but nothing yet. Glad you finished and hope your recovery goes well.


Love the title of the post. I, too, passed on the blanket yesterday. It was the last thing that I needed after crossing the finishing line.


congrats on the finish. Looks tough.


Congratulations on finishing! I attempted a 22 mile run in temps that rose to 90 degrees and I completely agree with the officials who called off the race. I'm sorry it seemed disorganized to those who experienced it. I think that any time something like this happens it is something for everyone to learn from.

Bill Carter

Glad your ok buddy. Those kind of conditions are absolutely dangerous and can put even the most seasoned runner into a deadly battle with heatstroke. Congrats on the GREAT time and the experience.


Glad to see you made it through the race and back to Iowa in one piece!

The most interesting thing about all the race reports, in my opinion, is the difference perspectives based on people's pace. I saw very little, just a lot of people walking and shuffling as I was. You had many dropping out, even drop out tents! And Jess flat out had nothing to drink!

Nap Warden

Congrats to you for finishing! What a great post! Chicago is usually such a wonderful race, I am so sad that the weather didn't work for all of you runners this year...again, great post!


I ran the Twin Cities Marathon yesterday -- my first marathon -- and the conditions were not as bad, but similar. I heard on the news tonight that if the temps had been one degree warmer, they would have cancelled the race. Yipes.

Glad you are safe and congrats on a good finish!

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