Like many runners, October 27, 2019 will stick in my mind for a long time. In my 16 years as medical coordinator, it was the first time it rained- buckets- 2.5 inches, rivers of water on the road and then the sun came out and it was hot. We hit 80 degrees near the end of the race. Runners were in water above their ankles at miles 12-14. The water was running like rivers on the side of the road, so all the runners were crowding into the center of the road to lessen the impact of the water. At least we did not have the predicted thunderstorms. However, we did have the Vice President of the United States show up unannounced to watch his son and then stay for an hour to congratulate thousands of runners.
The impact of the weather on the runners was significant. Cold, wet and windy produced lots of hypothermia. We had temperatures as low as 91 degrees and many in the mid 90’s. The bright side to running in the cold and wet was the number of Personal Records (PRs) being set that day. The seasoned runners wore garbage bags on their bodies and shoes until the start of the race. Some had sandwich bags with extra socks to change during the event. Many discarded layers and layers of clothing as the miles went by. Then at 1113 that big yellow ball of heat rose from the clouds and the puddles started to dry up, more clothes were shed and body temperatures began to rise……….. 106, 107, 108.
We had several runners with hyponatremia, hypothermia, hyperthermia, heat stroke and the blisters, the blisters and abrasions were everywhere due to the rain. We also had more falls and fractures than our average race due to wet leaves, water and hidden surfaces. We transported thirty-six runners; there were reports of several more going to the emergency departments on their own later that night.
My point, when planning you need to be prepared for anything and everything. We needed last minute orders for more ponchos for the roaming medical staff. Generators can short out in pouring rain, making lights dim. Floors in aid stations get slippery and muddy and the gear gets muddy. Runners are muddy and very wet. Tape does not stick; walking on crutches can be hazardous. Paperwork and bibs get wet, tear and can get lost.
You need to be prepared and you need to be flexible. The best-laid plans are soon scrapped once you cross the start line. The key is having leaders who can make good decisions in short order and having prepared plans that can flex and adjust. We were given less than ten minutes notice that the VP wanted to come by. The security plan and egress plan for medical had to flex. He then wanted to stay, chat and congratulate runners, all during the height of the finish. We did take the opportunity to highlight our medical teams—opportunity knocked!
As any of us who plan, coordinate, provide logistics, and support all the other pieces of events can tell you, lots of preparing, planning, formulating, and rehearsing can go a long way to be ready for anything on the big day