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Marathon to add medical stations in case going gets tough

by Matt Doyle
Oct 07, 2008

Pre-marathon health and fitness expo

Chicago Marathon runners must pick up their race packets at the Bank of America Health & Fitness Expo at McCormick Place, West Building, on Friday between 9 a.m. and 8 p.m. or Saturday between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. The packets will not be mailed to participants and cannot be picked up on the day of the race. The expo features a variety of programs for final marathon prep and coaching.

Expo experts:
The expo features speakers on a variety of topics for marathoners. Pre-race medical advice, race strategies, hydration tips and how to use the new Event Alert System are just a few of the topics scheduled for the two day event. The expo is free and open to the public.

Getting to the expo: 
Free shuttle bus service is available to the expo from four pickup locations:

Hilton Chicago, 720 S. Michigan Ave.
CTA Red Line Stop @ Cermak & Clark St.
Niketown, Michigan Ave. & Erie St.
Sheraton Chicago, 301 E. North Water St.

Shuttles run between 8:30 a.m. and 8:30 p.m. on Friday and 8:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. on Saturday.


Ninety degree temperatures created a medical emergency for many Chicago Marathon runners last year, paving the way for improved medical care for Sunday's 31st annual race.

The event was halted last year after four hours because temperatures hovered at nearly 90 degrees. One runner died after collapsing in the marathon and numerous others required hospital care. 

The added health care includes 20 "aid stations" spaced one to two miles apart this year compared to 15 last year, according to race organizers. Medical professionals will be available at the stations along with water, Gatorade, and restrooms.

Race organizers also announced the addition of an extra medical tent available at the 26-mile mark along with the main medical tent at the finish line. The tent offers varied medical services. Some other added safety measures include a color-coded weather alert system customized to monitor and report wind, temperature and humidity conditions along the course of the race.

“We learned a lot from the experience of the 2007 race,” said Carey Pinkowski, executive director of the Bank of America Chicago Marathon in a recently released statement. “The improvements and additions for 2008 will strengthen this race by providing a stronger runner support system and offering insight to our road racing peers."
Still, runners can avoid problems by adhering to simple sports fundamentals.  

“Regularly consume water during the marathon,” said Dr. Paul Lento of the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago. Watch for neurological symptoms such as lightheadedness, dizziness or swelling of the limbs, he said. "Those types of things may indicate a heat illness and someone should seek out a medical station.”

People should listen to their bodies, according to Lento. After training for an extended period of time to run the race, people should understand their limits. 

“People have to have a plan,” said Dr. Preston Wolin, the director of the Sports Medicine Program at the Neurologic and Orthopedic Hospital of Chicago. “We are talking about several months [of training],” he said. “I think we all learned last year about the importance of hydration, not only during the race, but beforehand and after. There is not really any substitute for that. People tend to forget that hydration is important even on days when it is not hot." 

First-time marathoners should hydrate every chance they get and remember that the race is a marathon, not a sprint, said Chris Hall, the University of Chicago’s men’s and women’s cross-country and track and field coach,. Approximately 40 percent of the 45,000 marathon participants are first-timers, according to race organizers. That means an estimated 18,000 first-time participants for this week's race.

"You will feel like this is easy [at first],” Hall said. “It’s a challenge to keep yourself controlled and to think your way through the early stages of the race versus getting caught up in it. The best advice for the beginners is that they are very cautious during the early stages of the race.”

The weather forecast for Sunday calls for mostly cloudy skies and temperatures in the low 70s, according to,. “That is still pretty warm,” Hall advised. “But that is not nearly what it was a year ago. It was tough out there, even watching as a spectator.”

The 26.2-mile marathon course begins and ends at Columbus Drive in Grant Park.