It’s debatable who was more impressive during Sunday’s oven-baked Chicago Marathon: Kenyan Patrick Ivuti finishing first in a field of about 35,000 runners or Greensboro orthopedist Matt Weingold, who stopped running nine miles from the finish to help tend to hundreds of other runners suffering from dehydration and fatigue.
Weingold was nearing the homestretch when he ducked into one of the race’s medical tents to have a volunteer massage his cramping calves.
One look inside the jammed tent and Weingold knew the race — at least for him — was essentially over.
Bruised, blistered and fevered bodies littered the tent. Dehydrated runners, many of them hooked to IV bags, filled every cot. Runners not fortunate enough to snag a bed were doubled over on the ground outside while volunteers scrambled to find water and ice for them.
Ambulances were called in from nearby cities and counties to help transport more than 300 runners to area hospitals.
“It looked like a MASH unit,” Weingold recalled by phone Monday before returning to Greensboro. “There were so many people needing help the volunteers were overwhelmed.”
Weingold helped tend to the ailing runners, giving them water and ice where he could find it and helping others into ambulances.
The race was stopped
31/2 hours after it started when runners began to succumb as temperatures soared into the upper 80s. Runners who hadn’t reached the halfway point were diverted to the start/finish area, while those on the second half of the course were advised to drop out, walk or board cooling buses.
One runner died of a heart-related ailment, and hundreds suffered nausea, heart palpitations and dehydration from the stifling heat. Forty-nine were hospitalized, race officials said, while another 250 were treated on-site. Chicago Fire Department officials told The Associated Press they used 30 ambulances from area suburbs.
About 10,000 of the 45,000 registered runners never showed up for the 30th annual Chicago race, while another 10,934 started but didn’t finish, officials said.
Weingold, who spent the past 18 weeks preparing for the race with three other Greensboro runners, said it is typical for marathon runners to pass other runners on a course who are suffering cramps or are fatigued.
“This was a situation you couldn’t walk away from,” he said. “It was fairly chaotic. People needed water and there was none. What little ice that there was available was melting. It was like a triage scene.”
After about 20 minutes of helping, Weingold returned to the race, walking and jogging the last nine miles. The closer he got to the finish line, the more people he saw in need of care.
“It was like a death march at the end,” he said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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