Chicago Marathon # 3...What A Ride!
6 AM Saturday - Sweet Home Chicago!
It was WARM! - Went to my sister's place to hang out for the morning. It was wonderful to see Mallika and Rohan (niece & nephew) - the last time I saw them was Chicago Marathon '06! Went for a short jog with Rohan (10 yrs old) while Mallika (12 yrs old) accompanied us on her bike. It was sweltering! I loved it...but knew we were in for a struggle on Sunday.
Race Day - up at 3:45am, had breakfast with the team and headed to the start. The Asha tent was larger than last year's and we had plenty of Porta Potties...awesome arrangement :-).
Tony lead the team in some light stretching and we all took off for the start. I thought of starting with the team in the Open Corral - but Satyan insisted that I go to Corral D, he said "This is your kinda weather - just go for it" I managed to get to Corral D in time. It took four and a half minutes to get to the start line. I hung on to the 3:45 marathon pace group till mile 17...where a quick stop at the green bank (to make a deposit of my liquid assets) caused us to separate forever. Mercury rising...the temp was up to 90F and it was humid! The pace slowed after the break and as I looked around I started noticing the number of people who were dropping out or just sitting by the road side...the heat was taking its toll...there was a constant wail of ambulance sirens! I realized that this was not a good day to attempt a quicker marathon...hung on to a 9:15min/mile pace to finish in 4:00:14.
Got back to the tent and on the way heard announcements that cooling buses were being sent out...Tony (3:09)and Raghav (3:29) - (Animals!!) - were already there - I had a nice massage - and waited for our runners to start coming in. Around then we started hearing reports about some deaths on the course and hundreds being hospitalized. With every siren Tony and I would look at each other and hope it was not one of our runners...the next two hours were tense, tough and scary! Slowly all our runners started coming in...most of them were re-routed to the finish.
All Fire Hydrants turned on!
For many, the dream of finishing their first marathon was cut short...there was a lot of disappointment and anger amongst the runners. We tried our best to pacify them but our words fell on dejected ears...all those months of training and anticipation were seemingly for naught...they were angry about the lack of water/Gatorade, the heat, the cancellation...frustration was high! The marathon...The "Chicago Marathon" had become a total mess. I was just glad the organizers cancelled the race...with their complete mismanagement the continuation of this race would have been a total disaster. It will take a few days, weeks for our runner's anger to subside and they will realize how lucky they were to come away healthy.
Could things have been better? Hell yes! Could things have been worse? HELL YEA! We were all lucky...all of us came back safe...ready to race another day.
I had to head back home the same evening, so after a quick shower and a few beers with my sister and Rajeev Shankar I made my way to the airport. As I waited for my flight, it struck me that after the finish last year we were all talking about how "Cold" it was...the temp had dropped to 39F during the race. Today all the conversations were about the record heat and that it had hit 90+F...same city...same marathon...same organizers...different outcome! Here's hoping that 2008 will be like 2005...perfect weather and a perfect race.
My quest for a 3:45 finish did not materialize - but the fact that everyone was safe was a huge relief. Big thank you to Asha Chicago and our tireless volunteers, coords, supporters from Asha SV...what a wonderfully well arranged trip...amazing people. I would also like to thank the people of Chicago, the Police & Fire depts, Paramedics and all ancillary organizations...you saved the day and possibly many lives.
Chicago Marathon Organizers - you need to take responsibility for the mess. There was a lack of water at the aid stations - STOP denying it. Admit that mistakes were made - apologize and make amends.
On a lighter note, Dick Walstra - my friend and professor from Chicago wrote this wonderful poem!
Raj came to Chicago
To run the big race;
The weather was awful,
He couldn’t hold pace.
But Ironmen know
That conditions will vary;
So like it or not
He chose not to tarry.
The City sent cops to say
“stop where you’re at!”
But Raj went on racing
In four hours flat.
It wasn’t a record,
No PR this day;
But we all feel much pride
In our friend anyway!
- Dick Walstra