A day of fun, excitement and achievement for runners also included a dose of concern during the fifth annual Mill Race Marathon.
With temperatures expected to rise into the 80s later in the race, the possibility of black flagging — halting — the race loomed because of health risks for participants. That never became necessary, however, and nearly 3,300 of runners completed either the marathon, half-marathon or 5K on Saturday.
“I was so excited that everyone got to finish. The red flag (high risk) came out very early, and all week long people were concerned about the temperature,” said Laura Chasse, a member of the race’s organizing committee.
The fifth edition produced 282 marathon registrations, 1,804 for the half-marathon and 1,581 for the 5K — a total of 3,667. However, the heat impacted runners decisions about the race and 182 finished the marathon, 1,648 the half-marathon and 1,457 the 5K — a total of 3,287.
Organizers contacted participants ahead of the race via email and fliers at registration and encouraged runners who would take four hours or longer to finish the marathon to consider finishing on the half marathon route instead.
“Considering how hot it got, people paid attention to all of our warnings,” said Randy Stafford, another member of the organizing committee.
Temperatures in the mid-60s and humidity made for a warm start at 7:30 a.m. By 9:50 a.m., conditions for the race had reached red-flag status.
Columbus Police Department Sgt. Courtney Plummer, one of the people in the command center closely monitoring weather conditions, said black-flag status was close to being met.
Plummer and others followed the Academy of Sports Medicine’s heat and humidity race guidelines to determine the risk levels for runners. The guidelines include monitoring the temperature, atmospheric pressure and relative humidity as part of a formula that determines how well a body can cool itself under the current weather conditions, according to Stafford.
A saving factor was that the humidity dropped as the day went on, Plummer said.
“We weren’t having people drop left and right. We were running ahead of the minimum times — about 20 minutes the entire race,” she said.
The heat, however, may have caused attendance at the Finish on the Fourth After Party to be lighter than usual, Chasse said.
However, she said she was thankful that no serious medical issues arose throughout the day, and added that the quick reactions of volunteers, on top of the medical staff’s efforts, meant participants needing assistance received it promptly.
“It was another example of a well-executed plan,” Chasse said.
Cups of water, wet towels and bags of ice were distributed to overheated runners at the main medical tent near the start/finish line. Some who needed a little more help rested on cots and received intravenous fluids.
A few people had to be transported to Columbus Regional Hospital, said race medical director Jennifer Hoskins, a nurse practitioner in the hospital’s emergency department.
Brad Bowles, a resident of Bowling Green, Kentucky, competed in his first half-marathon, and said the heat was a factor.
“Once I got finished I got fuzzy-headed, so I came into the shade (of the medical tent) and sat down,” he said.
Dave Venable, one of the race’s founders and another organizing committee member, said he gained a new appreciation for the race volunteers and their efforts to provide runners with water promptly at designated stations while enduring the heat themselves.
Miles Schroeder, 66, and David Murphy, 70, both of Greenfield, offered words of praise for the volunteers after they finished the half-marathon and made a quick stop at the medical tent.
“The support staff is great,” Schroeder said.
Both said they plan to return to Columbus to race in the marathon next year.