Heated competition: Marathon runners overcome high temps, humidity to reach finish

They say it’s not the heat, it’s the humidity. And for the thousands of runners in the Mill Race Marathon, it was both.

At least two dozen runners were given medical-related treatment on the course during Saturday’s marathon, including one runner who was transported to Columbus Regional Hospital.

That runner was found to be temporarily non-responsive at about 9 a.m., so an ambulance was called in, event medical director Dr. Tim VonFange said.

While Saturday’s race wasn’t held in conditions as brutal as two years ago, as the temperature inched up from the mid-60s at the start to the mid-to-high-80s at the end, some runners were complaining of dehydration, nausea and pain Saturday.

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“These types of things aren’t uncommon,” said Lt. Matt Harris, Columbus Police Department spokesman, who was among the first responders monitoring dispatches of ambulances and mobile medics on bikes around the course.

A number of runners received treatment, including IVs, while on the course and some even resumed running after a break, or a short stay inside an ambulance.

Most of the injuries were minor and ran the gamut of complaints, but none were considered serious, Harris said.

Qualifying attempt falters

One crowd favorite, local Special Olympics athlete Josh Holley, had hoped to qualify for the Boston Marathon with a quick time on Saturday, pacing himself with Tyler Stilwell, a Boston Marathon veteran.

But the heat and humidity caused Holley to hit a wall around mile 23 of the 26.2-mile course Saturday, causing his family intense worry as they couldn’t locate the special needs runner on the course.

“There were people chanting ‘Josh’ for every mile of the 26 miles,” said his mother Deana Holley, who said Josh had been pacing at just a tad over 7 minute miles and had planned to finish the marathon in under three hours.

“We knew he could do it, the humidity hit him — the humidity was a beast,” his mother said.

Josh re-hydrated on the course and Stilwell was able to get him upright to finish the last few miles, Deana said. At the finish line, spectators burst into tears as they watched Stilwell encourage Josh to finish strong, even though Josh was struggling to remain hydrated.

In the end, Josh finished in 4 hours, 25 minutes, 47 seconds, second in his age group, and 82nd overall. Six medics on bicycles were riding behind Josh and Tyler as they finished, with Tyler taking 83rd place with the same time as Josh.

The two are now considering an attempt at the Monumental Marathon in November in Indianapolis, Deana Holley said, where the two hope to qualify for Boston.

More runners

Saturday’s marathon had greater participation than the last two years, said Laura Dudukovich, the race planning committee lead.

This year 267 people registered for the marathon, 1,674 registered for the half-marathon and 1,840 registered for the 5K race — 3,781 total.

Not all of those registrants competed or finished, though. The marathon had 196 finishers, the half-marathon 1,471 and the 5K 1,600 — 3,267 total.

“I think it’s a combination of a rock-solid marketing and promotions team doing things at expos, and then the maturity of the event. We’ve had a lot of repeat runners,” Dudukovich said.

“I was super excited this week the number were going up even though mother nature was not in our favor,” she added.

The weather forecast called for sun and humidity and temperatures to climb into the mid-80s.

The cloud cover early in the day disappeared and the sun made the race a lot warmer for participants, Dudukovich said.

Dudukovich said some runners who had registered for the marathon opted instead to race in the half-marathon, so they’d be running less in the heat.

“I think people have been smart,” she said.

Busy medical tents

In the medical tent at Sixth and Washington streets, things got progressively busier during the event, Von Fange said.

For example, there were only five people in the medical tent when the 5K run concluded. But that number jumped to 14 shortly after the first of the marathon runners had crossed the finish the line.

Symptoms exhibited by the runners included exhaustion and dizziness, and some collapsed, VonFange said.

“But since the people we saw ranged from requiring treatment to just needing to sit down for a few minutes, I can’t even estimate how many people we treated,” he said. “But I will say one thing, it was a lot!”

Using what is called a wet bulb globe temperature to measure several elements of the weather, he said the late Saturday morning conditions measured in the red. That means it felt between 88 and 90 degrees for the runners.

“The temperature is hotter than I’d like it to be,” Von Fange said. “It’s been busy, but manageable at the tent.”

Course changes

This year’s marathon also featured changes to the courses, which no longer passed through Mill Race Park. That’s because Louisville & Indiana Railroad and CSX officials could no longer guarantee that trains would not come through the park.

The starting line also was moved a half-block north to Seventh and Washington streets, the 5K race was run in the opposite direction of last year’s course and a portion of the People Trail was included in this year’s routes.

“I was really happy with the changes we made. They worked very well,” said Dave Venable, a member of the race planning committee, who also competed in the marathon.

Venable said clouds and a breeze made race conditions pleasant for a while, but the sun and heat did wear on runners.

“I slowed down to compensate after a while,” Venable said.

Venable said he enjoyed seeing all the bands, volunteers and community support around the course.

“It’s a really fun event to be associated with,” he said.

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Total Finishers;196;1,471;1,600



Average time;4:40:06;2:30:50;42:46

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More coverage is inside the A section and B section (Sports)

Top finisher results inside today’s Republic

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For complete results, visit mill race marathon.com.

For more photos, see therepublic.com