Chicago Marathon Lack of Water Footage

Erica pointed me to this video on YouTube shot by a Chicago Marathon runner who was apparently running with a camera or camera phone.

This angers me. The people who are at likely at greatest health risk from not having water – the slowest runners – deserve better than this. They paid to participate and deserved better support.

11 thoughts on “Chicago Marathon Lack of Water Footage”

  1. Sorry, Ed, but I have to disagree with you. The organizers have to make assumptions on how much water to put out–there is no such thing as infinity water. There is only so much they can do–remember that the people at “manning” the water stops are volunteers and can only refill cups so fast. From what I understand, people were taking up to 7 cups per water stop–the most I took under similar conditions at TCM was 3. Maybe we should point the finger at the people taking “more than their share”???

  2. Kirk, if they were understaffed for volunteers, they could have hired temps. Are you seriously blaming people for taking too much water? I think people deterimine their fair share based on what their bodies are telling them.

    It’s a shame the organizers didn’t properly staff and supply based on the forecast, which did appear to be accurate for the race.

  3. Again, I don’t agree. People don’t know what they are doing most of the time–hence we end up dehydrated at times or even killing ourselves by drinking too much water (hypnotrauma, I believe). I would also point to people’s waist lines as evidence people aren’t good at determining their “fair share”. Let’s figure that you assumed that everyone would take double the amount of water compared to typical. You plan on that and people take 3x the amount based on perceived needs. You’d run out of water based on your (good) assumptions. Heck you see it in your industry–servers crash all the time due to high demand. Can you supply an infinite amount of servers???

  4. The Freets is onto something here. Running and cameras don’t belong in the same sentence. Segways and cameras? Perhaps.

    Kirk, it sounds like you’re saying that you’ve taken triple your normal intake of water in extreme heat. Assuming that’s typical – and it’s risky calling you a typical runner since you’re in shape and probably deal with heat a lot better than the 5 hour crowd – that would mean the Chicago Marathon should have tripled their available water. But according to CNN, they only increased it by 10%. The Angry Fan has some thoughts:

    Now this guy Platt is a senior VP at a bank, but I guess he is not a particularly gifted mathematician. His argument is that they increased the total number of drink servings at the marathon by a total of 200,000 for the 35,000 runners. Let’s run through the math on this. That’s an additional 200 servings per 35 runners, or a total of an additional 5.7 servings throughout the course of the marathon. Split between the 15 aid stations? That’s less than half a cup additional per runner per aid station. That means they went from 3 cups per station per runner to approximately 3.4 cups on a 90 degree day.

    and from CNN:

    Organizers insisted they adjusted their plans for the heat and boosted the number of drink servings at the race’s 15 aid stations to 1.8 million from 1.6 million, as well as adding misting areas, extra ice and water-soaked sponges.

    Seems like a major underestimation to me.

  5. Chicago screwed up the water, no doubt.

    When a webpage goes viral and downs a server, no one dies. And when the big boys (Yahoo, Google, et al) are involved, it is a pretty rare day when they lose the war between visitors and server volume.

    When the servers go down, you don’t blame those pesky visitors for wanting to use your service, you wince and accept the blame you will get for not anticipating for the volume.

    A local ultra blog featured a thread on the TCM/Chicago, which had these comments from veteran runners–“I know enough to take 2-3 cups…” – and – “I downed about three cups of powerade and a cup or two of water at each drink station.”
    And others spoke of refilling water (16-20 oz) bottles they carried in their hip packs.

    I have run 5 marathons myself and learned quickly that I ran fine on 1 cup of sport drink plus 1 cup of water per water stop, and these were in normal weather–I never ran one in 85 degrees.

    So, these experienced runners are listening to their bodies and drinking (and dumping on their heads) 3 times the normal water stop amounts.

    Chicago is supposed to be one of the big boys of the marathon biz, but they got caught with their pants down. But while this goes back on the organizers, but let’s remember that most are not full-time staff and tend to be VPs of banks doing a civic stripe for their resume, and water stop volunteers tend to be the local staff from Office Max, all doing this part-time in addition to their real job, usually for no pay or a modest stipend to cover their expenses.

    Let’s also remember, when you are talking about providing for 30,000 runners appearing at your mile 4 water stop within 20 minutes of the start and expecting to drink and be away within 30 seconds, you can’t just send a couple kids to the local gas station with $25 to buy a couple cases of Mendota Springs and Gatorade. Or, quick-here is a packet of drink mix, fill up the back of my pickup truck with water and use a canoe paddle to mix it up, and fill these 1000 cups quick.

    The entire field of runners should be past this first stop within 50 minutes of the start, about 30 minutes of pounding on these tables. So if you don’t have the tables laid out and ready beforehand, this crowd is like locusts descending on a field. It is chaos with no chance to recovery for mistakes, just to warn the later stops to improve their tables.

  6. I’m still stickin’ to my guns. What most of you don’t realize is that there is a water stop every mile at the Chicago Marathon. Every freakin’ mile. If every runner took 3x the amount of water they normally take at every stop, that is 6x the amount that they should take. How the heck can you ever prepare for that? Also, I don’t believe that anybody died at the Chicago marathon for lack of water. In fact, nobody died at the marathon because of the marathon.

    And I also take exception at the “experienced” runner idea. If you’ve ever run Chicago, you will notice a decided lack of “experience”. Most are people who ran 20-30 miles/week and though that they would be fine getting through the “Everest” of their life. They don’t know when enough is enough or when to quit. They don’t have the experience to tell them that. They simply followed the Hal Higdon beginner training program–which is good enough to get you by on a normal day. This was not a normal day.

    Chicago’s biggest mistake was increasing the size to 45000 people due to demand.
    Let’s see what the demand is next year. I bet they sell out.

  7. Kirk – they only had 15 stops that were supposed to have water – down from 17 the year prior, but with more entrants. Sorry – not enough.

  8. I’ve been thinking about this a little more, and I’m still not wavering. Think of a Common, back in the middle ages. The policy of the time allowed every farmer to herd their sheep there at no cost. So, every farmer brought too many sheep to the common and eventually there was no grass–and all the sheep died. Hence the phrase, “The Tragedy of the Commons”. So it was with the first few water stops of the Chicago marathon. How should they control this? Charge everyone per cup at the water stops? Would this please you? What mechanism is in place to stop the first 24000 folks from taking too much water? Common courtesy–something that obviously was lacking. Should they charge $150/person so they can add a Willy Wonka ish never ending water water fountain???

    Let’s look at another market analogy. The Chicago Marathon did their best to provide a service to the people running the marathon–similar to a retailer doing their best to gauge their market and respond accordingly. What should people do in this circumstance? Find another market alternative. Go ahead. Let’s see who sells out first next year. Chicago or Columbus. I’m betting that Columbus has had fewer shortages of water and bathrooms in the past than Chicago, and yet the demand is ther for Chicago. Change your consumer experience if that is what suits you.

    Lastly, 15 water stops is plenty. More than Grandma’s (run in 80 F heat this year) and more than TCM (run in 80 F heat this year)…

  9. Intersting analogy, but there there isn’t a finite amount of water in Chicago. It’s just a matter of making it available in a consumable form at a cost of a few cents per cup.

    Who decides how much water is too much water for a marathon runner? Restricting water is a lawsuit waiting to happen.

  10. Kirk – just pointing out that you first stated that there was water “every freakin’ mile” – and now say 15 water stops was more than enough. I know you stated that you ran Chicago before, but were you even there? Sounds like you weren’t or at least you’re story is changing like the marathon organizations from “there was always enough water” to “the water ran out because people were throwing it on their heads.” Question – how much Gatorade were people throwing on their heads? Why did that run out?

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