New York City Marathon runners are in for a nasty surprise, as the forecast for this Sunday’s race shows unseasonably warm and humid conditions with parts of New York City potentially reaching up to the mid-70s. For the rest of us it will be a beautiful Indian Summer Day, but if you’re a runner you know this is disastrous–especially if you’re hoping for a personal best, or even if you want to just stay safe.
The organization hosting the race, the New York Road Runners (NYRR), has put out a warning for runners as they take their final steps in preparing for the 26.2-mile course.
Now held in November, from 1976 to 1986 the race was held in October when the change was made precisely to set it in cooler weather. Historically, this Sunday won’t be the warmest marathon day. The hottest year for the race was 1979, when race day, October 21, reached 80 °F (27 °C). But the most dramatic, due to the unseasonable temperature and even worse humidity, occurred in 1984 when an Italian student surprised everyone, including himself, by winning the race.
26-year-old Orlando Pizzolato, from Milan, stopped eight times within five miles of the finish line that afternoon. He would turn around to see who was following him along the dotted blue line that led to Central Park. When incredulous, he saw no one, he did the only thing he could do as the 74-degree temperatures and 96-percent humidity tried to slow him down; he turned back and kept on slogging in the unbearable conditions.
He dropped to his knees to kiss the pavement after he completed his 26.2-mile ordeal in 2 hours 14 minutes 53 seconds — 43 seconds and about 200 yards ahead of his only challenger, Briton David Murphy. “I don’t believe I won the New York City Marathon,” Pizzolato said later. “The time was not very good, but the people’s applause gave me a lot of strength to go on.” (Incidentally, in 1985, Pizzolato did it again, proving that he was no flash-in-the-pan by scoring a come-from-behind victory in New York over World Cup champion Ahmad Saleh of Djibouti. “No one knew me last year,” he said. “Now everyone’s a friend of mine.”)
That year, 1984, marked the first death in the marathon’s 15-year history as a French runner, Jacques Bussereau, collapsed and died midway through the race. Countless runners were overcome by the weather and were given medical care. For most, dehydration put an end to their dream of finishing the race and it’s doubtful if any personal records were set.
However, the anticipated conditions this Sunday are not bad news for everyone. Olympian and America’s marathon record-holder Daniel Do Nascimento told ABC News that he thought he expected to be cold for the race – but instead will get lucky. “When I saw that it was going to be hot, it’s a great opportunity for me because I’m from a tropical country that’s so hot,” said Do Nascimento, from Brazil.
The NYRR is giving plenty of advice: “Start the race well hydrated and remember to drink fluids when you are thirsty,” the email to runners read. “Fluid stations are located throughout the course and handheld and waist hydration packs are permitted…If you feel faint, dizzy, disoriented, or your skin is clammy and abnormally hot or cold, slow down or stop running.” Finally, they add that, “If symptoms continue, stop running and seek help at a medical station (located every mile starting at mile 3).”
Whether you’re a runner or a spectator, enjoy the race!
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