Runners hospitalized for heat exhaustion at Old Port half marathon

Posted July 14, 2013, at 1:05 p.m.
Last modified July 14, 2013, at 3:05 p.m.

PORTLAND, Maine — Dozens of runners had to be treated for heat exhaustion Sunday morning at the Shipyard Old Port half marathon.

A few of the runners were hospitalized, according to race director Erik Boucher of GiddyUp Productions, who said Sunday that he estimated about 2,000 people had finished the 13.1-mile race, which began at 7:30 a.m. at the Ocean Gateway Terminal Pier.

The temperature in Portland was 83 degrees at noon with 65 percent humidity, although runner Jodie Beth Benvie of Windham said that she believed the humidity was much higher at 7 a.m.

“I feel melted,” she said after the race. “I saw a lot of people stopping to walk. I saw a lot of people saying, ‘Oh, I need more water.’ There was definitely a higher percentage of people walking than usual.”

Benvie, who said she did not suffer from heat exhaustion but was looking forward to jumping into a cool lake, did see a lot of emergency medical technicians patrolling the race course on bicycles.

“They were peeking at everybody, going, ‘You OK? You OK?’” she said. “I felt like they weren’t very far away if I really, truly did melt.”

Boucher said that race organizers were able to help most ailing runners along the course but that a few had to be taken to the hospital.

“For people who are very hot, we put them in an ice bath,” he said.

Some people recovered on cots at the finish line and had icy towels made available to them, he said.

Because it’s a midsummer race, Boucher said that he approaches the event differently than events he organizes in other seasons. There are water stations along the course with 125-gallon tanks of water that are used to serve lots of water fast. Medical support also was provided along the course and at the finish line, with ambulances in place in case of a need for emergency medical transport, according to the website for the half marathon. Also, a special bicycle unit of Portland Fire and EMS responders were set to patrol the course on the Back Cove and Eastern Prom trails, he said.

Efforts to reach Portland Fire Department officials were unsuccessful. The Portland Press Herald reported Sunday that firefighters opened up hoses so runners could cool down.

Boucher said that more than half of the runners for the event come from outside Maine, including some participants from as far away as Alaska and California.

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