Runner's heart attack, variety of ailments make busy day for marathon medics
A 25-year-old runner collapsed Sunday about 300 yards from the finish line of the Dick's Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon, with medics performing CPR and using a defibrillator to restart his heart, medical personnel said.
“I was saying the ‘Our Father' and ‘Hail Mary.' They brought him back to life,” said race volunteer Mark Ferguson of Mt. Lebanon, who initially helped the runner on the Boulevard of the Allies, Downtown, as hundreds of finishers streamed past.
The runner, dazed and mostly incoherent, collapsed just after indicating he wanted to finish the race, Ferguson said. He was taken to UPMC Mercy, where he was in critical condition, according to Dr. Ron Roth.
The runner, who is from Washington, D.C., wasn't identified. He was in the full marathon, and it wasn't clear why he went into cardiac arrest. Medical personnel, along with two bystanders with medical backgrounds, reached the man quickly, Roth said.
“We quickly got a heartbeat back, and we're hoping for the best,” Roth said.
The temperature reached 73 degrees by noon and took a toll on some of the more than 34,000 athletes who hit the streets of Pittsburgh, running 26.2 miles or the 13.1-mile half-marathon.
Roth said medical personnel treated 367 people for ailments ranging from minor blisters and dehydration to dizziness, cramps and overheating. He said 199 were treated on the race course and 168 in the medical tent at the finish line. Of the 49 people taken to hospitals, two were pregnant spectators who went into labor. They were transported to Magee-Womens Hospital of UPMC.
About 10 people suffered from dangerously high body temperatures, reaching 108 to 110 degrees, and they were dunked in ice water, Roth said.
It was the highest number of medical problems at the marathon since 2012, when 365 runners were treated and 60 were taken to hospitals.
The marathon raised yellow flags at 10 a.m., warning runners that they should take precautions because of the temperature.
“In the morning, it was cold at the start line, and I suspect runners said, ‘Wow, it's going to be a great marathon, it's 50 degrees, I'm really going to try to run quickly,' and as the temperature increased, hopefully some of them adjusted their speed, but maybe not all of them,” Roth said.
“It was just a one-mile-at-a-time kind of deal,” Elaine Vincent, 29, of Dormont said of dealing with the warm weather. She finished the full marathon in about 5 hours, 15 minutes.
Police did not have any security issues or major problems, according to Michael Huss, the city's deputy director of public safety.
Stephen Njoroge of Kenya and Clara Santucci of Dilliner, Greene County, were the top male and female finishers.
Njoroge finished with a time of 2:15:19. Santucci, who was the top female finisher in the 2014 marathon, had a time of 2:34:06.
For some participants, the day was a chance to qualify for the Boston Marathon. Others dashed across asphalt and concrete in honor of a loved one. For some, it was simply for the love of running.
“This wasn't bad, considering that I was training in a hat and gloves two weeks ago,” said Sara Gorney, 39, of Forest Hills, who ran a half-marathon — her ninth race — with a finishing time of 2:23:01.
As in years past, the marathon turned many of the 13 city neighborhoods along the course into party zones, with bands playing and thousands lining streets, ringing cowbells, offering high-fives and holding signs bearing encouraging messages.
Gregory Gentile, 43, of Monroeville called out runners' names as they passed him on Forbes Avenue in Oakland, offering words of praise such as “Way to go, Ryan,” reading the names off the bibs.
“It's a little bit of personal encouragement,” Gentile said. “They think that someone cares about them, and that's a good thing.”
“When you train, you run alone. And then you come here, and people are so supportive” said Kelly Ulm, 46, of Elizabeth Township, who ran the full marathon as a Boston Marathon qualifier, but came up short with a net time of 3:49:20. “They don't know how much they help. I wish I could thank them all.”
Staff writer Karen Price contributed. Bill Vidonic is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5621 or email@example.com.