36,000 runners gathered on Sunday, October 10th, 2010 (10/10/10) for the 26 mile-long Bank of America Chicago Marathon. The sun was out and was not holding back its powerful rays. Runners were pushed to their physical and mental limits, and unfortunately many runners needed emergency medical attention. The Chicago Marathon hosted some of the world’s most elite runners for one of the fastest marathons in the premier circuit that will visit cities like Boston, New York, and London.
This was the first marathon that I have ever attended, and I was eager to get to the Charity Village tent and talk with our Run Red Team members. While watching our computer for updates on our runners, I noticed a good friend of mine walking in the tent. DeAnna Durham, a student at Loyola University Chicago (where I go to school), immediately approached me in the tent. I soon found out that her fiancé, Bob Spoerl, was running for the Run Red Team for the second time. Bob, a Journalism grad student at Northwestern University, finished the marathon with a scorching time of 3 hours, 28 minutes, and 30 seconds. After Bob had recuperated, we began to have discussion about his involvement with the Red Cross. Upon asking him why he decided to run for us, he stated that,
“I respect the work that the Red Cross of Greater Chicago does. I really appreciate how the Red Cross is there to help no matter who you are, and where you are. I mean, you can’t argue with running for such a great cause like that.” Spoerl and I continued with our conversation, and he noted that on the 7th mile of the race that his legs began to feel like “Jell-O”. I was curious about what kept him motivated during the race to keep running: “For me, a great source of inspiration was giving people high fives when I was running. I didn’t want to stop running. Also, I thought about my freshman football coach, and how he used to always inspire me to never give up and keep pushing forward.” I was baffled by how coherent and surprisingly energized Bob was after the race. I couldn’t imagine running 30-40 miles every single week, starting a year before the marathon, like Bob did in order to prepare for the Chicago Marathon. Bob’s training paid off, for he did not need to pay a visit to the emergency medical tent, where hundreds of other runners were seriously injured or severely dehydrated.
The American Red Cross of Greater Chicago played a crucial role during the Chicago Marathon. Our Patient Connection Program connected the families of injured, sick, or hospitalized runners with their families. My principal responsibility at the Chicago Marathon was to work at our tent in Charity Village, but as the heat climbed well into the 80s, the runners began to collapse as fast as the temperature went up. I was soon relocated to the Patient Connection Program command center by the Balbo Medical Tent to find and contact runners in the tent, and to deliver updates to the families and loved ones or the runners. As soon as 10 patients are sent to the Medical Tent or have been hospitalized, the Red Cross activates this program in order to maintain a constant stream of communication between the runner and their family. The American Red Cross of Greater Chicago connected nearly 100 runners with their families that day, and I will never forget the faces of those who were so happy to hear that their friend or family member was in good hands.
My name is Zach Zimmerman, and I am a Red Cross Communicator.