October 7, 2007 - Deadly Hot Chicago Marathon

Hundreds of people were hospitalized, and the race was called off for the first time in its history.

Chicago Marathon Antonio Vernon Wikimedia Commons

Photo: Antonio Vernon.

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Long-distance runners know, better than most people, to take the temperature seriously when they're ticking down the kilometres between them and the finish line.

But most people wouldn't expect temperatures of 30°C on October 7th, which is what awaited the runners of 2007's LaSalle Bank Chicago Marathon.

Some 35,000 runners from all around the world had descended on the city, from serious pros hoping for a top-10 finish, to people hoping to knock the feat off their personal bucket list. Whatever drew them, all would face dangerous, even life-threatening, conditions that forced organizers to suspend the race three-and-a-half-hours after the starting gun, warning participants to walk, not run, to the finish.

Some 25,000 runners did indeed finish the course, but 315 had to be taken to hospital with heat-related illness, including five who stayed overnight in serious or critical condition. One person died: George Chiampas, the race's medical director, who collapsed in the extremely hot conditions.

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It reached such a crisis point that ambulances and attendants had to be called in from the suburbs to help cope. Runners described chaotic scenes of racers throwing up, passing out, or being carted away on stretchers in obvious distress.

Afterwards, some runners claimed there hadn't been enough water or water stations along the route, something race organizers denied.

"This Day In Weather History” is a daily podcast by The Weather Network that features unique and informative stories from host Chris Mei.

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