As many people in the running world know, today was the New York City Marathon. I’ve run this marathon twice, and I’m know as the resident marathoner at work, which meant that I spent the last week answering the question, “Why aren’t you running the marathon this year?” I found it to be interesting that I felt like I had to defend my reasons for not heading out Staten Island this morning. The main reason was that I decided to take the year off from running marathons, as I was worried about having back issues and chose to sideline the long distance running in favor of a triathlon. (Hence: Princeton Half Ironman.) Otherwise, I can’t always decide if I love running the same course over and over again. I’ve run Chicago, Boston, and New York two times each. Not sure when I’ll head back for a third – they’re all tempting courses!
It seemed as though most of my running friends took the year off from the NYC Marathon as well, and a few months ago I got to thinking how the day would be different not knowing EIGHT BAZILLION people running it. Around this time, I got an email from NYRR requesting volunteers for marathon weekend, so I checked it out. They still needed medical volunteers, which I thought would be pretty cool…so I signed up for that. The expo also had plenty of spots available, so I signed up to help with bib pick-up on Thursday. I’ve been running for a long time and figured it was time to give back to the sport that has given me so much. It was interesting to be on the other side, and admittedly it was difficult to not say things like, “I KNOW JUST HOW YOU FEEL, I RUN MARATHONS TOO.”
So, in case you were wondering about the experience on the other side, it went something like this:
My shift for bib pick-up was 2-8pm, although we spent 2-3pm in “orientation” and getting organized before heading up to the expo. Everyone had to check their bags/jackets and we were all given green volunteer shirts. We randomly got placed behind a set of numbers, although we had too many volunteers so I got placed at the entrance to “direct” runners to one of the three lanes that had bibs. I tried my hardest to ask people what their number was to point them in the right direction, but let’s be honest – the numbers are clearly labeled so most people were like, “I see the number, but thanks!” Luckily, one of the volunteer supervisors told me that I was in a boring job and pulled me into a bib line.
I was in the 5,000-6,000 bib range, which I thought was fun because that means that some fast people would be coming my way! Handing out bibs is fairly easy, although the NYC Marathon is huge on preventing people from selling/stealing bibs, so we had to check the runners’ IDs against their confirmation sheet and their bib number/name. This was mostly fun because I got to see the passports of many different countries – at one point, I realized the plane from Germany must have just landed because we got multiple Germans in a row! We had people who lived as close as a few blocks away and people as far away as Australia. Despite the international feeling of the race, most people spoke English, which always makes me feel like I need to learn a new language.
I only ran into one strange situation where the name on the bib did not match the name on a person’s ID – and it was clearly different since one was male and one was female! The person was quick to point to the bib number and the number on the confirmation sheet, saying, “You just compare the numbers, right? They’re the same.” It may have been believable, but the person was quick to point that out, which made me think something fishy was happening. That’s above my pay grade (ha), so I got a supervisor involved and I have no idea what happened.
We got a break in the middle of the shift, and I didn’t think I would be making it back to the expo for the rest of the weekend, so I explored a little. Mainly, I went on a hunt for the nuun station in search of Kim. Kim was in my van for Hood to Coast (round 1) does evening marketing for nuun, and she travels to many of the race expos, so I get a dose of her every few months. We catch up on life and on the running world, and it always makes expos a little more fun.
And, of course, I couldn’t help browsing the merchandise. I thought that Brooks has some of the better marathon-related apparel this year, and even though I wasn’t running, I couldn’t help but buy this shirt:
I was also lucky enough for Brooks to send me their Freedom Adrenalines, which are a tribute to the NYC Marathon. I’m partial because the Adrenalines were the first running shoe I truly fell in love with (and I ran in them for seven years!), and I love New York. These might one of the best things Brooks has ever done:
Yes, I spelled “NYC” with the shoelaces. It was hard.
finish line medical tent
As the name of this blog suggests, I’m a nurse who runs. When I spotted the “medical volunteer” option on the NYRR website, I thought that it would be a good way to combine the two aspects of my life. Nursing does involve a special set of skills that not everyone has, so I figured I could be of use. This involved going to a gigantic orientation where we got a rundown of the main afflictions we would see on race day and how to treat them. (Read: It’s a medical tent, not a hydration station. AKA not everyone gets an IV!) Being in the post-finish line area, most people who would be coming in would be a result of cramping or a post-exercise related collapse. If runners are going to have cardiac issues, they’ll probably happen before the finish line.
I was in P5, which is the largest medical tent in the race. The medical director said the marathon is the largest planned mass casualty event in the country, as they see about 5,000 people on race day. (The medical tents on the course have to record if they gave Vaseline to someone, so it’s not like 5,000 runners are collapsing.) As a runner, I’ve never set foot in a medical tent, knock on wood, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. We got to the medical tents at 9am, and the first runners don’t arrive until around 12:30pm…we had plenty of time to set up! We filled bags with ice, set up IV poles, spiked IV fluids, and prepared IV start kits. (Oddly enough, we have no heplocks! Just the angiocaths…fail.) Being such a large tent, everyone was assigned to an area – triage, escort (to move runners to the area they were triaged to), discharge, podiatry (for runners with only foot problems), and areas 1-5. I believe that “1” was the least critical whereas “5” was also labeled “RESUS,” short for “resuscitation.” I was assigned to this area, and we basically set up a mini-ICU. Kind of. We had iSTAT machines for quick BMPs (although the machine overheated more than not…) and monitors…and I do believe there was an intubation box.
Each section had a mix of attendings, residents, medical students, nurses, and physical therapists/PT students. The medical students acted as scribes to fill out the “chart” for each runner who came in, while the residents/attendings/nurses assessed the runner and acted as needed. Honestly, the people who got the most action in the tent were the PTs – so many runners came in with cramps, so the PTs went to work massaging muscle, while we tried to get the runners to drink some chicken broth or Gatorade to help with the cramping. The rule in the tent was “no IV without iSTAT,” meaning that not every runner who appeared dehydrated would get an IV – if you looked bad enough to require labwork, then you would get an IV. (Convenient because we would just draw the blood as we started the IV.) I can only think of one person in my section who actually got some IV fluid, and that wasn’t even a full liter. No one even had wonky labs, which was good.
Our more serious issues were a couple asthmatics and some people who got short of breath/chest pain after finishing, but they mostly stated that the cold caught up to them after they finished and they couldn’t get a deep breath. Being in a super heated tent (seriously, it was so toasty in there) made them feel better, along with some blanket and oxygen. We did a few 12 lead EKGs, put in a couple IVs, and gave some breathing treatments. Sometimes we thought we would be getting something more critical when volunteers from the outside would carry in a runner, but that was mainly because they were cramping so bad they couldn’t walk. Terrible for the runner, yes, but not a medical emergency.
Many of the medical volunteers weren’t necessarily runners themselves, or at least they hadn’t run a marathon, and some said, “Well, this doesn’t make me want to run one…” But as a runner looking in from the outside, the runners in the medical tent weren’t that bad. Certainly some awful cramping, and I would definitely be nervous myself if I was having chest pain after a race, but as a medical professional looking in, everyone seemed pretty okay. I did wonder if the cold made things worse with the cramping after the race – many runners were in shorts (which I would have run in had I been running), so I’m sure going from running 26.2 to being in the cold wind didn’t help.
Luckily for the runners, nothing too crazy happened in the main post-finish tent. It was fun to give back to a race that I’ve enjoyed so much, and I enjoyed the teamwork with my group. None of had ever worked together before, but we helped each other out and when someone did come in who looked like they might be really sick, it was all hands on deck. I love watching a group of nurses working together – everyone knows what needs to be done (oxygen, monitor, IV, etc.) and people just start doing things. I think that’s really cool.
But I digress. If you’re in the medical field (especially the physical therapists of the world!), I would definitely recommend volunteering the medical tent. It’s a specialized way to help out and gives you a different side of the race.
a special shout out
I went for a five mile run in the morning before volunteering, and one of my main thoughts was, “I am so glad I’m not running in this wind today.” Major props to everyone who ran the marathon! That wind was brutal, and while the sun seemed to come out at some point, I can only imagine how tough it got out there. But runners will run, and that’s what all of you did – congrats to all!