Organizers plan improvements to marathon

CHICAGO Organizers are working to prevent a repeat of last year when unusually warm conditions caused dozens of racers to collapse and even lead to the death of one person.

Dozens of runners left Friday on a training run. Many of them prepared for the Chicago Marathon in a month. The marathon field sold out in near record time this year, despite numerous problems a year ago. Temperatures and humidity soared. The medical staff, including paramedics were stretched to their limit. That prompted organizers to make the unprecedented move of shutting the race down before many runners were allowed to finish.

Kate Lockwood says her group tried to make the best of it.

"We knew at some point that we weren't going to finish in the time we wanted. We just had to slow down and try not to leave in an ambulance," said Lockwood.

"Last year was a freak thing, I think, and if you're going to come here it's the place to run your personal record," said Todd Williams, retired Olympic distance runner.

Williams says runners should be prepared for all conditions. But if the conditions are extreme, marathon director Carey Pinkowski says he learned a lot from last year.

"It was a challenging day. I think we learned a great deal from that. And we've taken that knowledge in moving forward with this year's event," said Pinkowski.

Among the changes, they are adding an alert system with colored flags and signs along the course to keep runners informed. They will also add several more water and aid stations and increase the size of the others.

"There's almost double the amount of product that we saw over last year. Whether we tap into it, who knows? They're just really, really well prepared," said Dave Zimmer, Fleet Feet Sports.

"I have a pretty good feeling we're going to have a perfect day here in Chicago," said Bart Yasso, Runner's World Magazine.

Because of Chicago's bid for the 2016 Olympics, the eyes of the world will be focused even more critically on the Chicago marathon and the city's ability to put on big international sporting events. Marathon organizers are promising this will be the best in the event's history.

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