Nikki Maroney does not remember crossing the finish line at the Eugene Half Marathon last year. After running thirteen miles without water, Maroney completed the race in a daze of dehydration and heat exhaustion.
“I remember someone caught me, and I woke up with an IV in my arm in the medical tent,” said Maroney. “I felt really shaky and really cold.”
To avoid side aches, Maroney said she did not stop at any of the 18 water stations to hydrate and fainted at the end of the course as a result. She said she was taken to the American Red Cross medical tent and regained consciousness soon after.
This year, however, Maroney returned to the Eugene Half Marathon in full strength. At 7 a.m. on Sunday, she joined over 8,500 runners and walkers ages twelve and over who registered to participate in either a 5K race, half-marathon or full marathon.
Maroney and over 2,300 other half-marathoners followed a 13.1-mile course, which began on the corner of East 15th Avenue and Agate Street and weaved south through Amazon Park, across the Willamette River and back to the track at Hayward Field.
Despite offering water and Gatorade to participants at water stations located every two miles, many runners did not stop to hydrate said volunteer Lisa Thorton.
Thorton and other members the UO Alumni Association hosted a water station table at mile nine of the course, which is located right across Hayward Field. From 5:30 to 10 a.m. Thorton and the other volunteers refilled small plastic cups with water and Gatorade for the runners and walkers that passed by.
“These water stations are hugely important because you have to stay hydrated while you’re running. Even though it only seems like a little bit of water, if you drink a little at each table it kind of keeps you going,” Thorton said.
According to a recent study by the International Marathon Medical Directors Association, marathoners are recommended to drink 13.5 to 27 fluid ounces—roughly two large glasses—of water an hour. The study said that if athletes do not receive the appropriate amount of liquid, they risk vomiting, fainting and muscle strain.
“The guys who are in really good shape, they just run on by. They don’t want water, but all of these people really need the water,” Thorton said.
As runners grabbed the cups without stopping, water spilled down their chins and onto their shirts, mixing with patches of sweat. Some shouted words of appreciation to the volunteers, while others kept their eyes focused on the road ahead.
When participants approached the finish line, many held hands and smiled, others appeared to be limping and pale-faced. Hundreds of onlookers held up signs like, “Worst Parade Ever” and “Congratulations, Complete Stranger” as they cheered on the runners and walkers.
Once finished, racers gathered off the track to tend to newly formed blood blisters or drink more water.
At a small, plastic pool filled with ice water, participants soaked their swollen and blistered feet. One man unwrapped athletic tape to reveal broken toenails and heels caked in blood.
“I were a real man, I would put my whole body in this pool,” he said.
A fellow participant Leslie Horne laughed as she put her swollen feet in the water. Horne said she has been running for seven years and has participated in ten half-marathons.
“I am a slow runner, and I don’t push myself that hard so I think that’s how I stay relatively injury free,” Horne said.
Horne said she strained her calf muscle five years ago during a race, but has since remained healthy by eating the right foods and drinking lots of water.
“I stop at every water station because I’m afraid not to,” Horne said.
Others who have been injured in the past say they understand the importance of stopping for water, like father and daughter Lindsey Murdoff and Ken Mordoff.
“I get hurt all the time,” said Lindsey. “I just have to know when to give it a rest.”
Lindsey said she trained rigorously with her triathlon team previous to the half-marathon and Ken said he goes running on a regular basis. Both said they drink lots of water before running and stop at several water stations to avoid dehydration and cramping during the race.
Lindsey and Ken said they were aware that those who neglect drinking enough water may end up at the medical tent or with Dr. Casey Ferguson of Conservative Pain Solutions LLC.
“The medical tent has been bringing me people because they don’t have anything for them,” Ferguson said in his tent located adjacent to Hayward Field. “I can do sports chiropractic adjustments with rock tape.”
Ferguson said rock tape prevents fatigue, promotes circulation, and enhances athletic performance. He treats sore muscles, tears, ligament sprains, and other sports related injuries that often result from dehydration and poor nutrition. Ferguson says consuming electrolytes and ensuring proper training can help avoid injury—a lesson Maroney and many first-time runners learn the hard way.
“I wasn’t thinking clearly last year,” said Maroney. “It was my first race, and I didn’t know any better.”
As Maroney crossed the finish line Sunday morning, she smiled, raised her hands in celebration, and proceeded to walk past the medical tent without so much as a second glance.
“I did it,” she said. “No more blacking out for me.”