SCRANTON -- Runners who took part in the 22nd annual Steamtown Marathon this weekend faced some of the toughest weather conditions in the race's history. That made for a busy day for first responders and race volunteers.
About 1,500 runners crossed the finish line on Courthouse Square Sunday. The number of finishers was a bit lower this year and marathon officials blame the weather.
Finishing a marathon is a big accomplishment any day of the week, but finishers in Sunday's Steamtown Marathon deserved an extra pat on the back. Heat and humidity we don't typically see in October plagued runners in the 26.2-mile race through 14 communities in Susquehanna and Lackawanna Counties.
"It's quite warm. We were expecting it to be a bit cooler, but luckily we finished early before the heavy heat comes in," said Robert Olechna of Massachusetts.
Runners did not get the cool start they plan on. It was more than 70 degrees when the race started at 8 a.m. According to the National Weather Service, humidity was around 96 percent.
"The sun came out a couple times during the day which shot the temperature up, but I think the big problem yesterday with most of the runners was the humidity. I mean, we don't see that in the second week of October anywhere," said Tim Rowland.
Lackawanna County Coroner Tim Rowland has been the medical coordinator for each of the 22 Steamtown Marathons. He says more people dropped out during the race due to heat exhaustion than the past three marathons combined; close to 50 runners were unable to finish.
Those who finished faced more than the typical medical ailments. Another 50 runners were given IV fluids at the finish.
Anticipating the unseasonable weather, the race committee had more water along the route and extra help. There were ER doctors, a critical-care team, and as many as a dozen ambulances ready to respond.
"It was a lot more work for everybody yesterday, including the whole committee, set up and everything, but at the end of the day, you know, it might have been a little more than a Steamtown Marathon," Rowland said.
The numbers that race organizers were most happy about: of all those heat exhaustion cases, only four runners had to go to the hospital, and all of them have been released. No one was critically hurt during the marathon.