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Boston Marathon Course section


Pushing the limits for advancement

By Stephen Smith, Globe Staff, 4/22/2003


Road rave
Zakharova takes women's title
Boston street smarts
Kimutai got over the hump
Runyan fifth after battle
Denisova knew her place: 2d
Hellebuyck leads the way
Ripp, Van Dyk: Spin control
Russian contingent was rushin'
Wellesley voices carry
Heart, sole are put to the test
Hopkinton's just the beginning
Pushing the human body
Up-close view for this father
Girl OK after wheelchair collision
In the running

R. Cheruiyot 2:10:11
Benjamin Kosgei Kimutai 2:10:34
Martin Lel 2:11:11
Timothy Cherigat 2:11:28
Christopher Cheboiboch 2:12:45
Fedor V. Ryzhov 2:15:29
Rodgers Rop 2:16:14
David Kiptum Busienei 2:16:16
Elly K. Rono 2:17:00
Eddy Hellebuyck 2:17:18
| Men's Top 25 |

Svetlana Zakharova 2:25:20
Lyubov Denisova 2:26:51
Joyce Chepchumba 2:27:20
Margaret Okaya 2:27:39
Marla Runyan 2:30:28
Albina Ivanova 2:30:57
Firaya Sultanova-Zhdanova 2:31:30
Milena Glusac 2:37:32
Jill Gaitenby 2:38:19
Esther Kiplagat 2:38:43
| Women's Top 25 |

Ernst F. Van Dyk1:28:32
Krige Schabort1:30:07
Kelly Smith 1:30:52
| Complete list (men & women) |

Christina Ripp1:54:47
Cheri A. Blauwet1:54:57
Edith Hunkeler1:56:54
| Complete list (men & women) |

Search BAA database of all finishers

Cradling a styrofoam cup sloshing with blue Gatorade, exhaustion hammering his face, Roger Schafer pondered his place in Boston Marathon history.

''Oh, I made history?'' Schafer said yesterday. ''I guess they're right -- ignorance is bliss.''

Like the other 602 runners who made their way through the marathon's sprawling medical tent, Schafer was part of a health-care experiment that could expedite the care and tracking of casualties from a terrorist attack, airplane crash, or major fire.

Using a network of radio-frequency chips and hand-held computers, workers from the Boston Public Health Commission and Boston Emergency Medical Services tracked the hundreds of marathoners who sought treatment along the course or at the finish-line tent.

And most of them never even knew.

Like Schafer, who had a bout of vomiting at the end of the race, most seeking medical care had routine race-related ailments -- dehydration and heat-related conditions were most common -- and no life-threatening injuries were reported.

The information gleaned from the high-tech equipment was rudimentary: gender, how long it took to provide care, and whether the runner was taken to a hospital.

''We look at these events like the Marathon and the Fourth of July celebration as planned disasters,'' said Rich Serino, Boston EMS chief. ''This is an opportunity to test some things you would never want to test in a real disaster.''

The linchpin in the experiment was the microchip given to each registered runner that is used to track progress and provide a precise race time.

When runners stopped at one of five designated medical tents or at the finish-line medical unit, a worker with a scanning device recorded his or her chip ID. Another member of the team wielded a personal digital assistant (PDA) to record more detailed information regarding gender and where the runner finished after getting care.

The data was transmitted to laptop computers for analysis, both yesterday and in weeks to come. By late afternoon, the system, designed by TechnoBabble Communications Inc. of Bedford, appeared successful in providing a glimpse of the ebb and flow of patient volume at the medical tents, said Julia Gunn, associate director for communicable disease control at the health commission.

Nineteen patients needed to be transported to hospitals, although 53 were taken from various points along the course to emergency rooms.

Another experiment focused on preventing serious injuries or even deaths because of water intoxication, a condition that killed runner Cynthia Lucero last year.

That trial was considerably less high-tech, using scales placed along the course and at the finish line so runners feeling sick could weigh themselves to determine if they'd consumed too much fluid. Doctors were still evaluating that study last night.

In the future, the tracking system used at the 107th Boston Marathon could help emergency workers respond more effectively to disasters such as the recent Station nightclub blaze in West Warwick, R.I. As ambulances and helicopters ferried dozens of victims to hospitals across Rhode Island and Massachusetts, family members spent hours, sometimes days tracking down injured relatives. Radio and telephone networks strained to keep information flowing smoothly and accurately among paramedics, emergency rooms, and burn units.

The system tested yesterday aims to change that.

''So much more is happening these days in the field with EMS,'' said Gunn. ''This would allow us to track that in real time.''

For runners such as Schafer, who completed his sixth marathon, the medical experiments afforded an extra layer of protection against the rigors of pushing the human body to such extremes.

''They got me in here and decided I was still alive,'' said Schafer, who lives in Syracuse, N.Y. ''And then they said, `You're not dead yet, get out of here.'

''What do you know? I made it through another race alive.''

This story ran on page C6 of the Boston Globe on 4/22/2003.
© Copyright 2003 Globe Newspaper Company.

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