The extra mile: Clinicians, volunteers aid marathoners
Medical aid stations have become the norm at marathons, and many runners come expecting help.
"These have become everyman races, and people invest not only a lot of time training but also money to take part," said Dr. Mark Harrast, an orthopedic- and sports-medicine specialist who oversaw UW Medicine's role providing care at last Sunday's Seattle Marathon.
"Those who see it as a once-in-a-lifetime experience are more likely to extend beyond their capabilities, or to ignore musculoskeletal pains in their desire to finish. This is where they really find the value of medical providers along the course," he said.
About 140 volunteers, primarily clinicians, staffed aid stations along the route and at the finish line. More than 350 competitors received aid, most commonly for muscle cramps and knee and foot pain.
"People getting a blister treated, getting ice, getting a cramp rolled out," Harrast said. "Runners either want to self-treat with ice or get an assessment about whether it's safe to continue."
The past two years' marathons have met with cold weather, so spots along the course were icy.
"We saw more people with trauma from slipping," Harrast said. "Last year we had a couple of concussions; this year one facial laceration had to go to the emergency room and a couple of others had to be sutured up in our medical tent."
UW Medicine has been the race's medical sponsor since 2009.
Sophia Liu, a post-doc fellow in radiology research, put UW Medicine's best foot forward in the race. For the second straight year, she won the woman's marathon, with a time of 2:58:42.
Liu studies genetics and aging, and currently is helping to conduct a clinical trial and exercise program related to aging and muscle dysfunction.