— Telegram file photo/Gary Hebbard
As Art Meaney approached the six-mile marker in Sunday’s 87th Tely 10 Mile Road Race, he began feeling dizzy and nauseous.
The veteran of 32 Tely 10s and the 1979 champ knew he probably shouldn’t continue in the heat and humidity that dawned on the 3,700-plus participants that started the race.
“I thought, ‘If I keep going, I’m probably going to end up in hospital,’” says Meaney, who suffered a cardiac episode while leading a running clinic in June of 2011. “I did promise my wife... if in a race things weren’t going well physically, that I would not take risks.”
Had he not, Meaney could very well have ended up like the two dozen or so people who required medical attention in temperatures that rose to the mid-20s by 9 a.m., with humidity that made it feel closer to 30.
Or worse, he could have ended up like Mark Didham, who as of Tuesday night was still in a medically induced coma after collapsing just shy of the finish line on Bannerman Road.
Newfoundland and Labrador Athletics Association (NLAA) executive director George Stanoev says with the high temperatures and stifling humidity experienced in the metro region this month, the organizing committee was very active in promoting safe racing practices in the media and across social media platforms in the week leading up to the race.
Moreover, organizers increased water supplies to 1,000 litres at each of the four stations and added Gatorade to the fourth station, where in years past it was only available at the second and third.
“We have the water, they need to drink it,” Stanoev says. “Some people are going through the water station thinking they have their own supplies and they’ll survive. It’s a combination of factors that contribute to the problems.”
When it comes down to it, it’s the participants responsibility to ensure they’ve fully prepared themselves for the race, physically and mentally.
“People have to exercise judgement,” Stanoev explains.
“Once you get into running and pushing yourself and wanting to achieve your very best, you somewhat forget about the consequences. Lack of experience does contribute to that — that’s not reflected at all on Mark Didham — but Art Meaney is a good example of what to do, how to pace yourself and judge it.”
As the event has grown, Stanoev says more and more people are inclined to join family, friends and co-workers in completing the race.
“It should be more based on training and readiness to participate in the event. There are many other road races throughout the province leading up to the Tely 10 and people should use those races to train and prepare for the Tely,” insists Stanoev, who adds that registration numbers for local 8- and 10-kilometre road races leading up to the Tely 10 would indicate it’s not happening.
The Molson Canadian 67 Mews Memorial 8km Road Race on July 13, for example, attracted just 325 participants, while the Uniformed Services 10km Road Race had just 65 people.
“We welcome everybody, but we want to see people training, putting in the appropriate time starting early in the year,” says Stanoev. “There are many programs and groups offering training programs and we encourage folks to learn, because it’s not just physical conditioning, but it teaches you how to approach a race and how to prepare for inclement weather, be it hot or cold.”
Meaney, who runs such programs at the Running Room, says the same is true for those who are walking the course.
“You need to get out walking on a regular basis months before the Tely so that your cardiovascular fitness moves to the level where you can go that distance without a major problem.”
Changes — and possible changes — for 2015
As the Tely 10 continues to attract people — a record 4,181 people registered for this year’s race — organizers are continually adapting the event to meet their needs and expectations.
For example, Stanoev says there’s a good possibility organizers will add a fifth, and possibly sixth, water station to the course next year.
There will also be some discussion centred around changing either the start time of the race, or possibly the date. But even then, it’s a roll of the dice.
In Meaney’s first Tely 10 in 1977, the race took place on a cool Wednesday evening in May. The following year, it was held beginning midday on a Sunday in June, “one of those strange, rare June days where it was actually very, very hot.
“Dave McGivern, the guy who finished second, ended up in the hospital being rehydrated,” recounts Meaney, who finished fourth that year. “That day, in a field much smaller than today, but a field of very experienced and fast runners, only five guys finished under 60 minutes.”
This story has been edited to correct information