'Running Doctors' Embedded Among Marathon Participants For Immediate Medical Intervention

Apr 29, 2016

Running shorts will replace lab coats this weekend as 10 UPMC doctors take to the course at the 2016 Pittsburgh Marathon this Sunday as part of an initiative to ensure runner safety.  Dr. Ron Roth, the Pittsburgh Marathon’s medical director and Dr. Aaron Mares, assistant medical director for the marathon, joined Essential Pittsburgh to discuss this innovative approach.

Roth says this addition to the race is in part a reaction to an incident in last year’s marathon when a runner collapsed near the finish line.  The medical staff realized a need for medical coverage throughout the entire course, and has embedded running doctors as a result.

“Now we will have some physicians who are specifically tasked as running physicians who will be watching the crowd and can help us in the areas where we do not have aid stations,” Roth explains.

He says the end of the course is the most dangerous for runners, as adrenaline increases the closer one gets to the finish line, the more runners “kick it in” to finish, even if they do not have the energy to do so.

Mares notes possible health risks include, but are not limited to, heart issues, musculoskeletal injuries, low salt levels, hyperthermia and hypothermia.

Roth explains if a doctor sees a runner in distress, protocol is to call 911 and begin treatment, usually CPR.

Although the doctors involved are encouraged to enjoy the race and run normally, their purpose ultimately is to help runners.

“Pittsburgh Marathon goes above and beyond to provide medical care along the course.  Obviously, runner safety is our primary goal,” Dr. Roth says.

Mares suggests marathon participants begin hydrating 48 hours prior to the event, and as needed during the event.

“The safety of our athletes out there comes first,” he confirms.

More Essential Pittsburgh segments can be heard here.