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Heat During Marathon Claims One Life

CHICAGO-- During this city's hottest marathon on record Sunday, a Michigan man died after collapsing and, for the first time in its history, one of the world's pre-eminent races was cut short before thousands of runners crossed the finish line.

A spokesman for the Cook County medical examiner's office identified the runner who died as Chad Schieber, 35, from Midland, Mich., who collapsed in the 18th mile of the 26-mile course, near 15th Street and Ashland Avenue.

Schieber was pronounced dead about 1:50 p.m. EDT in Jesse Brown VA Medical Center.

Though many runners complained of a lack of drinking water on the course, Shawn Platt, a senior vice president of LaSalle Bank, said this afternoon that race officials found no such problem.

"We checked with all the aid stations, and the amount of water was adequate," he said. "We had thousands and thousands of gallons of water."

He said there might have been distribution problems as runners created a bottleneck at the tables dispensing water and Gatorade. People may have been grabbing two or three cups of water, he said.

With temperatures soaring to 88 degrees, city and race officials decided about 11:30 a.m. to end the race. Runners before the halfway point were diverted back to the start, while the rest were told by police and firefighters that the race was finished and that they should walk the remaining distance to the finish.

Fire Department spokesman Larry Langford said 312 runners were taken from the course by ambulance with what he described as heat-related conditions. He said city ambulances took 146 people to hospitals in good condition, and the rest were taken to hospitals or medical aide stations along the route by private ambulance.

Marathon officials said 24,931 runners completed the full distance, with about 4,000 finishing before the race was cut short.

The news of the race's early ending was met with disappointment and relief.

"It's a blessing, man," said Nestor Benanidez, 40, of Maryland. "I'd have liked the opportunity to finish, but it's brutally hot." Benanidez, who trained 18 weeks for his first marathon, said he had already started walking when the race was called.

"Why did they cancel it at Mile 20? Couldn't they cancel it at Mile 5?" said Arzu Karimova, 28, a market researcher from Chicago. "I put my entire summer into this. My entire marathon is gone. I'll never have another first marathon experience."

About 12:10 p.m., near the 20-mile marker at Halsted Street and Cermak Avenue, a Chicago firefighter announced over a public address system: "Attention runners, the marathon has been canceled. You can stop running now."

Runners' efforts were applauded with a sporadic "good job" as another firefighter stood in the middle of the street hosing down participants.

Most people heeded the advice, but a few stubborn runners continued down Archer Avenue, which was littered with cups, water, sponges and bottles. The fire hydrants along the route were also open.

The decision to halt the marathon was based on the slow times of runners. Those who had passed the halfway point around noon were permitted to continue and had access to all aid stations and medical assistance.

"I'm a schoolteacher. I don't like dropping out," said Joan Berman, 70, of Ann Arbor, Mich., who called it quits at the 8-mile mark. "But I know when to take a recess."

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(Chicago Tribune staff reporters Shannon Ryan and Neil Milbert contributed to this report.)

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(c) 2007, Chicago Tribune.

Visit the Chicago Tribune on the Internet at http://www.chicagotribune.com/

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