Ed Rockwell isn’t trying to put negative thoughts in the minds of Bloomsday runners today.
He just knows from experience some of the 59,000 people taking part won’t finish the course for medical reasons.
His advice is: If a problem happens, stop and relax. It happens to someone every year.
Rockwell has been medical director and physician for all 18 previous Bloomsdays. He’s seen two runners die and dozens come down with minor and major health complications during the 7.46-mile run.
“Compared to other major national races, we had a low incidence of heatstroke,” the most common problem facing weekend runners, he said.
Race-time weather should help keep most participants on the course; it’s expected to be partly cloudy, with temperatures in the 50s and mild northeast winds.
Starting times this year are staggered for four groups: wheelchairs start at 8:40 a.m., followed by elite women at 8:45, the elite males, corporate and second-seed runners at 9, followed by everyone else at 9:10.
Bloomsday now averages about 15 cases of heatstroke a year - much lower than the 30 or so it had when the race used to start later than 9 a.m.
The Peachtree Classic run in Atlanta generates far more problems because it’s held in steamy Georgia and is always on July 4, Rockwell noted.
Over the years, Rockwell has devised the best medical safety net a race of this size can offer.
This year, the Bloomsday course again has eight aid stations, with at least one doctor and several nurses and aides at each.
Three aid stations are in the run’s last half-mile where exhaustion is most likely.
To keep participants wet, 1,400 volunteers will hand out cups of water at dozens of tables from start to finish.
Rockwell and other medical advisers urge runners to drink before, during and after the race. Finishers can find a group of tables with free beverages on Main and Howard, and Main and Wall.
“In a race where you have 55,000 people who haven’t been prescreened for health conditions, you’re bound to have some problems,” said Rockwell.
“But we’ve evolved our organization to the point where we seem ready for anything.”