Navy Medicine Keeps Runners Safe at Marine Corps Marathon

By Capt. Michele Weinstein, Chief of Staff, U.S. Navy Bureau of Medicine & Surgery 

"More than 22,000 participants ran the 2007 Marine Corps Marathon. The first Marine Corps Marathon began in 1976 with nearly 2,000 participants. Today, the MCM is the 4th largest US Marathon and 7th in the world. It is the largest marathon in the world that does not offer prize money, earning its nickname, "The People's Marathon."

Friday: 60/43

Saturday: 65/43

Those temperatures are the 10-day forecast predictions for Marine Corps Marathon race weekend in the metro D.C. area. Much warmer than that and it is sure to be a busy day for Navy Medicine.

Although 43 degrees may seem cold and mean gloves and a jacket that is great weather for a grueling 26.2 mile run. Each degree warmer means more dehydration, more muscle cramps and an increased risk for heat stroke. Navy Medicine will be ready to take care of all the runners race weekend; 3,000 kids in the Fun Run, 10,000 10k runners and 23,000 marathoners.

This week Naval Health Clinic Quantico, Va., providers and staff are reviewing protocols, finalizing aid station assignments, verifying licenses for volunteer medical staff, and learning the locations for all the medical support on the race course. Many are veterans, including Cmdr. Vincent LaPointe who has supported 10 marathons as an officer in charge of an aid station, are geared up and ready to roll. Medical t-shirts are packed and ready to be worn. The bright school bus-yellow shirt with the big red cross makes for a vibrant beacon for weary runners and spectators alike.

“Can you tell me where the link up location is?” “My boyfriend should have finished an hour ago but I can’t find him, would he be at medical?” These and many other questions get asked of the medical staff on marathon day.

The peak of the race for Navy Medicine is between 11:30 a.m. and 2 p.m., where the aid stations will see almost 400 runners in a short period of time. Injuries range from simple blisters and shin splints to nausea, vomiting and heat stroke. Always at the ready, the Navy Medicine team is prepared. The aid stations may look a bit chaotic, runners in various stages of undress, moaning, stretching, eating salty food but the team is ready.

In the several years that I have been serving on the marathon medical support team, I can recall tons of times when our personnel did so much more than attend to injuries.  We really are there to just help.  For instance, I remember a dad approached the medical information tent manned by clinic staff. “I can’t find my 15-year old twins and we have a flight to catch.” The man had run with a young child in the race, and he was a bit panicked, afraid to miss his flight back to the Midwest. Two Navy corpsmen found them at the finish festival, returned them to dad and quickly stepped away as dad started to let them know what he thought about their disappearance. We laugh about it now, but one of the children could have been seriously injured and due to our extensive tracking system for patients, we would have been able to locate them.

I remember another call that came into the command center one time. “One of our emergency medical responder’s wife is about to give birth at a local hospital, we want to get him there as soon as possible, can you find him?” The marathon bib number was given to the medical team at the finish line; he crossed the line, got his medal and picture and was whisked off in time to see the birth of his child.

That story is Navy Medicine-anytime, anywhere, doing what they do best: taking care of those in needs, whether it is in a Naval Hospital, a third-world country, or at the Marine Corps Marathon.

I am proud to be on the Navy Medicine team that supports the marathon this year and I hope I can continue to represent us for years to come!

This blog originally ran on DoD Live.