CIM medic says good training paid off for runners

Runners’ shoes are blurred as participants begin the California International Marathon on Sunday in Folsom.
Runners’ shoes are blurred as participants begin the California International Marathon on Sunday in Folsom. Aseng@sacbee.com

Dr. Brandee Waite, chief medical provider for 6,000 or so California International Marathon runners on Sunday, glanced around for some wood to knock on. “I’m not even going to say the word that starts with ‘Q’ and rhymes with ‘riot.’”

Superstitious, Waite wasn’t about to tempt fate by letting the word “quiet” pass her lips when asked how things had been going in the medic’s tent. So far, it’d been pretty uneventful, and it was almost noon.

The last batches of runners were passing through the medical facility after having crossed the finish line at the Capitol. Some clearly suffered from cramping, dehydration, loss of electrolytes. Others had abrasions that needed tending to, or chafing.

Many, having abruptly ended hours of pushing their bodies to the limits of perpetual motion, experienced deep chills and wore lightweight tin-foil capes like superheroes.

“As soon as you stop, your body goes into shock from the sudden change,” Waite said. “The foil helps by reflecting body heat back to the runner.”

Small discomforts, compared to the medical emergencies Waite’s crew was prepared to handle. The tent was equipped with IVs, defibrillators (though the cardiac-shocking devices would be useless a mere five minutes into a sizable heart attack, Waite said.)

Wheelchairs were on hand for those whose legs gave out and so, too, were gurneys in case of acute emergencies, such as total collapse from exhaustion. Ambulances stood by.

“Everybody seems to be OK,” said Waite. “If they’ve been through proper training, they’ll be sore, but OK. Some will even get up to go to work tomorrow.”

Regardless of age, body type or gender, anyone who is otherwise healthy can train to finish a marathon in six months. If you’ve been a runner covering three miles a few times a week, three to four months might do the job, Waite said.

Every runner who goes through the medical tent after the finish line gets evaluated, receives water, electrolytes, salty broth to restore the body to a healthy level of sodium and bananas to replenish potassium.

For sore muscles, runners could dip into the massage therapist’s tent ... or, the icing tent to reduce inflammation.

Waite herself said she wasn’t “crazy enough” to run the marathon, having injured her back some time ago. The extreme runner, medical co-director of the CIM and associate professor at UC Davis in sports medicine, physical medicine and rehabilitation, used to run on glaciers, in deserts.

These days, she sticks to half-marathons. She suffered a freak back injury one day when she was bending over to help her nephew out of a bathtub. She sneezed. That was enough to rupture a disc in her spine.

“UC Davis took good care of me,” she said. With physical therapy, medication and rest, she recovered without surgery. “Your body can do amazing things,” she said.

Certainly that was true for the 6,000-plus who swarmed from Folsom to the Capitol on Sunday.

Call The Bee’s Cynthia H. Craft, (916) 321-1270.