BOSTON — The Run for the Hoses. The Duel in the Sun. The Inferno.
As the prospect of 80-plus temperatures looms over today's Boston Marathon, organizers are hoping the heat will forge a classic to rank among the legends of the event's 116-year history but preparing for a potential medical crisis from runners wilting under the sun.
The forecast forced organizers to offer a largely unprecedented deferment to the field of 27,000 that had spent the last year qualifying, registering and training for what is often a once-in-a-lifetime experience. The Boston Athletic Association also offered a deferment in 2010, when the Icelandic volcano eruption stalled air traffic in Europe and prevented about 300 runners from getting to Boston.
B.A.A. medical director Pierre d'Hemecourt issued a warning to those with medical issues such as a cough or a cold or a recent stomach virus that left them dehydrated: "Please don't run the marathon on Monday."
"We're asking runners who haven't run previously to (rethink participating) … maybe coming back next year," Boston Mayor Tom Menino said Sunday.
One year after cool temperatures and a significant tailwind — perfect running weather — helped Geoffrey Mutai finish in 2 hours, 3 minutes, 2 seconds for the fastest marathon ever, the heat has elite runners preparing for a slower pace and the recreational runners trying to figure out how to finish at all.
Although Mutai said he has never run a hot marathon, fellow Kenyan and defending women's champion Caroline Kilel said she is used to training in warm weather. But Kilel said the typical conditions were more like 73 degrees — hot for a marathoner but not quite what's expected today.
"The heat affects everybody. Nobody runs fast in the heat. Nobody benefits from the heat," said 1968 winner Amby Burfoot. "If anyone's been training in Miami, that would be great for them."
The Boston Marathon has had its share of hot weather, with the thermometer hitting 97 during the 1909 race that came to be known as "The Inferno" and the 1976 "Run for the Hoses" that started in 100-degree heat and finished with spectators sprinkling winner Jack Fultz with garden hoses to cool him down.