By preparing for the heat, a Cape Girardeau doctor finished the Chicago marathon

Sunday, October 21, 2007
Dr. Russ Felker recently trained for the Chicago marathon in part by using a step treadmill, pictured here at Fitness Plus Wednesday. He also ran outdoors and used saunas to acclimatize himself to heat. (Kit Doyle)

Russ Felker decided on his 60th birthday to run in the 30th LaSalle Bank Chicago Marathon. Felker ran in the marathon and actually crossed the finish line, despite the heat that caused the death of one man and the hospitalization of dozens of runners. More than 200 people were treated on-site for heat-related problems.

Felker practices urology in Cape Girardeau. He estimated the Chicago marathon was his 15th marathon and the first he had run since the mid-1990s.

He said when he turned 60 this past summer he "thought that perhaps I would give it a try again to see if I could still do it."

Felker could, unlike many others. Felker finished in 8,048th place and averaged just over a 10-minute mile. He purposely ran slow to account for the heat.

He'd been out of practice, yes, but he was well-trained, the main reason he was able to finish the race, he said.

"I was suspicious it might be hot and prepared for it," he said.

The record high for Oct. 7 in Chicago was 86 degrees in 1982. The average high temperature for that date is 68 degrees. Because of the continuously hot weather in the Midwest, Felker decided to prepare for the worst.

Dr. Russ Felker

He spent time in the sauna every other day to get accustomed to the heat and took every opportunity to run outside in Cape Girardeau when it was hot, which, because of the heat wave, was quite often.

His preparation paid off.

Felker finished the 26.2-mile race in just under four hours and 30 minutes. He said the 2007 Chicago marathon was "far and away" his slowest and hottest.

"About the first five miles or so I was thinking, 'Don't these people know how hot it is?'"

Other runners were laughing, chatting and jumping around, he said. Some people were in long pants and long-sleeved shirts.

"I think a lot of people who were there didn't bother to prepare for the heat," Felker said.

The high temperature for the race day in Chicago reached 88 degrees, surpassing the 1982 record. Felker said he knew Chicago is normally much cooler in October and that it's usually cooler than Cape Girardeau, but when he saw how early in October the race was, he thought, "Well, I'll just prepare for it to be hot."

That way he'd be ready if it were hot. If the weather turned out cooler, it would be even better, he said.

Felker's wife, Susie, traveled with him to Chicago. Their third son has an apartment near the race course. They were signed up to receive e-mail updates of Felker's progress.

The updates were provided through information sent when a chip in the runner's shoe passed over a checkpoint set on the course. She said the updates made her less worried and that she was confident in her husband.

"When I realized he was going to finish this marathon, I immediately set out from my son's apartment to the finish line," Susie Felker said.

She scanned the cooling tents and water stations crawling with people and finally spotted her husband at the 200-meter mark.

"I was standing there and I saw him go by, and then I felt better because I knew he was going to make it."

When he told her he was going to run another marathon at age 60, "I said go, go for it. And he did, and he did great," she said.

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