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Newscasters for a Fox affliate in Chicago picked up on a story about two men who helped a third competitor cross the finish line of the recent Chicago marathon. The third man had fallen near the finish -- it looks like from fatigue rather than a specific injury -- and was crawling toward the line. After dozens of finishers passed him, a couple of men (one of them is labeled "A Solid Dude" by the newscast. Ha!) came up and offered help.
The newscasters are pretty appalled at the behavior of the other competitors who ran on by, but it got me wondering...is it that bad? I've never done a marathon, but I've been a spectator at finish lines for the Boston Marathon, Ironman World Championship and a few half-Ironmans. Each time there were definitely people struggling to take that final step. And I know that after my last half marathon, my peripheral vision was gone by the time I neared the finish. I would easily have missed someone falling if they weren't in front of or right next to me.
Would you have helped this guy? What if he didn't fall and started crawling but was just hanging on the barrier with his head down? At that point in the race, is it the race staff's responsibility? I've heard the mantra that "If I'm still moving, I'm still competing" but at some point a PR needs to take a backseat to being a good Samaritan, right?
Wow, mixed emotions here.
If that was me crawling I wouldn't expect anyone to help. I want to carry myself across the finish line by my own will. If I was running my first marathon I would be too self absorbed to help out the guy. If I was running my 3rd or 4th marathon I would have helped the guy.
But oddly enough, it was kind of nice to watch those guys help him though.
I would first ask if he wanted or needed help. The problem is that if you help him finish, he is disqualified. Period, no "ifs", "ands" or "buts". Admittedly, it may go unnoticed if you're midpack in a large race. Someone posted here a couple weeks ago about a woman whose friend came out at the finish, grabbed her arm and they crossed the marathon finsh together. The woman was DQed by a race official, and she had a Boston qualifying time.
What an interesting story and kudos to the two men who stopped to help. Watching the man crawl, I was envisioning collisions or someone stepping on his hands. I certainly hope no one was disqualified. I already have less peripheral vision than I should and, like you, very next to nothing towards the end of a race. At the end, I am also looking at the finishline banner or whatever is there that I'm passing to say it's over, not at the ground. I could have very easily missed him, but would have felt very ashamed of myself if I saw that I passed him and didn't offer to help.
If it were me, I would want to cross the finish line under my own power. I worked those 26 miles and 300 some odd yards and I will cross under my power. It would cheapen my accomplishment to be helped by anyone - no matter how bad it looks.
That said, I have stopped and asked if the runner needs help when I see this at the finish line. But I do not touch them till they say yes, they need help. Another thing to remember is that if you help them, you could get them disqualified from the race by accepting the help.