A Hometown Event with World-Class Safety

by Mark Westfall, DO
September 17, 2018

As the 2018 Fox Cities Marathon is just around the corner, a number of individuals have politely inquired about security surrounding the event. While my response is not meant to rude, its terseness often elicits raised eyebrows:

My honest answer is that I cannot and will not discuss specifics of everything that is undertaken to help make our hometown event as safe as possible.

With that said, and by way of trying to convince the listener that I do mean well, I then share some generalities and actions that are not at all subtle. The first of these is at the starting line, and, like missing the forest for the trees, you might not notice on race day the two very LARGE cranes safeguarding our participants and the starting line. Thanks to our presenting sponsor, Miron Construction, for this protective barrier, which has become the standard for large events that take place on roadways to stop any vehicle traffic.

Something that is not a secret and should not come as a surprise is that because of its size, complexity, and being the multi-municipal type event the Fox Cities Marathon is, an incident command center is set up to proactively communicate with all of the key organizations involved in providing safety and security to the participants of this community wide event. While this strategy is not new, every year we critically evaluate who is involved and how to improve the services provided.

Additionally, there are multi-jurisdictional, experienced, and highly trained Emergency Medical teams to support the Half and Full Marathon events. Dozens of first responders are positioned throughout the course, several medical aid stations are strategically positioned on the course, multiple bike teams rove the course, additional Paramedic EMS units are dedicated to the event, and the finish line has paramedic and nursing personnel as well as a Board Certified Emergency Physician who volunteer and are ready to attend to sick or injured participants. 

Lastly, I can share that the Fox Cities Marathon has a committee that is completely focused on the medical care and safety of the participants. This committee has representatives from multiple police, fire and EMS agencies and includes experts in communications, pre-hospital care, and Emergency Medical Care. This group studies and has contacts with multiple events across the country – from the Boston, Chicago, and Houston Marathons to mention a few – and works hard to apply the best practices to keep the participants as well as the volunteers safe during this great event.

For not being able to answer the question about security with too many specifics, I feel pretty good about the information I shared. On September 23, race participants and those cheering them on might not even notice the security measures that have been implemented.  

But rest assured, they are in place.

Dr. Westfall is an avid runner and triathlete. He has completed over 30 half marathons, 8 marathons (including Chicago, the Marine Corps, and Disney World), 5 Half Ironman events, and numerous sprint triathlons. In 2016 he completed the Ironman Madison event. Dr. Westfall has had the pleasure of volunteering at numerous Marathon Medical venues, including Boston and Chicago. He is also routinely outrun by his wife. 

As medical director for the Fox Cities Marathon, Dr. Westfall actively collaborates with recognized experts to explore event safety, traveling across the country to view firsthand the latest approaches utilized in world-class marathons in order to bring those strategies back to the Fox Valley to make our event as safe as it can be for all participants.