For the run of it: Falmouth Road Race a summer showcase
The 45th running of the New Balance Falmouth Road Race is Sunday, Aug. 20 and nearly 13,000 will gather in Woods Hole for the seven-mile jaunt to Falmouth Heights. The race is one of the highlights of summer on Cape Cod, with many of the world’s best distance runners mixing with many more recreational joggers in a test of fitness and fortitude.
For Robert Davis, MD, chief of emergency medicine at Falmouth Hospital and the co-medical director of the race, it’s also test to manage a logistical challenge spread out over seven hot miles of congested seaside streets
“Falmouth hardly ever disappoints when it comes to the weather,” he said. “It’s summertime. We know it’s probably going to be hot and sticky. Our job is to be prepared for everything and be ready react to anything.”
Davis has been at the helm of the race’s medical operation since 2012, sharing the role with Dr. John Jardine. They work in collaboration with athletic trainer Chris Troyanos, president of Sports Medicine Consultants and medical coordinator of the Boston Marathon, along with other races. Together with a committee of 12 to 15, and professionals and volunteers in excess of 200, they develop a plan and implement coverage and care throughout race weekend.
Cape Cod Healthcare is a gold level sponsor of the race and the official medical care provider. The race fits CCHC’s mission to promote health and well-being and its commitment to the community. Falmouth Hospital physicians, nurses and staff have been long-time volunteers and play an integral role in the success and safety of the event. Cape Cod Healthcare also plays a prominent part at the weekend health and fitness expo at race headquarters at Falmouth High School.
A Falmouth summer weekend is busy enough without the race, so the aim of the medical committee is to minimize the impact on Falmouth Hospital and the town’s public safety personnel. Doctors, nurses, EMTs and other professionals and volunteers dedicated solely to the race are assigned to the starting area in Woods Hole, all along the course and the finish by the ball field and the beach in Falmouth Heights. The goal is to reduce uncertainties and respond rapidly to any issue.
Heat Can Be Deadly
The primary concerns on race day, for both runners and spectators, are weather-related exertional heat illnesses, especially heat stroke, heat exhaustion and dehydration. If it’s typically hot and humid, Dr. Davis knows the team will be in for a busy day.
“The heat and humidity are the biggest fears,” he said. “It’s an issue for everyone; weekend warriors and elite runners.”
Heat stroke is the most serious and can be life-threatening if not treated quickly. Dr. Davis described the condition as the body’s inability to cool itself. Body temperature of 104 degrees or higher can cause mental confusion, unconsciousness, possible organ failure, a drop in blood pressure and increased respiratory rate. Persons suffering from heat stroke are cooled rapidly with immersion ice baths and often recover within 20 to 30 minutes, he said.
“It’s a critical situation and timing is everything. You only have about a half-hour window to diagnose and treat the patient,” said Dr. Davis. “Most of the time they respond well and are OK, and can walk away.”