"I'm looking at the law of averages," said Fred Lebow, director of the New York City Marathon, addressing questions from reporters about the death and numerous heat-related hospitalizations at today's race.
Eileen Hertzburg of the New York Emergency Medical Services said that 1,180 runners had been treated, including some who "just stopped to get their blood pressure checked," and 81 who were hospitalized.
Lebow had planned to announce the death of Jacques Bussereau at the awards ceremony but, instead, congratulated runners and fielded questions.
"It's the first death in the New York City Marathon," he said. "In 15 years, we've had over 100,000 runners and this is the first fatality. I'm looking at the law of averages. If you have over 100,000 chess players or 100,000 golfers, it would be the same thing. But this doesn't negate our sorrow in the situation."
He said he was surprised by the 96 percent humidity, but maintained he had taken sufficient precautions to curtail health problems.
"We bought an additional 30,000 cups, doubled the shipment of ice," he said. "We sent out information to radio stations to have neighbors bring out water hoses . . . and we made several repeated announcements before the race, at least a dozen, for the runners to drink plenty of water.
"We had over 14,600 finishers in today's marathon. And our biggest problem was exhaustion more than dehydration. I don't know the total numbers yet. But at Elmhurst (a hospital in Queens), where Bussereau was taken, there were half a dozen runners that were treated and released. I asked Elmhurst what the cause was and they said they (the runners) just had exhaustion."
He stressed that details about the fatality were sketchy. "The doctor says that he believes it was a coronary," Lebow said. "I asked him if the heat and humidity added to the cause. He said that he doubted it." Lebow said a member of 500-athlete French team told him that "Bussereau had had a heart attack four years ago."