Photos courtesy of Sports Backers.

VCU Health provides sponsorship, medical care for 8K race runners at Anthem Richmond Marathon

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Bands, cheering groups and party zones will line Richmond streets this weekend for what is labeled “America’s Friendliest Marathon.” The 39th Anthem Richmond Marathon is Nov. 10–12 and hosts nearly 20,000 runners participating in one of the event’s three races.  

The contests have been a consistent way to excite and educate the community about the benefits of a healthy, active lifestyle. Organized by Richmond-based Sports Backers, the weekend experience includes a health and fitness expo at the Arthur Ashe Center and a bus tour of the marathon course. 

This year, VCU Health is the title sponsor of the 8K race, and is providing medical care for the event. In addition to the 8K, there are full and half marathons Nov. 12, at which many of the organization’s physicians and clinical staff will be serving. Race participants receives an official long-sleeve technical race shirt, a custom medal at the finish line, and is invited to a special post-race celebration. 

It’s the good times and the good vibes that are most important, organizers said.

The event’s friendly, no judgment theme encourages healthy lifestyles, as does VCU Health. 

“I remember the moment I got the call from Sports Backers asking VCU Health to sponsor the 8K and the medical care for all three events. I couldn’t wait to get off the phone and tell our team,” said Alexa Warner, associate director of marketing strategy for VCU Health. “Sports Backers’ mission aligns so nicely with ours. The event’s friendly, no judgment theme encourages healthy lifestyles, as does VCU Health. This partnership just makes sense.”

The VCU Health 8K starts at the intersection of 8th Street and Broad Street and winds through the city’s historic neighborhoods, and the heart of the VCU academic campus. It ends downhill with views of Brown’s Island and the James River. Prior to the races, training teams were established that allowed registrants time to prepare for race day. VCU Health certified athletic trainer Nicole Stevens helped organize the ATCs and physical therapists who worked with the athletes for approximately 24 weekends. Christy Turnbow, also a VCU Health certified athletic trainer, and Department of Physical Therapy staff Blaise Williams, Mike Messer, Chad Taylor and Bob Izzo voluntarily served as the training teams’ caregivers. 

“We provided basic first aid and evaluation of injuries for runners, if they were injured during their practice runs,” Stevens said, adding that there would be an increase of injuries on event day without the training. “I will also be stationed along the course with the rest of our medical team staffing medical tents, to help those runners who have the misfortune of getting an injury [on event day].”

Ten emergency physicians, as well as nurses and physical therapists from VCU Health, will also be on hand to administer care. The event’s medical director is Katherine Dec, M.D. Jeffrey Ferguson, M.D., VCU Health emergency medical services medical director, will serve as race day medical director.

His team’s job is twofold. 

“For minor illnesses and injuries, this hopefully means getting the athlete back on the course to finish their race,” Ferguson said. “For more serious conditions, we are prepared with medications, intravenous fluids, warming and cooling for runners, defibrillators and, of course, the expertise to care for these conditions.”

Though a local event, the Anthem Richmond Marathon is one of the top 25 races most frequently used by runners looking to qualify for the Boston Marathon. It follows the 2015 UCI Road World Championships, for which VCU Health was the exclusive medical provider. More than 1,000 cyclists competed in the bike races, which lasted nine days and blanketed downtown Richmond.

“Providing medical direction for these types of events is a huge privilege and even larger responsibility. Our team must be prepared to handle anything that happens related to the marathons,” Ferguson said. “That requires a lot of coordination and sharing among experts from many different arenas, including emergency medicine and sports medicine. It has been great to be involved in making sure we are ready to provide the best care for the runners and spectators for this event.”