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Katherine Hopper: Race Volunteers Saved My Life

Medical volunteers at the Boston Marathon saved Katherine Hopper's life this year.

Medical race volunteers saved my life in the finish line medical tent at the 2013 and 2014 Boston Marathons. Literally. I am forever in debt to them.

I felt well-prepared for the 2014 Boston Marathon. Despite spending long hours studying and in the operating room for anesthesia school, I still managed to run consistently strong during my training. I was hitting over 50 miles per week, which is pretty high mileage for me.

My goal for the race was to run a strong, but comfortable race. I didn’t have any particular time goals, I was just excited to be going back after my awful experience at the 2013 Boston Marathon. I wanted to replace those horrific memories with a positive experience.

Around mile 17 at this year’s race, I started feeling a little warm and just didn’t feel amazing. I was running low 8:00 miles, which is usually a very comfortable pace for me. However, something just didn’t feel right. I was craving ice and felt pretty warm. The temperatures were climbing up a bit higher than I’d planned for.

A few miles from the finish line, I started to feel dizzy and really horrible. I don’t remember very much from the last portion of the marathon.

My next clear memory was crossing the finish line and feeling AWFUL. A volunteer came over to me and asked me if I needed help. Clearly, I wasn’t looking very good. I tried to “walk it off” but as time went on, I felt even worse. The volunteer helped guide me back to the medical tent as I started vomiting.

When I got to the tent, I was shaking and I felt like I’d just been hit by a train and/or chugged five beers at one time.

The medical volunteers swarmed around me and tried their best to help me. I will never forget the look on one of the doctor’s faces after they checked my temperature. I was 105.2 degrees. A team of five people immediately picked me up and carried me over to a bath full of ice. A temperature in that range can be deadly if not treated.

I stayed in the tent for at least three hours until I was stabilized, constantly surrounded by amazing members of the volunteer medical team. Once I started to feel better, there was a very kind volunteer who stayed and talked with me to keep me company until my friends were able to come and get me. The volunteer walked with me over to the family meeting area and made sure I didn’t get lost.

My experiences with the medical volunteers at the 2013 and 2014 Boston Marathon were amazing. After I was sick after the finish line at last year’s race, I also received amazing care and one of the doctors even tracked me down and followed up with me during the week following the race.

Running marathons can be very dangerous and if it weren’t for the generous support of volunteers, there would be a lot of very bad outcomes. I would like to sincerely thank all of the race volunteers from the bottom of my heart.

For more on the Saucony 26 Strong program, which pairs up 13 coaches with 13 marathon rookies, visit