You Can't Stop Marathon Race Director, John Conley June 18, 2012
Topics: Running, Fitness

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Each year on average, three to five Austin Marathon runners are sent to University Medical Center Brackenridge for medical treatment during or after the race. As race director, John Conley, crosses the finish line with the last runner and calls the end to the event. A couple of weeks ago John got to see what it was like for those runners sent to UMCB, up close and personal with his own need for medical care.


John, an avid runner himself, experienced a bad headache on his off day from running. "I had this unbelievable, get-your-attention headache just above my right eye. The headache incapacitated me. I started making dinner and couldn't complete it," said John.

"I never get headaches. It felt like an ice cream headache." It wasn't like a dehydration headache that most Central Texas runners experience at some point in time. John found himself sensitive to light and sound.

Men are notorious at not asking for help. Men don't need to ask for directions and also feel the need to skip a check-up or two. From survey results, one third of the men asked, conveyed having no regular doctor and significantly more men than women had not seen a doctor in the previous year. "I think having someone else reflect how bad you look is really helpful. My kids and my wife said I looked different," reflected John.

This was enough for John to make the call to his doctor. My physician said, "A sudden unresolvable headache for people over 50 is a medical emergency." John was instructed to get to the hospital.

"If you get any headache that feels different from headaches you've had before, you should immediately see your doctor or go to the emergency room," said James E. Rose, M.D., Seton Brain & Spine Institute. "This is especially important if you're on blood-thinning medications. Any unusual headache, don't wait!."

"I had worked out all week," said John. A runner since his freshman year in high school, John has only missed a handful of days from running since then. He has been a runner for 41 years which included running competitively in college and in the Army. John had run 204 consecutive days with only one day off before succumbing to an IT Band problem. He has run 17 marathons and was diagnosed with deep vein thrombosis while training for the Chicago Marathon in the 90s.

Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is a blood clot (thrombus) in a deep vein, usually in the legs. DVT is brought on by inactivity for long periods of time. People who are paralyzed, bedridden or sit while on a long flight or extended car rides are susceptible. John had taken a long flight to Japan and back at the time.

The deep vein thrombosis in John's case led to a pulmonary embolism, a sudden blockage of a major blood vessel (artery) in the lung, usually by a blood clot. Doctors put John on the blood thinner, subdural hematoma; a ruptured vein on top of the brain bleeds, causing compression of the tissue. "No head injury to bring it on," reflected John. "My doctor told me it was completely spontaneous. He said you typically see this in 70-75 year old guy who falls and bonks his head. Ten days later he's walking around dazed and confused and needs treatment." John is 55 years old.

The surgery to drain the blood, stop the bleeding and relieve the pressure was a success. What does a race director do while on bed rest? After the surgery and while on the ninth floor of UMCB, John mapped out the hallways for distance and tested himself on the hospital course to see how fast he could walk a mile. John mentioned this is the longest he has gone without running.

Several studies have pointed to benefits from socializing with others. Being with others does reduce the feeling of loneliness but it may be that others get to know you and can tell you when you're not yourself, even when you don't want to admit that you should go see a doctor.

About John and Conley Sports

Conley Sports has produced for over 15 years some of the best racing events in Texas including the LIVESTRONG Austin Marathon and Half Marathon.

John has been involved in the running industry since 1979 and has served in a variety of roles including race director, running event consultant, elite athlete coordinator, sports journalist, professional athlete manager, coach, corporate wellness consultant and athlete. He was named the 2006 Running Times and Road Race Management "Race Director of the Year."

John is the CEO of Conley Sports Productions, LLC. which owns the Austin Marathon & Half Marathon, and has been the race director of the LIVESTRONG Austin Marathon & Half Marathon since 1998. The Austin Marathon is the 23rd largest marathon footrace in the United States (, 2010) and a member of Running USA.

He also previously served as the race director for the Nike Human Race-Austin in 2008 with 14,800 runners, the Texas Round-Up 5K & 10K with over 6,000 runners and the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure in Houston, the largest running event in Texas with over 31,000 participants in 2009.

About Seton Healthcare Family

Seton has staffed the medical tent and race course of the LIVESTRONG Austin Marathon since 2002. More than 150 runners typically utilize Seton's services during and after the race, obtaining treatment for everything from blood glucose checks and dehydration with hyperthermia to sprained ankles and muscle cramps. Others stop by for ice packs and pain relievers after the 13.1 and 26.2-mile races.

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