Dave Clippert wants to keep others from spending time where he ended up last Saturday — in the emergency room at Bothwell Regional Health Center.
Clippert, director of the Pettis County Emergency Management Agency and a member of the county’s ambulance board, went for a ride in one of those ambulances after suffering dehydration and heat exhaustion as he ran the half marathon in the Boys & Girls Clubs of West Central Missouri Race 4 Reasons fundraiser. An experienced runner who completed a half marathon in October in Kansas City, Clippert looks back and sees plenty of mistakes he made leading up to and during the Boys & Girls Clubs race.
“I did not prep myself for this,” he said. “If I was 26, I might have been able to get away with it, but I’m not 26, I’m 53.”
Clippert got in the work he needed leading up to that Kansas City race, which he completed in about two and a half hours; afterward, “I was absolutely fine,” he said.
“Then I kind of slowed back on running. When you train for something like that, it kind of burns you out.”
Even so, he signed up for the half marathon in Race 4 Reasons, which also offered 5K and 10K events. But he didn’t stretch out his runs to get his body ready for the rigors of more than 13 miles run on asphalt.
“I thought, ‘I can do this half.’ And I truly was not ready,” Clippert said. “I had run one 10-mile run before (Race 4 Reasons), and I thought, ‘OK, I’m ready for this,’ and I was not.”
But the bigger issue was that Clippert ignored what his body was telling him. When he got to the halfway point on the challenging, hill-laden course, a race volunteer gave him a bottle of cold water and asked if he was OK.
“I knew at that point I probably should have stopped and just said, ‘I’m done.’ ”
Stubbornness and ego said, ‘I don’t want to be in a car riding back,’ so I just kept running,” Clippert said.
As he confronted some of the bigger hills, Clippert was forced to do something he had not done before in a race: He slowed to a walk. Then he started to experience muscle cramps.
“My calves, it felt like somebody took a ball-peen hammer and just slammed it in there,” he said. “I was really quite upset with myself … because I knew I had taken on much more than I should have.”
Clippert kept pushing himself even though he started to experience some dizziness. Sedalia Police Officer Bill Chapman was working the race and, since Clippert was the final runner on the course, was following him in.
“I should have just said, ‘Bill, I need a ride up there,’ ” to the finish, Clippert said. “But I just didn’t. I said, ‘I’ll finish it no matter what.’ ”
Clippert staggered across the finish line and the effects of his decisions came crashing down. His mouth, arms and legs started going numb, his heart rate was fluctuating and his body couldn’t cool down.
“I knew I wasn’t having a heart attack, but thought I was pretty dehydrated,” he said.
Seated on a cooler with race planners and runners tending to him, Clippert looked up at Erin Wilson and said, “Something’s not right here.”
Wilson, a nursing instructor at State Fair Community College, had heard from volunteers on the course that Clippert was having difficulty through the race. When Clippert finished, she wasn’t concerned with his inability to catch his breath because of the distance he had just covered, but his other symptoms — variations in his heart rate, cramping, nausea, dizziness, showing no improvement in body temperature even after being moved into shade — all pointed to dehydration and heat exhaustion.
Clippert was coherent and aware of his surroundings throughout the ordeal. When Wilson asked if she should call an ambulance, Clippert agreed that was the right thing to do.
While Clippert acknowledges he erred in not preparing himself for a half marathon and then ignoring his body’s signs that it was breaking down on the course, Wilson said another key factor — and one that should be considered by those who are heading outdoors for their workouts now that the weather is improving — is the heat index. That day, the humidity was high as a storm front was moving in and the temperature pushed to 90 degrees. That combination makes it difficult for the body to use sweat as its natural cooling agent.
“You can’t just look at the temperature, you have to look at humidity, too,” Wilson said.
She encouraged other precautions, including wearing loose-fitting clothing and a hat, drinking plenty of fluids and avoiding the peak heat period of 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. for outdoor workouts. And to push Clippert’s point, Wilson said it is vital to listen to your body and know your health history.
Clippert spent a couple of hours in the emergency room hooked up to an IV bag, then told the staff he was ready to go home. He is back to full health, and is wiser for the experience. He praised the Sedalia Fire Department, APSI and the staff at BRHC for their work last weekend, and he plans to get back out this weekend, likely “a short run, just three miles or so.” But the impact of last weekend’s ordeal remains with him.
“Was it really worth it? There’s going to be an ambulance bill, a hospital bill — I have good insurance but there is still going to be some expense in that,” he said.
“It was an expensive day to be a stubborn old man.”